This barley tabbouleh is a unique take on the classic vegetarian salad including bulgur wheat. Despite the difference in grains, it still has an abundance of fresh herbs, tomato, and cucumber. The lemony dressing soaks into the grains making this healthy salad irresistible as a side dish or pita filling.
Tabbouleh is a bulgur salad that originated in the Middle East. However, it has gained world popularity due to its fresh flavours. The original version includes bulgur, fresh parsley, tomato, and mint. Meanwhile, the dressing is often a combination of olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
Bulgur is a grain that doesn't require cooking. All it needs is a soak in some water to hydrate it before use.
This vegetarian salad often makes up part of a meal of small dishes, called mezze. Other foods like this include dips like hummus and baba ghanoush along with pita bread, although there are so many of these dishes to choose from. Today, tabbouleh salad is widely popular in the Western world and enjoyed as a side salad alongside items like grilled meat, seafood, and other salads.
How to Make Barley Tabbouleh
Unlike bulgur, pearl barley requires cooking. The process is as easy as making something like quinoa, though. Simply combine the pearl barley and water in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer until it is tender, for about 15 minutes. Be careful to not let it go too long or else the barley may become mushy and unappealing in your salad.
To ensure that the grains don't stick together in your salad, you should rinse them with cold water to remove the starches before placing them in a large bowl. Rinsing the grains also cools them down and stops the cooking process.
Next, you add the barley to a large bowl along with the parsley, tomato, cucumber, fresh mint, and green onions. I use only the parsley leaves and remove stems before chopping. While there is no need to remove the seeds from the tomato and cucumber, feel free to do so if you prefer less moisture from those vegetables.
The dressing is easy to make. I find that one of the best ways of making a dressing quickly is to mix it in a jar. Simply add the olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon juice or lime juice, salt, pepper, and allspice to a jar, cover it with a lid, and shake it until emulsified. You can make up a larger batch of dressing to hold in the fridge for other salads throughout the week. The dressing gets tossed into the grain mixture until it is sufficiently coated. Fresh lemon juice or lime juice is ideal to using pre-squeezed as they offer a brighter taste.
If you plan on serving this barley tabbouleh later in the day or even the following day, I recommend that you hold back some of the dressing until you are ready to serve it. The reason is that the grains will absorb the dressing and become dry after sitting. By holding some dressing back, you can toss it in just before serving your salad and ensure that the mixture isn't dried out when you serve it. This is a great rule of thumb for any starchy salad including cooked pasta or grains, as they tend to soak up dressing quite quickly.
About Pearl Barley
Pearl barley has a nutty taste and chewy texture that makes it delicious in salads and soups. Pearl barley doesn't have its bran layer which means it cooks up faster than hulled barley. As a result, it isn't quite as nutrient-rich as hulled barley, but it is still very good for you. In fact, it includes plenty of fiber, protein, niacin, iron, manganese, niacin, potassium, and more.
The most prominent type of fiber in pearl barley is beta-glucan. This fiber may allow better control of blood sugar and a reduction in cholesterol levels. As a result, it is an excellent food to add to anyone's diet, and in particular, those who struggle with high cholesterol and blood sugar.
Pearl barley is such an underused grain but deserves more attention in the kitchen. Even beyond its significant nutritional profile, it is relatively inexpensive and a single bag of it goes a long way. Other uses for pearl barley beyond this salad include beef and barley soup, savoury porridge, barley risotto, or as a vegetarian filling to stuffed peppers.
How to Serve Barley Tabbouleh
Barley tabbouleh is at its best when you prepare it with in-season produce like tomatoes and cucumbers. As a result, it would be particularly great served in a large bowl as part of a summer barbecue with grilled meat.
Of course, if you would like to go the traditional route with this salad, you could also create your own mezze lunch or dinner with an array of small dishes. Simply set it on the table with items like labneh, dolmades, hummus, kebobs, and more.
Another option would be to serve the salad in a wrap or pita. Tzatziki, tahini sauce, falafel, pork gyros, or grilled chicken are all excellent additions to a wrap consisting of tabbouleh. You could even turn this side salad into a main dish by topping it with some sliced grilled chicken.
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Barley Tabbouleh Recipe
- ½ cup pearl barley cook in 1.5 cups water for 1.5 cups cooked barley
- 2 cups chopped parsley leaves
- 1 large tomato seeds removed and diced
- ½ long English cucumber remove soft seed center, cut into small dice
- ⅛-1/4 cup mint leaves chopped
- 2 green onions sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove grated or pressed
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon/lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pinch allspice
- In a saucepan stir together ½ cup pearl barley and 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until barley is tender. Drain and rinse cooked barley with cold water.
- To a salad bowl add the 1.5 cups cooked and cooled barley. Add 2 cups of chopped parsley, 1 large diced tomato, ½ small diced cucumber, ⅛-1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped, and 2 sliced green onions.
- To a small jar add ¼ cup olive oil, 1 grated or pressed garlic clove, 1-2 tablespoon lemon or lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper, and a pinch of allspice. Close the jar and shake until all the dressing ingredients are well combined.
- Pour the dressing over the barley tabbouleh salad ingredients. Toss everything to combine.
- Enjoy this Barley Tabbouleh as a salad side dish or filling for pitas or wraps.
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Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, but this recipe uses pearl barley as a unique twist.
Yes, you can substitute bulgur for barley in this recipe or vice versa, adjusting cooking times accordingly.
Tabbouleh is healthy due to its fresh ingredients like parsley, tomato, cucumber, and the nutritional benefits of the grains used, such as barley.
The name "tabbouleh" comes from the Arabic word "taabil," meaning "seasoning" or "dip." It reflects the dish's seasoned and flavorful nature.