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Barley Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a Cajun dish containing tomatoes and the trio of celery, onion, and bell pepper. This take on the classic dish uses barley in place of rice, adding fiber and magnesium to the dish. Cayenne pepper adds a kick of spice that will transport you to the American South where this dish originated!


1 c barley
4 c water
2 bay leaves (whole)
3 onion (medium, diced)
2 celery stalks (small, diced)
1 c bell pepper (red, yellow or orange, diced)
2 clv garlic (minced)
1 T canola oil
4 oz ground turkey
2 cn diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce each, no salt added)
1 t salt
1⁄2 t ground cayenne pepper
1 1⁄2 t oregano (dried)
1 t ground black pepper

Yield amount

6 Servings

Preparation time

25 minutes

Cooking time

1 hour, 30 minutes

Total time

1 hour, 55 minutes


  1. Wash hands and then rinse vegetables before getting started.
  2. Rinse and drain barley. 
  3. In a medium pot over high heat bring water, bay leaves, and barley to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 45-60 minutes until barley is tender and most of the water is absorbed.
  4. Drain barley in a colander and set aside.
  5. In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil.
  6. Add diced vegetables and garlic to the pot and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add ground turkey and cook until internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on a food thermometer, or about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Add canned diced tomatoes and their juices and bring to a simmer.
  9. Add spices then reduce heat to low and cover for 15 minutes.
  10. Add cooked barley and bay leaves and stir to combine. Cook over low heat to blend flavors, about 5-10 more minutes.
  11. Remove bay leaves and serve.


You can prepare the barley up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate it until ready to prepare this recipe to reduce total cooking time.

Substitute a low sodium broth for cooking water to add more flavor!

Creating a vegetarian version is easy by substituting ground turkey with drained firm tofu.

Prefer seafood in your jambalaya? You can add seafood like shrimp to Step 7. Just be sure to adjust cooking time.

Add more water to create a more liquid-y dish or serve it thick.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • Colander
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large pot with lid
  • Medium pot with lid
  • Can opener
  • Mixing spoon
  • Food thermometer (optional)
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