My New Best Friend Barley

I tried it. I liked it. And I made it again, and again. That’s the way it went with this Sausage and Barley Jambalaya recipe. It wasn’t the first time I’d had barley, as my blogging pal Eva at KitchenInspirations has been making barley risotto for a long time because of its health benefits.

Barley deserves all the credit for giving this dish a lovely nutty and creamy texture that is quite unique. It also makes the dish hearty, filling and good for you!

A cereal grain, barley is heralded for its ability to help reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other benefits. Go figure! It is also what I would call a “low profile” grain—it goes along its way quietly, while quinoa continues to make a splash in culinary circles, even landing a couple of book deals. I find it all a bit surprising, given that barley is a key ingredient in one of the world’s most popular drinks.

I decided that since I liked the Barley Jambalaya so much, that I needed to try it in something else, something other than a soup or a stew. So, I came up with a new barley salad that I think you may like…

It’s a Mediterranean Salad that combines all of my favourite summer flavours—olives, basil, feta, grape tomatoes, lemon and roasted red pepper. 

There you have it. There are lots of reasons to give barley at try—it’s inexpensive, versatile and a healthy alternative to orzo or rice.

If you decide that barley isn’t for you, then you might like Betsy’s Couscous Salad, over at Bits and Breadcrumbs, which also features kalamata olives, basil and feta with a lovely lemon dressing.

Sausage and Barley Jambalaya

Slightly adapted from Judith Finlayson’s, Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes

  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well
  • 1 can  (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 8 oz medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped (I use jarred)


  1. Cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Drain excess fat from pan. At medium heat, sauté onions until softened. Add garlic, thyme, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and cook for one minute. Add barley and stir well. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boi.
  3. Pour mixture over sausage and stir. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Add shrimp and roasted pepper. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes, until shrimp is heated through.

 Mediterranean Barley Salad

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well under running water
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 6 to 7 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • ¾ cup feta, diced (I used low fat feta)
  • 2.5 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped (I use jarred)
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives (pits removed and ripped in half)
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 scallions, sliced finely


  1. Add rinsed barley, along with 3 cups of water to medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain excess water and allow barley to cool to room temperature in a large bowl.
  2. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil in small bowl. Add mixture to barley and stir well. Add feta, pine nuts, red pepper, olives, tomatoes and scallions. Mix well. Serve at room temperature.

36 Comments on “My New Best Friend Barley”

  1. I love how you become best friends with new ingredients – a delicious salad to start getting to know each other 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  2. Tandy says:

    I need to convince Dave he likes barley!

  3. Beth says:

    I have a barley and roasted vegetable salad recipe that I adore. But you’re right – barley is so good, and so good for us, that I should add to my repertoire!

  4. I’m going to have to try barley in my cooking. It looks delicious.

  5. Barb, thank you so much for the shout-out and these two barley recipes really make me want to try cooking with barley, something I’ve not done yer! We are upping our whole grain intake recently, so these two are perfect to try and I’m bookmarking them. 🙂

    • My pleasure Betsy. I’m hoping to make your coucous recipe soon! I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the barley in the jambalaya and now I’m addicted. There were other benefits to barley, but I didn’t want to get too specific — it really is good for you, so hope you give it a try as part of your push for whole grains.

  6. I’ve never used barley in cooking, but I love it in drinks. I should try cooking with it one day since they’re so healthy and tasty. 🙂

  7. Norma Chang says:

    With the summer heat we are experiencing in May, your barley salad is a very timely post.

  8. Sissi says:

    Barb, both the Jambalaya and the salad sound fabulous! I haven’t had barley for years! You will be surprised but I used to have it as a child. My mum (Polish) treated it a bit like rice and served with meat in sauce as a side carb. Now it’s very fashionable in Western Europe and Northern America, like other healthy grains, but I’m sure there are some Eastern and Central European countries where it has been eaten for years and years. I must start cooking it too!
    PS It’s so funny because I have recently made almost an identical dish presentation (a bowl on a blue square napkin! Just to let you know if you see it soon on my blog, it’s not a copy 😉 Anyway, it doesn’t look half as good as your photo!)

    • That is so interesting that your mum made barley so much when you were young! It has so many positives, that I imagine you are right in that it has likely been popular in Eastern and Central European countries for years. I enjoy hearing these stories from fellow bloggers about different recipes. It really is great to learn from one another!

      And, I’ll watch for your blog post with the bowl and blue square napkin. You always take such great photos! I feel like I’m running out of dishes and backgrounds/napkins to keep things fresh!

  9. This looks so good. I’ve been wanting to cook with barley for a while now but didn’t really have a clue to start. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Emma. I enjoyed checking out your blog today, and will definitely drop by again. I hope you do give barley a try — it’s really nice for a change and really good for you!

  10. Kristy says:

    I have half a bag of barley in the pantry, thank you for the reminder. This looks so good and refreshing. I imagine leftovers for lunch would be good too!

  11. Eva Taylor says:

    I remember the first time I had Barley Risotto was at Atlantis Restaurant (the one at Ontario Place), when we were just newly married! I was instantly hooked. I love the texture that barley brings to a dish, just a slight pop as you bite into it. We were at a food show a couple of years ago and I got a free sample of toasted barley, and was very impressed. So now before I add the water to cook, I always give it a toast in a hot pan (you can add a bit of olive oil to help toast it along). Toasting brings out the nutty flavour a bit more.
    I think I will try the Jumbalaya when we visit Paul and T at the end of June; Paul love jumbalaya and if I can show them a healthier version, all the better!

    • I will definitely try the toasting Eva. I can’t believe the nutty flavour — it is the reason that I’m hooked too. I think you will really love the Jambalaya. I think of you every time I make it because I know you like barley. I made it for a friend a while back and she had four bowls of it (not naming any names here).

  12. Alana says:

    This post makes me so happy, barley is so underrated! I could eat it in anything. Your jambalaya looks great!

  13. Barley is really underated. There does not seem to be many recipes out there nor is it promoted on TV. Pretty cool that you have latched onto this and made not one but two delicious entrees. This does encourage me to get some and start experimenting-however I would have to at least make your version of the jambalaya first-yum!

    • Thanks Tina. You know I’ve made the jambalaya for company and it has been very well received, so I do recommend making it. I hope that you have fun experimenting with barley, and I’ll keep an eye out on your blog for some original ideas!

  14. Charles says:

    Nice to see new barley ideas – I almost never cook with it… only time I think is when I make stews and I throw it in for a bit of extra body – this salad looks great, and perfect for summer too!

  15. Karista says:

    I love pearled barley and sneak it into my clients pot roast. Your recipe looks so yummy and what a great way to serve jambalaya! My girls like pearled barley plain with fruit and agave syrup or my youngest adds maple syrup. Not quite as healthy LOL! And don’t you just adore Betsy over at Bits and Breadcrumbs?! Gotta love our food blogging community. Have a lovely day 🙂

    • I like the idea of added barley to pot roast — I need to remember that! Yes, I adore Betsy’s blog as it is such a great source of ideas. I couldn’t agree more Karista — we have a great blogging community. BTW — my comments are going into your spam folder. I’m trying to resolve the issue with Akismit but it is taking a while! (Frustrating!)

      • Karista says:

        Your comment showed up on my blog. But it was in reply to my comment. 😦 Hmmmm…. I haven’t heard from wordpress either. I’ll send another email. They’re usually pretty quick with a response. Not sure why your comments would go into my spam folder. I’ll check but I haven’t seen anything come through the spam folder. Hope it gets resolved and I’ll email you if I get any additional info.

      • Karista says:

        I just found two of your comments in my spam folder. I unspammed them and I’m hoping this helps. Sorry for all the fuss!!

  16. Love the plating and the delicious and colourful dish you’ve made! Barley is such a healthy and delicious ingredient that people should really cook with them more. 🙂

  17. Karen says:

    I’m a big fan of barley. I love its nutty flavor and chewy texture. Both of your recipes sound great.

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