Great Grains: Barley and Breakfast

In my post on Cauliflower Steaks, I alluded to making a side of barley to fill up any spaces that might be left by cauliflower steaks (there really weren’t any), and as a failsafe if the kids stonewalled and took the “required taste amount only” position on the main dish. So here I am, returning to the barley, to explain to you why it is ever so lovely to have a container of leftover barley in the fridge.

I am a firm believer in grain variety. It would be very easy for my husband to eat rice every night, and I could probably have quinoa every day without complaint; however, I think a little variety does a body, and a palate, good. One of my favorite grains is super hearty, and super versatile, barley. I bought pearl barley (more about the varieties of barley here, and am curious about other, less processed versions of the grain. Although pearl barley IS slightly processed, the polishing of the grain is reported to leave it largely nutritionally intact. Cooked pearl barley is larger than rice, and soft while not being mushy. It’s a great base for foods, traditionally used in soups, and would be great in a risotto (barsotto?).

I cooked my barley in water with a little salt in a 3 H2O to 1 barley ratio (I started with 2 c dry barley and we had PLENTY). Took about an hour, so it is not quick, but it doesn’t require any effort, so it’s a great candidate for a weekend cook to set up some grain dishes for the week. As an alternative, you could cook it in a slow cooker, which is what I think I’ll do next time.

Regardless of how you choose to cook your barley, be sure to make enough for leftovers, as barley for breakfast is a delight. It’s warm and hearty, filling and nutritious, and it is not gloppy. While I love oatmeal, there are those who’ve expressed to me that the questionable texture of oatmeal and porridge is distasteful – barley may just be answer to these hot breakfast lovers. Barley is not gloppy and is a perfect vehicle for many of the same kinds of additions that can make a steamy bowl of oatmeal so very delicious. I’ll demonstrate with three options I’ve enjoyed this week.

Barley Breakfast 1
 Tradition Takes Hold: My first barley breakfast was pretty traditional in porridge terms. I added some raisins, some cinnamon, some nuts, and a little shredded coconut (I am decadent, I know).  Someone who is accustomed to a sweet breakfast could add a splash of maple syrup, although I found that the raisins and cinnamon did a nice job of convincing my palate that we were in the sweet enough zone. I also added a splash of almond milk.  Warm, filling, energizing, comforting, and delicious.  Everything a great winter breakfast bowl should be.
Barley Breakfast 2

IMG_8681A Little Lemon Lift:  For my second barley breakfast, I remembered Bigg Sis’ superb soaked oats, which feature a heavy dose of lemon zest.  While I was skeptical about this move when she first described them, I was delighted to find that the zest convinced my senses that it was simply a bowl of grains I was eating, but there was some sort of pastry situation in front of me.  I’m still not sure how that works, but it still works, and so this breakfast included raisins, walnuts, lemon zest, and a splash of almond milk.  Fantastic, and a light refreshing feel that brought a little ray of sun into the winter kitchen.

Barley Breakfast 3

IMG_8693 Gettin’ a Little Exotic:  For my final barley experiment of the week, I turned to another container of leftovers in the fridge.  last night I roasted some sweet potatoes (1 inch cubes, 450 degrees, olive oil and a little salt for about 20 minutes) and then sprinkled them with lime juice and cilantro.  They were stunning, if I do say so myself.  Know what else?  They were a great addition to breakfast.  I used some barley and the potatoes, warmed them and then added raisins, some banana, walnuts, a splash of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime.  If it hadn’t been 12 degrees here at the time, I would have sworn I was somewhere slightly tropical.  Delish!

So there you have it. Three lovely bowls of barley for YOUR breakfast enjoyment. All low in refined sugar, all cheaper than boxed cereal, and all super yum. If you’re looking for a place to start YOUR path to healthier eating, may I suggest you start right at the beginning of your day. Check out our other breakfast options and pull up a chair!

This post was featured at:

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

68 responses

  1. I am truly loving this post – particularly the last entry. Why not add a little exotica to a chilly winter morning? It is in the teens here as well. Maybe the native Tennesseans will actually don coats? I am interested to see. Thanks for the delish ideas.

  2. I laughed when I saw the post title, as yesterday I cooked a broccoli-cauliflower risotto for supper with barley for the first time ever. I’m not sure that I’ve ever cooked with barley in my life before that! It made a very nice change, and it was deeply topical here as we’ve just finished Robinson Crusoe with our youngest, and in the story Crusoe grows barley as his main grain crop. I absolutely love the idea of it for breakfast, so thank you three times over!

  3. Barley is such a fabulous whole grain with a unique flavor! Good anytime of the year but excellent for winter-headed-into-spring because it helps clear out excess mucous. Like your cereal ideas, especially with the lemon zest to lighten it up.

    • The lemon really was delightful. My kids are not as willing to branch out in their flavor combos, but they do eat up some hot grains in the morning, so if they want to skip the lemon, I guess that’s okay. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I wouldn’t have thought of eating barley for breakfast. In fact, I’ve only ever had it in soup. Great ideas here. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday.

    • Our pleasure Chris. I loved barley in soup as a kid and only over the last few years experimented with it out of the soup bowl. It really is wonderfully versatile. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. My mom used to add barley to soups, but I have never actually cooked with it. I’m always on the look out for new breakfast ideas (especially if I can buy stuff in the bulk section), so I may have to try this.

    (btw– I found you through Freedom Fridays on My Turn for Us)

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  7. My husband has recently declared himself almost vegan. Leaving off meat isn’t much of a problem. I’m struggling with dairy! Eggs, milk and cheese are in everything! I’m going to try some of this barley. I’m getting bored with oatmeal. I’m also going to take a look around your site. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ll be sharing this post on Pinterest!

    Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage!

    • Thanks for the pin Laura! You should be able to find lots of dairy-free options here. My sister and I have both pretty much given up dairy over the last several months, and it’s been hard, but once I really started, I didn’t miss it as much as I feared. Let us know if you’re looking for something in particular!

  8. Great ideas. I do have one question. Does barley not need to first be soaked? If so, would that not cut the cooking time? Thanks for any input. I cannot wait to try these barley bowls. They sound YUM!

    • Thanks for the question Carol! Barley CAN be soaked first (5 hours to overnight in 2 times as much water as barley) and then cooked in boiling water for only 15 minutes. Thanks so much for brining it to my attention as that’s a nice time-saver.

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  10. I have never had barley, but I am so glad you introduced it to me! I just ordered 5lbs online and can’t wait to try it (I eat oatmeal every day, so this might be a nice change in between)!
    Thank you so much for sharing this at Wednesday Extravaganza – see you there again next week with more deliciousness 🙂

  11. I really like oatmeal, but it sounds like barley might be a good warm breakfast for me to try! That first recipe you mentioned sounds really good. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing at A Humble Bumble!

  12. I definitely am going to have to try this. I struggle to find “good” things to eat for breakfast and if it was already made and all I had to do was warm it up…..definitely an easy breakfast as well. Thanks for linking up to Healthy Tuesdays Blog Hop.

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