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Springtime Barley Salad

Salad doesn’t always just mean lettuce! This fresh springtime salad is a great way to introduce this whole grain to those unfamiliar with it, while keeping some familiar fruits and vegetables in the mix for kids. It’s full of protein, magnesium, selenium, thiamin (vitamin B3) and other nutrients, just from whole-grain barley alone! Add in the other ingredients and you have a powerhouse salad.

While traditional barley can take up to an hour to cook, you can prep it ahead of time, or use instant barley, which can cut this cook time in half!

Want even more protein to make it a heartier meal? Keep it vegetarian by adding sautéed or baked tofu, or add in some chopped or shredded cooked chicken.

This is also a great recipe for kids to help with mixing and adding the ingredients! Just be sure that all helpers wash their hands.


2 c barley (cooked and cooled - see note below)
15 1⁄2 oz chickpeas/garbanzo beans (canned, no salt added, drained and rinsed)
2 Bartlett pears (medium, thinly sliced - see note below)
1⁄2 red onion (medium, thinly sliced)
1⁄2 c dried cranberries (or raisins)
1⁄2 c sunflower seeds
1 c spinach (packed)
1⁄3 c olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1⁄4 c lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 t mustard
1 t honey (or maple syrup)
1 clv garlic (minced)
  oregano (dried)
  salt and pepper to taste

Yield amount

4 Servings

Preparation time

20 minutes

Cooking time

1 hour

Total time

1 hour, 20 minutes


  1. Over the sink, use cold running water to rinse the pears and spinach. Use strainer for the spinach and pour onto a kitchen or paper towel to drain the extra water before adding to the salad.
  2. In a large bowl, add the cooked barley, drained chickpeas, sliced onion and pears, dried cranberries or raisins, sunflower seeds, and spinach.
  3. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, mustard, honey or maple syrup, garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork or whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and mix with a large spoon to combine everything. Serve at room temperature right away, or let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator up to overnight.


Traditional barley can take up to an hour to cook. You can use instant barley or another whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, or farro in this recipe. You can also cook a large amount ahead of time and freeze in a re-sealable bag to use later!

If you cannot find, or don’t like pears, substitute apples, or other fruit you like. Try things like mango and mandarin oranges, or strawberry and blueberry.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Can opener
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large bowl
  • Medium bowl
  • Large mixing spoon
  • Whisk or fork
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