Barley salad, loaded with fresh juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber, and chopped parsley, is a healthy and satisfying summer salad. Serve it as a side dish or a main course salad.

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: The salad is easy and uncomplicated. It keeps well so you can make it ahead.

How long it takes: 15 minutes (cook the barley ahead and chill)
Equipment you’ll need: bowl
Servings: makes 8 cups

Multiple bowls of barley salad, with fresh ingredients nearby.
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Lunch time can be a little chaotic and tends to get squeezed out sometimes. To avoid the lunch crunch, I make a big bowlful of salad so I have my lunch already prepped and waiting for me in the fridge.

Whether you have young children at home, take a lunch to the office, or just don’t have time to make lunch, you’ll appreciate a healthy filling salad waiting for you, ready to grab and go.

I’m always on the look-out for main dish salads that keep well. Lentil salad with feta, lemon and parsley or vegan quinoa salad with Brussels sprouts and pepitas are a couple of my favorites because they are filling and can be made ahead.

I love Mediterranean style salads like this chopped Greek salad, Israeli couscous salad, or fattoush salad, with simple vinaigrette dressing and lots of fresh herbs. This barley salad incorporates some of the same elements for a satisfying, healthy lunch or light dinner. It can be served as a hearty side dish with grilled meat, too.

Why You’ll Love this barley salad

  • Filling and healthy: Your tummy will be satisfied, thanks to fiber-full barley. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture (I like Bob’s Red Mill Pearl Barley).
  • Flavorful: This salad has great fresh Mediterranean flavor with cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley, enhanced with a light dressing made from lemon juice and olive oil.
  • Keeps well: Barley salad will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Pack it into individual-sized containers for grab-and-go lunches.
Barley salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions.

Ingredient Notes

  • Barley: Cooked barley provides the foundation for this whole grain salad. I usually use pearl barley because it’s more widely available and it cooks more quickly than other types of barley (for more information about this grain, check out the FAQ section below). You’ll need one cup of uncooked barley which will make 4 cups of cooked barley. It can be prepared at least a day in advance.
  • Tomatoes: Dice up a couple of ripe tomatoes or if they are not available, cherry or grape tomatoes work too. Be sure to cut them in half so they can absorb some of the dressing.
  • English Cucumber: This type of cucumber has a tender skin that can be eaten. The dark green skin provides extra nutrients and is more attractive in a salad. Other varieties of cucumbers that don’t have to be peeled such as Persian, salad, hothouse, etc. will work well.
  • Red Onion: Any type of sweet onion is fine but I prefer red onion in most salads because it looks attractive and has a crisp texture. To eliminate some of the sharp onion flavor, soak the diced onions in ice water for 10 minutes, draining well before adding them to the salad.
  • Fresh Parsley: Flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley) has a more robust flavor and is easier to chop than curly parsley. You’ll need a good handful of it; don’t skimp on the parsley because it adds so much flavor and color.
  • Fresh Mint: You’ll love the hint of fresh mint. It’s a subtle undertone that really enhances the salad.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For the most flavorful salad, it’s important to use a good quality olive oil for the vinaigrette dressing. The bonus? Olive oil has many health benefits because it’s high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.
  • Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice: Look for lemons that feel heavy for their size because they contain plenty of juice. Interesting fact: Lemons that are at room temperature yield more juice.
  • Garlic: Start with one small clove, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press. If you’re a garlic lover, feel free to add more. If you prefer a more subtle garlic flavor, substitute a pinch of garlic powder.
  • Kosher Salt and Coarsely Ground Black Pepper, for seasoning the vinaigrette.
Ingredients needed for recipe.

How To Make Barley Salad

Cook the barley according to package directions and allow it to cool to room temperature before making the salad. To hasten the cooling process, spread the cooked barley on a sheet pan or tray.

In a large mixing bowl that’s big enough to contain the salad, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Stir in the barley until it’s coated with the dressing.

Barley added to dressing.

Prep the tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion; add them to the bowl along with the chopped herbs.

Stir lightly, making sure the salad is well-combined.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

FAQs

Is barley healthy?

Barley has 6.5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per 1 cup serving (at least that is what my internet research is telling me). Barley also contains lots of important minerals (Healthline).

Which is better, hulled or pearl barley?

Hulled barley is considered a whole grain because it’s minimally processed. Pearl barley is is polished, a process in which some of the hull is removed. It’s healthier than some refined grains because the fiber is distributed throughout the grain so some bran remains even after processing.
Pearl barley products can vary: the whiter the barley, the more it’s been polished.
Pearl barley is what you’ll usually find in grocery stores. It’s quicker cooking than hulled barley, making it more popular (Whole Grains Council).

How To Store Uncooked Barley

Barley is a whole grain that can be stored in a glass jar or plastic container for up to year. For long term storage and especially in warm weather, store it in the refrigerator or freezer so the oils don’t become rancid. It’s not necessary to thaw it before cooking it.

Change It Up

  • Add protein. Add garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or crumbled feta cheese for an extra boost of protein. Chopped roasted almonds, pine nuts, or pepitas add a nice crunch, along with protein and fiber.
  • Substitute quinoa. If you’re not a fan of barley or you just happen to have some quinoa in the house, this salad can be made into quinoa salad instead of barley. The bonus? Quinoa is quicker-cooking than barley.
  • Add more veggies. You can easily substitute or add veggies to this salad. Try cherry tomatoes instead of chopped tomatoes. Bell peppers, radishes, or chopped onions are great options.
Close up image of barley salad with cucumber, tomato, onion, herbs.

Make Ahead Idea

Since the barley has to be cooked and cooled before assembling the salad, it’s a real time-saver if you cook the barley ahead of time. Cooked barley can be refrigerated for three to five days or frozen for up to two months.

Storage Tips

Store the salad in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator. I like to put it into small containers that can easily be transported for lunches to go.

Meal plan 24 graphic with text and recipe images.

Free Meal Plan

Interested in a weekly meal plan that includes this recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #24 or Meal Plan #68. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week! We add a new meal plan weekly.

More Make-Ahead Salads

Recipe

Barley Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber and Parsley

4.45 from 20 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 side servings
Barley salad, loaded with fresh juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber, and chopped parsley, is a healthy and satisfying summer salad. Serve it as a side dish or a main course salad.
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Ingredients 

  • 4 cups cooked pearl barley (1 cup dry)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • cup diced red onion
  • cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, more as needed

Instructions 

  • Cook pearl barley according to package directions. Cool at least one hour or overnight.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • If necessary, use a fork to fluff up barley and separate pieces. Add to bowl with vinaigrette; stir lightly to combine. Add tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley, and mint to bowl; fold in to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  • Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight (see note).

Notes

  • If you prefer, cook hulled barley instead of pearl barley. Hulled barley is whole grain and has a longer cooking time. Follow package directions.
  • This salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Barley tends to absorb the dressing if you make this salad ahead. If needed, stir in additional dressing, or reserve half the dressing and stir it in before serving.
  • Optional Add-Ins: crumbled feta cheese, chickpeas (rinsed and drained), toasted almonds, pine nuts, or pepitas. 
  • Recipe updated 6/2023.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 176kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Sodium: 226mg, Potassium: 272mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 662IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 27mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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34 Comments

  1. allie says:

    first encountered salad at a church potluck. googled for a recipe. this was closest. delicious taste combination. now that i’ve read the other comments, i will add some Za’atar to my leftovers.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked it!

  2. Keiko Gorum says:

    Great recipe!!!  Grandkids loved it and so did i

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad to hear it! Thanks for faking the time to come back and leave a comment!

  3. Ellie says:

    Eating this as we speak! I didn’t have Za’atar, but I did end up having to add some more spices in its place in order to avoid a “blah” flavor to it. I used dried thyme, oregano, cumin, and coriander (aka the closest I could get to za’atar with what I had in my cabnet) and it lifted it to a whole new level. Thank you so much!!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      That sounds like a perfect mix of spices! I’m glad you liked it!

  4. Frances Taylor says:

    Delicious!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Thank you so much!

  5. Frances Taylor says:

    Delicious!  I’m making this again soon.
    I added some fresh chives as they grow in abundance behind our house!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Chives would be great on this! Glad you liked it. :)

  6. Kelly says:

    Haha this made me totally laugh out loud in agreement! Definitely starving by the time lunch hits so love that you can make this ahead of time! It looks like the perfect healthy summer salad!

  7. Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg says:

    I love full meal salads. I’m with ya, this is great to have in the fridge ready to go.

  8. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures says:

    What a great lunch recipe! This would make a great pack lunch too.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Absolutely! Thanks Laura!