Our easy Mediterranean Barley Salad is made with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, olives and basil with a fresh lemon and garlic dressing. Serve it as a vegan side dish for a potluck, picnic or barbecue or as a healthy make-ahead side dish for a weeknight meal. With only 20 minutes of prep work, this simple salad is another easy recipe to add to your collection.
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Why We Love This Recipe For Mediterranean Barley Salad
When it comes to side dishes, we love simple recipes that are bursting with flavor. And for us, that means whipping up dishes with rich Mediterranean flavors. From our Mediterranean Quinoa Salad to our Mediterranean Black Lentil Salad, these healthy, tasty, vegetarian dishes are perfect to serve all year-long.
This easy dish is popping with flavor and is loaded with classic Mediterranean ingredients such as rich kalamata olives, juicy tomatoes, crisp sweet bell peppers, and fresh basil. It’s like a cross between Greek salad and quinoa tabbouleh all brought together with a fresh garlic lemon dressing. YUM!
Serve this vegan barley salad as a satisfying light and fresh lunch or dinner, or pair it as a side dish with Easy Sauteed Zucchini and Roasted Garlic Hummus for a complete, hearty Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian meal.
Key Ingredients For This Recipe
Barley is a cereal grain with a mild, nutty flavor and a chewy texture.
Technically a seed, it’s one of the first grains to be farmed by ancient civilizations with evidence suggesting that barley was grown in Egypt over 10,000 years ago!
Pearled barley, or pearl barley, has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull then polished to remove some or all of the bran layer. This type of barley is the most common form used in cooking because it cooks faster and is less chewy than other, less-processed forms such as hulled barley.
When purchasing, be sure to check the packaging or labels to ensure you are using pearled as it cooks in 40 minutes. If you used hulled barley note that the cooking time will increase.
Cherry tomatoes are a small, round, or plum-shaped variety of tomatoes that are named for their shape. These small fruits (or do you consider them a vegetable?!) are juicy, thin-skinned, and explode in your mouth when eaten.
When buying cherry tomatoes, choose ones with firm bright skin and a strong tomato scent. Avoid purchasing any with dark spots, wrinkles, and mold as these are passed their prime.
Yellow Bell Pepper
Yellow peppers are super sweet with an almost fruity taste. When picking your peppers, look for medium-sized, firm, unwrinkled peppers that are free from any blemishes or soft spots.
Feel free to use any color of sweet bell peppers: red or orange would taste just as delicious in this recipe.
To keep with classic Meditteranean flavors, opt to use pre-pitted sliced Kalamata greek olives, Italian or Greek black olives.
If you’d prefer to buy whole olives with the pit, press them into the cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife to make it easier to remove the pits. Then chop lightly, leaving in large pieces.
Garlic offers a unique savory element to the bright, fresh dressing.
When purchasing from the grocery store, give the bulbs a light squeeze. The freshest garlic will be firm and not hollow or dry. Pass up any sprouting on the bulbs as this is an indicator that the garlic is old.
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Lemon Juice
- Fresh Basil
Step By Step Instructions To Make This Barley Salad
Step 1: Cook Barley
In a large saucepan, add barley and cover generously with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and set over high heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley is tender. For pearl barley this takes about 40 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve.
Step 2: Make Lemon Garlic Dressing
In a large bowl whisk oil, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Step 3: Add Cooked Barley To Dressing
To the bowl with the dressing, add the barley. Stir to coat. Allow the barley to cool in the dressing, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
Step 4: Finish And Serve
Stir in bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, and basil. Mix to combine. Serve immediately or chill.
FAQ And Expert Tips
Store leftover barley salad in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days.
This salad can be made 3 days in advance. Store prepared salad in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. When ready to eat, stir well before consuming.
Yes, barley has many health benefits! Rich in nutrients, this grain is also high in soluble fiber which aids in improved digestion and weight loss. Barley has also been noted to help lower cholesterol and promote heart health.
You can certainly substitute hulled barley for the pearled, keeping in mind that it will take a little longer to cook. If using hulled, simmer for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water if necessary to keep the barley submerged.
Of course! Cooking barley in an instant pot instead of simmering will shave down the overall cook time from this recipe.
To make it in this manner, add barley and water to the Instant Pot. Stir and seal the lid. Cook on high pressure, either pressure cook or manual setting, for 20 minutes. Let the Instant Pot naturally release for 15 minutes. Follow the rest of the recipe to assemble!
Additional Healthy Salad Recipes To Try
- Turn canned light tuna into a flavorful gluten-free, paleo, low-carb meal in just 10 minutes. This Mediterranean Tuna Salad is a no-mayo tuna salad with Mediterranean flavors including black olives, roasted red peppers, basil, and lemon.
- Easy Italian Pasta Salad is a vibrant flavor-packed side. Plus, this dish is free of cheese and meats, making it both vegan and vegetarian-friendly!
- This delicious make-ahead Wild Rice Salad is the perfect side dish for holidays or any celebratory get-together. This dish pairs wonderfully with pork, fish, and roasted meats. Plus, it’s naturally vegan-friendly.
- This easy-to-make, make-ahead, vegetarian Farro Salad is perfect to serve when entertaining and tastes amazing when served warm or at room temperature.
- Brown Rice and Sweet Potato Salad is a deliciously simple side that’s easy enough to whip up for a weeknight meal and elegant enough to serve on a holiday table spread.
- 20-minute Chickpea Salad with a creamy avocado dressing is a wonderful protein source for plant-based diets. Serve this decadent side at potlucks, summer cookouts, picnics, and barbecues for a hearty and filling dish.
- Gluten-free and vegetarian this delicious Roasted Eggplant Salad is loaded with protein-packed chickpeas, fresh parsley, and tangy feta. Enjoy this Mediterranean-style recipe as a hearty entree or light salad!
Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make these recipes, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie
Our easy Mediterranean Barley Salad is made with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, olives and basil with a fresh lemon and garlic dressing. Serve it as a vegan side dish for a potluck, picnic or barbecue or as a healthy make-ahead side dish for a weeknight meal.
- 1 ½ cups dry pearled barley
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, grated with a microplane grater
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 finely diced yellow bell pepper
- 1 cup quartered grape or cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup chopped pitted black Italian or Greek olives
- ½ cup chopped basil
- Place barley in a large saucepan and cover generously with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and set over high heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Drain through a fine mesh sieve.
- Whisk oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add barley and stir to coat. Let the barley cool in the dressing mixture, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in bell pepper, tomatoes, olives and basil and stir to combine. Serve immediately or chill.
- Ingredient Note: you can substitute hulled barley for pearled barley, but it will take a little longer to cook. Simmer it for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water if necessary to keep the barley submerged.
- Make Ahead: This salad keeps well for 3 days. Keep covered and refrigerated. Stir well before serving. If the dressing gets clumpy, allow the salad to come up to room temperature before serving.
- Tip: The barley can be cooked in an instant pot instead of simmering to shave overall time from this recipe.
- Calories: 263
- Sugar: 1 g
- Carbohydrates: 30 g
- Fiber: 7 g
- Protein: 4 g