California Barley Bowl

From Megan Gordon’s cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings, a super grain bowl. Plump barley grains are tossed with sprouts (or greens), nuts, avocado, a bit of cheese and dolloped with a simple yogurt sauce.

California Barley Bowl

This California Barley Bowl became part of my repertoire after I began cooking from Megan Gordon's cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I met Megan years ago when she was sampling granola in front of my favorite San Francisco market. We continued to cross paths over the years and became friends. I love Megan's smart-but-relaxed approach to cooking and this sort of grain salad situation is perfect for picnics, potlucks and family gatherings. It’s an easy call. Most of the prep can be done ahead of time. Plump barley grains are tossed with sprouts (or greens), nuts, avocado, a bit of cheese, then dolloped with a simple yogurt sauce. I tend to do an extra large version, family-style, reflected in the recipe below.
big salad bowl filled with barley, cheese, avocado, walnuts and a yogurt dressing

The Strategy

Anytime you’re cooking a grain like barley or farro, go big. Cook a lot. Enough to use with whatever recipe you have at hand, and enough to bag and freeze for use in the coming days (and weeks). To do this, 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 to grab for when pulling together a quick stew, a twist on fried rice, or lunchtime grain bowl.

big salad bowl filled with barley, cheese, avocado, walnuts and a yogurt dressing


A number of you have posted fantastic variations of the barley bowl over the years, and I want to highlight a few here:

  • Keep it warm: Patricia says, “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!”
  • Wheatberries: Di noted, “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.”
  • Double up!: Megan’s pro-tip is, “I always at least 2x the yogurt sauce, too, as I love using it up on just about anything throughout the week. “

big salad bowl filled with barley, cheese, avocado, walnuts and a yogurt dressing

More Grain Salads

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California Barley Bowl

5 from 2 votes

As Megan mentions, this bowl can be equally good with other grains - farro or quinoa, in particular. You can use pearl barley or hulled barley here. Hulled barley is minimally processed leaving the bran and germ intact. Pearled barley is more like white rice in that regard and has the bran and germ polished away. The recipe below is an adaptation of Megan’s, scaled up for a bit of a crowd. And because I had a sampling of other nuts and seeds on hand, I supplemented the almonds she calls for 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
Yogurt Sauce:
  • 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
For serving:
  • 2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Serve barley mixture topped with avocado, chives, and big dollops of yogurt sauce.


Serves 8.

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

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Recipe Rating


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 :)


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

Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

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


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

Madelein - mother to three boys and three girls

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!


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


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

Catherine @ Chocolate & Vegetables

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

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


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'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.


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

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

Sarah Toasty

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


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

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. xx Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

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


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

dishing up the dirt

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

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

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