Barley Pilaf

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, discussing pilaf isn’t the most scintillating food-talk we could be having, especially in light of treats like this and this.

But it is absolutely necessary if you are looking for simple, healthful, delicious side dishes to compliment a myriad of main entrees. This barley pilaf is no exception. Not only does it introduce a nutritious grain into your diet, but the high-protein, high-fiber barley makes a delicious baked pilaf that is flavorful, tender and pairs wonderfully with many dishes, not the least of which I’ll be sharing later this week (think: broiled parmesan and lemon chicken – yum!).

My kids, the ultimate skeptics, didn’t bat an eye at devouring this tasty side dish. Granted, they’ve become accustomed to eating barley in one of our favorite chilis, but I also helped alleviate their worries by telling them it was like rice – just chubbier and chewier – and for some reason, that sealed the deal and they gobbled it right up.

Barley Pilaf

One Year Ago: Skillet Chicken Parmesan
Two Years Ago: Roast Pork Tenderloin with Asian Glaze
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Cake

Simple Barley Pilaf

Yield: Serves 6

Simple Barley Pilaf


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup medium pearl barley (not quick cooking barley)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup pine nuts or almonds, optional
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the barley, nuts (if using), garlic and onions. Saute the mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and the barley is golden. Scrape the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish and stir in the salt, pepper and chicken broth. Bake uncovered for 60-80 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender. Garnish with green onions, if desired.

Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe that Michele B. sent me and that is a family favorite of theirs – thanks, Michele!

29 Responses to Simple Barley Pilaf

  1. Caitlyn says:

    I love, love, love barley. I can’t wait to try this one.

  2. Kim in MD says:

    I love barley in soup, but have never tried it in a recipe where it is the star! I can’t wait to try this!

  3. Leigh Anne says:

    Sounds yummy! I, too, love barley 🙂 Just gotta get some pine nuts & I’ll be set!

  4. susan says:

    My mom makes this and adds mushrooms…sooo good!!

  5. This is the exact kind of recipe I love turning to you for. I know you will take a simple ingredient and make it the absolute best. I can’t wait to try this!

    Hope you & sweet baby are doing wonderful 🙂 xo

  6. vanillatruffle says:

    Will be making this tonight. Thank you for posting this healthy and delicious recipe! You are my official ‘go-to’ online cookbook.

  7. Michelle says:

    No way!!!! One of MY recipes featured on this awesome blog!? I am so honored you liked it Mel. And just seeing it here makes me want to make it even more now that it’s passed your high bar. You are the best Mel!

  8. Allyson says:

    I haven’t tasted this yet, but I can already tell I NEEDED this in my recipe repertoire. Thank you!

  9. Hilary says:

    Made this last night and its delicious! For lunch today I plan on adding a ton of roasted veggies to it and putting it in a wrap – LOVE this!!

  10. […] is one of Mels amazing recipes, and since my camera is broken for the next week, this is her picture also! And I […]

  11. I’ve never tried barley but i feed it to my babies as cereal so i’m making this now to give it a shot!!

  12. Melissa says:

    This was awesome!! Even my skeptical friend and husband loved it!

  13. I wish I could break my man of his rice.with.every.single.meal habbit but he is stubborn and won’t budge, unless it is potatoes- mashed, baked, or fried. I guess I will have to try harder because I can’t look at another grain of rice without losing my mind!

  14. Katie says:

    I made it tonight and everyone liked it! It probably took closer to 2 hours to cook though! My chicken broth had been in the fridge – do you think that could have had something to do with it? I followed the recipe exactly, skipping the pine nuts. Thanks!

  15. Mel says:

    Hi Katie – I’m not sure why you would have had to bake it for so much longer! Maybe a variance in oven temperature?

  16. danielle says:

    yum. Oh I loved this. I did make it with the Broiled Parmesan chicken as suggested and did a side of broccoli. So tasty and easy to throw together- I will for sure be adding this to my collection. 🙂

  17. I made this tonight with the pine nuts and it was so so good! We had it with salmon that had a very strong-flavored cream sauce and it was the perfect mild accompaniment.

  18. Cindy Kine says:

    I made this today with almonds and it is so yummy! Thanks for a great recipe!

  19. In my kitchen I have to serve a lot of different individuals. I found barley to make a nice variation in pilafs. It usually does take longer than rice but has a lot of potential in healthy applications and variety. If there is too much liquid left just drain it out when the barley reaches the tenderness you desire. I also experiment with faro, spelt, black rice and quinoa. I like to add different varieties together for unusual flavours.

  20. Mel, it would be a great help to have a serving calculator to change the servings. I can do it but just adds more work. I prefer 60 – 100 serving sizes.

  21. Heidi says:

    I have made this several times now and my whole family enjoys it. To make it a meatless meal I serve it with steamed broccoli, black beans and garbanzo beans and eat it all together. It is delicious!!! Thanks, Mel!

  22. Amy says:

    No idea what happened here, but mine was not cooked all the way. The flavor was there, the barley was just a little al dente. I’m going to save the leftovers and try to cook it down with some water.

  23. Laura says:

    Could you not just bring it to a boil on the stove and simmer it, instead of baking it?

  24. N says:

    I just tried this today, and it worked great! I’ve never cooked with barley before. Thanks for the easy recipe!

  25. Launi says:

    I was looking for another way to use barley after your Beef and Barley Soup (which was awesome) and found this. For such a simple side dish it sure knocked my socks off! As in, I couldn’t stop sneaking forkfuls and hoping my kids wouldn’t love it so I could have theirs. 🙂 Thanks for another awesome recipe for my arsenal, Mel!

  26. Briana says:

    if i want to add almonds to this what type would you add? slivered? or? thanks! can’t wait to try this!

  27. Tami says:

    I used quick cooking barley & cooked according to cooking instructions after sautéing the onion, garlic, barley and chopped pecans (instead of almonds).

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