Biblical Barley and Herb Salad

by Ellen Kanner
A black bowl featuring barley, kalamata olives, and lots of green herbs.

These days, most people consider barley—if they consider it at all—as something wintery, perhaps sharing space with mushrooms in a warming bowl of soup. Here, this ancient whole grain gets the tabbouleh treatment, and becomes a significant salad loaded with herbs (and love—see Proverbs). Nice as part of a biblical mezze (Middle Eastern tapas, if you will), served alongside a blob of hummus and flatbread or with roasted eggplant, it’s just right for spring. Tahini is an extremely luscious sesame paste, available in Middle Eastern groceries, natural food stores, and most supermarkets. Like natural (preservative-free) peanut butter, tahini tends to separate, with the oil floating to the top of the sesame goodness below. Stir well before using.


2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup barley
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon agave
1 handful kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons tahini
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

  1. In a large pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil over high heat. Add the barley. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Fluff the cooked barley with a fork and set aside to cool. (The cooked barley can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two; bring to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.) Stir in the herbs, scallions, and tomato.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, red pepper flakes, and agave nectar. Pour over the barley and stir until the grains are evenly coated with the dressing. Stir in the kalamatas.
  4. Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least two hours. The dressing will soften and moisten the barley.
  5. Remove the barley salad from the refrigerator. Drizzle the tahini over the barley salad and season with salt and pepper. The kalamatas add some saltiness of their own, so don’t season until just before serving.
  6. Serve cool or at room temperature.

  1. Ellen Kanner is the soulful vegan award-winning author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner (VegNews’ Book of the Year, PETA’s debut Book of the Month Club pick) and the e-book Beans: A Handful of Magic. Find more of her recipes and writing at Soulful Vegan.