California Barley Bowl

California Barley Bowl Recipe

I mentioned in a recent favorites list that I've been cooking from Megan Gordon's new cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I met Megan a few years ago when she was sampling granola in front of my favorite local market. We continued to crossed paths over the years, and although she no longer calls Northern California her home base, I'm happy to call Megan a friend. Seattle, you're lucky to have her, and any of you shopping at the Ballard Farmers' Market, please extend a warm hello for me. I'll refrain from diving into a full-on book review here, but I will say I've loved Megan's smart-but-relaxed approach to cooking and recipes from go. And, when my entire family came to the house for brunch last week, I was excited to include her California Barley Bowl as part of the spread. It's a crowd-pleaser, I wanted to eat it, and I knew my mom would love it. All around, an easy call. It's the sort of thing you can do most of the prep ahead of time - plump barley grains tossed with sprouts (or greens), nuts, avocado, a bit of cheese - all dolloped with a simple yogurt sauce. I did a 4X batch reflected below - good for a crowd, and any leftovers are A+....

California Barley Bowl

Above, the quiet moments before the chaos.

California Barley BowlCalifornia Barley Bowl

Anytime Jack comes over, we make big waffles. Waffles for dinner are his favorite, but waffles for brunch are acceptable as well. Also on the menu that morning - cast-iron, family-style frittata, and a range of sparkling beverages. Below - at work drawing a rat, and a baby skunk.

California Barley Bowl

I cooked a huge pot of barley while I was at it. Enough for the recipe du jour, and enough to bag and freeze for use in the coming days (and weeks). Just make sure the grains are well-cooked and well-drained if you have any residual cooking water. Cool in the refrigerator, and double bag before placing in the freezer. It's the sort of thing I grab for when I'm looking to pull together a quick stew, or twist on fried-rice, or onigiri type preparation.

California Barley BowlCalifornia Barley Bowl

Thank you Megan for the wonderful addition to our family brunch. Huge congratulations on the book, and I can't wait to share another meal with you and Sam again soon! Nor-cal represent. xo -h

California Barley Bowl

As Megan mentions, this bowl can be equally good with other grains - farro or quinoa, in particular. The recipe below is an adaptation of hers scaled for a small crowd. And because I had a sampling of other nuts and seeds onhand, I supplemented the almonds with those - pepitas and walnuts.

6 cups cooked barley
4 cups arugula or bean sprouts
6 ounces cotija, queso fresco, or ricotta salata cheese
1 cup toasted almonds, or a mix of seeds/nuts
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

2 cups plain yogurt
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup of chives, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

In a large bowl combine the barley, arugula, cheese, almonds, and salt together. Mix well. You might need more or less salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese.

Make a quick yogurt sauce by whisking the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon, juice, chives, and salt in a small bowl. You can refrigerate this (or any leftovers) for a few days, if needed. If the sauce begins to separate, just give it a good stir before using.

Serve topped with avocado, chives, and big dollops of yogurt sauce. I used about half to top the main bowl, and served the rest on the side.

Enough for a small crowd.

Adapted from Megan Gordon's Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons, published by Ten Speed Press, 2014

Prep time: 15 min - Cook time: 45 min

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Wow what a lovely salad to look at. I use a lot of boiled pearl barley, just out of the freezer too. Love the texture and the way it blends with other flavours. Trying this salad very soon. Thanks for sharing.

sangeeta khanna

This is the exact kind of salad I need after all the indulging this holiday season. Perfection!

dishing up the dirt

I do love barley! This sounds like a perfect feel-good meal to have.


Wow that salad is beautiful. What perfect timing, I'm going to a pot luck tomorrow night and am supposed to bring salad! I can't wait to make this.

Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

I love barley, but have to admit to having never used it in a salad. This salad looks like a perfect introduction. Thank you for introducing me to Megan's book too. I just downloaded a copy on my kindle and can't wait to devour it as I'm really keen to add more whole grains to my diet.

Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday

I cannot wait to try this. I love barley, and I love eating yogurt with savory food. Thanks for sharing!


Perfect! It's a heat wave down here in melbourne (Australia) and I'm looking for no cook dinners for this week and as I have frozen cooked farro in the freezer I think this one looks like a winner! Thanks again Heidi x

Liberty Browne

The thinly sliced avocados on top are so beautiful, what a great way to get your whole grain!

Sarah Toasty

I read such a nice recommendations about this book that it's definitely on a list to buy.

Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

I'm so excited about this book! I haven't seen one recipe in it that I'm not desperate to make; this sounds like a total crowd-pleaser.


Sounds just perfect. I could really eat that salad for brunch. Actually, I will eat it next weekend, as I have all the ingredients at home :)

Ondina Maria

I want to try this recipe using quinoa (my fave grain, although technically not a grain!) and ricotta salata cheese. And Jack is quite the gourmet, waffles for dinner? That boy knows how to live a good life!

HS: Indeed Mike!


Such a lovely idea, gotta try this one! I wonder how you managed to slice the avocado so thinly?


The recipe looks delicious!

I have a question about what Jack is working on. That book on drawing looks awesome and like something my son would love to have. Is there any chance you know the name of it?

HS: Here you go Barbara.


Looks so yummy! I envy your west coast avocados! I can't tell you how often I stand in the asian markets in ny feeling for the best avocados right now : ) Did you use a go-to waffle recipe here, too?

HS: I do! But I've been working on it for a looong time - have yet to write it up though.

salvegging @

Hey, what book is Jack copying from to draw his rat?

HS: Hi Rob - it's one of these.


Looks delicious! I might have to try a quinoa version this weekend!

Catherine @ Chocolate & Vegetables

That looks so delicious! Your recipes are making it a mite easier to stick to my January resolutions.


Great recipe! I will most certainly try this one, thank you!

Madelein - mother to three boys and three girls

This looks amazing! Although, now it has made me super hungry.


Hey Heidi! I tried leaving a comment on your Persian Yogurt Soup post, but there doesn't seem to be a place to post....

Anyway, I made the soup last night. It was phenom! Right up my alley...I'm soup obsessed and am definitely what you would call a "low and slow" cook. I had a great time babying it! I have a question though....what's the point or technique to grating onions? I found it very difficult to grate them and it seemed they just because sort of a mush. Is that the idea? If so, couldn't I just give 'em a whirl with my immersion blender? I ended up trying to grate as much as I could and then finely chopping the rest. Thanks!


Looks delicious! And perfect for making ahead to have for lunch all week!

Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

This sounds like the perfect breakfast! I've been doing a brown rice bowl with a fried egg, sesame oil and scallions. I love a savory, whole grain breakfast! thanks for a new spin :)


Love the looks of this recipe. But also a question…what drawing book are you using? It looks interesting too.


This looks amazing ~ lovely photos too, as usual. I will make this very soon for family and friends. Happy New Year and Happy Friday!

Sabina DeShazo

For some reason barley is one of those grains that I always overlook, even though I love it! This looks great, maybe I'll finally hop on the barley bandwagon

Caroline @ Pink Basil

Heidi, you made the Barley Bowl look almost regal! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe ... I always at least 2x the yogurt sauce, too, as I love using it up on just about anything throughout the week. And love the addition of waffles to the breakfast spread. Sounds like everyone was happy :) We look forward to seeing you again sooooon. xox

Megan Gordon

So much goodness in here! Such a lovely bowl :)

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

Your post is too perfect, timing-wise: I just the other day discovered Megan myself, and was delighted to learn she's in Seattle, my adopted hometown. I currently reside outside of Beijing, though, and as is common when fellow expats leave, was recently gifted a store of barley that I was trying to figure out how to cook. My version may ultimately have an Asian twist to it, but I can get most of the ingredients here and am sooo excited to try this recipe!


I'm salivating.


I enjoy barley a lot and was pleasantly surprised with your barley bowl recipe!

By accident, I found a great way to use barley. Jook is a Chinese porridge dish using only white rice and water to make a thick creamy porridge. Anything would be healthier than white rice but when trying brown rice (and even quinoa) , disappointingly it didn't come out smooth and thick ... But I saw a Korean cooking show on TV ... and tried just barley and water .. And WOW, the porridge came out great ... Very smooth, thick and creamy!
I use this thick, hot porridge on cold nights seasoned any way you like and adding any vegetables (a little or a lot) ... Also great as a morning porridge!


I am imagining barley and cotija cheese together right now topped with avocado and herbs…yum! Another fabulous recipe that is easy to prepare!

Christina @ The Beautiful Balance

Thanks for pointing out this book Heidi - I made this recipe today and it was a delicious lunch. Have now ordered the book and look forward to exploring more of Megan's recipes soon!


Snap. I made a similar dish for lunch today but used organic wheat berries instead of barley. Added chopped walnuts, pomegranate arils, grated carrot, currants, rocket, lemon and parsley with a splash of plain yoghurt

di from the culinary library

I hope you didn't throw away the barley water! It so nutritious. I used to drink Robinson's "Lemon Barley Water" as a child in England. Then they came out with Orange Barley Water. This is one of many recipes which you can make it at home.


I reach for a similar combination of flavours quite often - mostly rocket, cilantro, avocado, grains, pumpkin seeds and feta. It is always a winner and I know it makes me feel really good and satiated. I am intrigues (and scared?) by the yogurt dressing...I am curious to hear your thoughts about this. Thanks, x


So yummy!! We put a poached egg over ours. Delicious.


My husband is gluten intolerant and cannot eat barley. Barley has a distinct taste so I am wondering what grain would substitute with quinoa? rice? or millet?

Sara Graham

Great recipe!!!

David Crossfield

Ohhh I hope so much you'll tell us soon a new cookbook is in the works. Or, even better, your own Food Network show. They need a good vegetarian cook! I made this salad but with romain - no matter how hard I try, I cant acquire the taste for arugula. The salad was delish!

HS: Glad to hear it Leah! And I have a few things up my sleeve in the coming year ;) xo


Looks very tasty. Might try it with freekeh or farro too.


So nice to see barley getting some attention. The recipe does not specify whether to use "hulled" or "pearled" barley. I recommend hulled, which is the whole grain form and more nutritious (and more delicious!) My favorite barley salad is made with roasted vegetables (I play around with combinations - delicata squash, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc), shaved manchego cheese, basil, kale, walnuts, and the vinaigrette dressing included in Tom Douglas's phenomenal Tuscan Bread Salad.


Heidi love your bolls and blog.
but...really want to know the name of the book Jack is using to draw with!
thank you.

HS: Hi Nina - I link to it in a few of the previous comments. Happy sketching!

Nina Grenfell

Sarah Graham—I eat gluten-free too, and I generally use whole buckwheat as a sub for barley. I bet that'd work great here, or quinoa, as Heidi suggested in her notes. Millet sounds good, too. Endless possibilities! Well, until you hit all the gluten. :)

Molly (Based on a Sprue Story)

That you for the sauce suggestion. I turned it into a salad dressing with the addition of some olive oil, minced garlic and feta cheese. It is sublime. I'm enjoying it on the Greenest Salad and will serve it with the Quinoa Patties tonight. So yummy.

Debbie G

I've made this salad twice and we love it. The second time I substituted spelt for the barley and I think I like it better - great texture, a little chewy, nutty taste. I also tossed the arugula into the spelt while it was still warm so there was a wilted effect that we like. And I used part ricotta and part crumbled feta cheese for a little snap to the flavor. Yum!


I've been thoroughly enjoying this for breakfast. Since I've prepared it for weekday breakfasts I've kept it simple and omitted the cheese but added harissa paste to the yogurt and chickpea/mung bean sprouts along with the avo. Simple but smart, delicious, and filling breakfast bow. Thank you Megan and Heidi!!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

ok, i know it sounds silly, but i would LOVE it if you could share your technique for chopping that avocado so pretty... maybe grab a few snaps next time you do it? thanks! xo

HS: Hi Maya - I usually just quarter a ripe avocado, then cradle in one hand (peel on), slice thinly on a diagonal, then run the knife between the skin and flesh to release the slices. Handle gently, and fan out a bit.


Hi Heidi, I'll be making this for dinner tonight! I started visiting your blog many years ago when I first started to blog and I made a whole bunch of your recipes when my family and I went vegetarian for a month (kind of an experiment with the kids) The choice and flavors were incredible, we still eat well but I was sitting at my computer wondering what to cook tonight and thought I'd come back here. So glad I did and I'll try to be less of a stranger. Your recipes rock...

HS: Thanks Gerry! xo

Gerry @ Foodness Gracious

I made this last night, and me and my 3.5 year old LOVED it! Somehow I forgot to use the yogurt sauce (I made it in the morning and forgot about it) and it was still good! This is a great recipe and I look forward to leftovers tonight with yogurt sauce! Also, this working mom soaked her barley during the day and simmered for 15 minutes, making this possible to whip up quickly.


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