Vegetarian and Vegan Barley Recipes

Pearled barley is a healthy, high-fiber, and cholesterol-free whole grain that can be used in soups, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, pilafs or any dish you'd use rice in. With a rich and creamy texture just by cooking it in plain water, barley makes delicious hearty dishes when cooked in broth, or mixed with other creamy vegetables like butternut squash or pumpkin.

Barley is budget-friendly when bought in bulk, so stock up on this grain and experiment with it in all of your meals. Keep in mind that barley isn't gluten-free so don't substitute it for oats or gluten-free grains.

Introduce a healthy new ingredient to your diet and enjoy the wonderful flavor and texture of barley. Most of our recipes are vegan or include a vegetarian variation.

  • 01 of 09

    Barley Greek Salad

    Easy Greek style barley salad

    ​The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

    This vegetarian barley Greek salad is a wonderful summery dish. Feta, olives, cucumber, and tomatoes give the salad some freshness and tang, while the cooked barley adds a lot of texture and volume. What you spend in fancy cheese you save with the mega portions barley gives you, 6 as a side dish and 4 for an entree. Transform it into a gourmet entree by swapping out the feta for grilled halloumi cheese

    For a vegan version, use a nice baked or marinated tofu instead of feta, or grill some tempeh with balsamic vinegar and place it on top of the salad. You need 40 minutes to cook the barley and 20 to mix the rest of the ingredients.

  • 02 of 09

    Vegan Barley Cranberry Pilaf

    Vegan barley, wild rice cranberry pilaf recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Pilaf is usually a rice preparation to which you add meat, vegetables, seeds, or nuts. Our vegan barley cranberry pilaf is a fresh, sweet-and-savory dish that can double as a starchy side or salad. Tangy cranberries soaked in orange juice and a silky citrusy dressing complete this pilaf. Add nuts and greens for a vegan version, and cheese for a vegetarian side. If there are allergies to nuts, use pepitas or sunflower seeds to provide the crunch.

    This dish is ready in under 1 hour, but you can cook bigger batches of barley and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days to use in other salads or soups, or to mix with pesto or store-bought tomato sauce as a flavorful side starch.

  • 03 of 09

    Barley Baked Beans

    Vegetarian baked beans with barley

    The Spruce / Jolinda Hackett 

    Add some extra texture and fiber and stretch your usual baked beans recipe by adding barley. Cook the barley on the stovetop and bake the bean and barley mixture in the oven for 2.5 hours. Or use the crockpot for these saucy beans on medium for about 6 hours.

    This thick and flavorful mixture of barley baked beans is a great lunch with a side of rice, or use it in a bun for vegan sloppy joes. Add sour cream and cheese if your diet allows dairy or top with grated cashews or pepitas if you need some crunch.

  • 04 of 09

    Vegan Barley Tomato Soup

    Barley, tomato and vegetable soup

    Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

    Our vegan barley tomato soup recipe uses tomatoes and plenty of carrots, celery, onions, and garlic to prepare a thick and aromatic main dish that's easy to make and is also super healthy.

    Ready in under 1 hour, this soup is great to make in bigger batches and freeze in individual portions to have at hand for a last-minute lunch. Add spinach or kale for extra fiber, and serve with warm bread and vegan butter.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Barley and Mushroom Pilaf

    Closeup Mushroom Barley Meal
    cheche22 / Getty Images

    Just like rice and most other whole grains, barley makes an excellent pilaf. There's not much difference between a whole grain pilaf and a whole grain salad, so enjoy the leftovers the next day served cold with extra greens and a tangy vinaigrette.

    Our barley and mushroom pilaf combines the nuttiness of the barley with the earthiness of mushrooms and rosemary. Top it with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast depending on your dietary restrictions, and serve it warm as a main or side dish. Ready in 1 hour, this filling dish serves 4.

  • 06 of 09

    Bean and Barley Vegetable Soup

    Vegetarian bean and barley soup

    The Spruce


    For a meatless alternative to beef and barley soup, try our cholesterol-free vegetarian version made with beans instead. The intense flavor in this bean and barley vegetable soup comes from plenty of Italian seasoning, celery salt, basil, thyme, and bay leaves, and the recipe leaves room for you to improvise and add any vegetables of your liking like leafy greens, sliced carrots, peas, corn, or even cubed potatoes.

    Ready in 1 hour and 15 minutes, this soup is a great main for lunch, served with brown rice, warm naan, or crusty bread and vegan butter.

  • 07 of 09

    Vegetarian Barley Stuffed Squash

    Vegetarian stuffed acorn squash

    The Spruce / Jolinda Hackett 

    A vegetarian barley stuffed squash is a beautiful dish to present on a holiday table. Healthy, hearty, and filling, our recipe uses barley and vegetables to make a creamy stuffing that can be topped with cheese and then baked to perfection in the oven. Use bread crumbs with vegan butter to make a topping if you need to skip the dairy but would like some crunch.

    The dish is prepped and cooked in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

  • 08 of 09

    Barley Breakfast Delight

    Barley Breakfast Delight

    Crystal Cartier Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

    Change up your breakfast game and say goodbye to your box of cereal. Use cooked barley with spices and sugar to make this barley breakfast delight porridge that's healthy, low in fat, filling and easy. Make bigger batches and keep in your fridge for 3 days; warm 1 cup of the mixture with 1/4 cup of milk or a non-dairy beverage.

    Simply cook the barley in water, pear nectar, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, and salt. Add cranberries and lemon juice and let cook for an extra 15 minutes. Let cool off a little before serving with chopped walnuts or any nut of your liking. Add a side of fruit preserves or apple sauce and serve with fresh fruit.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Barley Crockpot Casserole

    Directly Above Shot Of Barley In Bowl On Table
    Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

    For this hearty and easy barley crockpot casserole recipe, we cook barley and vegetables in the crockpot for 6 to 8 hours. Herbs and mushrooms give a nutty, earthy flavor, and the recipe is forgiving enough that you can improvise and add any other vegetables, like different types of mushrooms, carrots, greens, or celery.

    Use pine nuts on top before serving, or use croutons or pepitas if you need to stay away from tree nuts. Serve with a fresh green salad and warm bread.