Barley Salad with Lemon Dressing

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You’ll make this fresh barley salad again & again! It’s light, packed with fresh veggies and lemon flavor, and it keeps well if you prep it ahead of time. It’s the perfect summer lunch, great for potlucks and BBQs.

Added bonus? It’s healthy, vegan, easy to customize with your favorite add-ins and it’s easy to transport too!

Top view of a white salad bowl full of barley salad with cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber and herbs.

Quick salads packed with grains and plant-based protein have been one of my go-to lunches for years. And now that the temperature rises, I thought I’d share this delicious barley salad recipe with all of you!

In this recipe, I used creamy avocado, chickpeas and I played off with plenty of lemon flavor, adding juice and lemon zest to the dressing. The result is a fresh, delicious, zesty barley salad, perfect as a side dish and hearty enough to be a meal on its own.

I love it also because it holds up well in the fridge and keeps fresh for days, which is definitely a big bonus when cooking in summer feels like a chore.

So feel free to double or triple the recipe because the next day tastes even better, and serve it for dinner, pack it up for lunch, or bring it to your next summer gathering!

List of the ingredients

  • Pearled barley
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Canned chickpeas (white or dark beans are fine)
  • Cucumber (English or Lebanese)
  • Avocado
  • Lemons
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley (basil, dill, or chives are fine too)
  • Garlic & mustard
  • Onion (optional)
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients to make the barley salad are arranged over a white background.

How to make barley salad

(note: this is simply a quick description, the full recipe is a the bottom of the page)

  • Cook barley, drain, and let it cool.
  • Make the dressing by placing all the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.
Top view of a glass jar full of lemon garlic dressing, lemons and parsley in the background.
  • Place cold barley and vegetable in one large salad bowl.
  • Pour the dressing and toss until well combined. Done.

PRO TIP: to speed up the cooling time, rinse the cooked barley under runny cold water and drain well.

A glass jar pouring lemon dressing over barley and chopped vegetables.

Recipe notes & FAQs

What is barley?

Cooked barley is a cereal grain with a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor.
It’s a versatile whole grain for many different dishes, from fresh salads to this warming vegetable barley soup. It’s inexpensive, especially if you buy it from the bulk section section.

Is barley good for you?

If you’re wondering if barley is good for you, the answer is yes!
This whole grain cereal is rich in fiber and other important folates and minerals like selenium, great for heart health. Plus, the fiber content makes you feel fuller for longer, promoting weight loss.
However, barley is not a gluten-free grain.

A small white bowl full of uncooked pearled barley.

Barley salad ingredients

BARLEY: you want to use pearled barley for this recipe, not hulled barley.
Pearled barley cooks faster than hulled barley because it has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull, and it is the most common for soups and salads.

TOMATOES: I used cherry tomatoes, but you can use any tomatoes, as long as you remove the seeds and dice them. Make sure you remove the excess water from large tomatoes.

CUCUMBER: crunchy, fresh cucumbers are best. Remove their seeds if needed, see notes in the recipe card.

AVOCADO: use a ripe but firm avocado to add flavor and texture.

CHICKPEAS: white, black or kidney beans work fine instead of chickpeas.

FRESH HERBS: use only fresh herb. I love adding chopped fresh parsley to my salads, but fresh basil, dills or chives work totally fine instead of parsley.

LEMON DRESSING: you absolutely want to use extra virgin olive oil and fresh garlic and lemons for the salad dressing. Don’t use bottled lemon juice here.

Barley salad variations

This barley salad is super versatile, feel free to mix and match fresh, crunchy vegetables, favorite legumes, and fresh herbs
Here are a few of my favorite add-ins: crumbled feta, mozzarella pearls, sun dried tomatoes, olives, grilled vegetables. Be creative!

Close-up of a white salad bowl full of barley salad, lemons and white plates in the background.

More delicious salad recipes

If you love fresh, light salads, I’ve got you covered! Here are a few of my favorites, packed with protein and flavor:

If you make this barley salad, or you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment and rating the recipe. I would love to hear from you! x
And for more recipe updates, follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook.

Top view of a white salad bowl full of barley salad.
Print Recipe
4.84 from 6 votes

Barley Salad with Lemon Dressing

This delicious barley salad is light, packed with fresh veggies and lemon flavor, and it keeps well if you prep it ahead of time. It's the perfect summer lunch, great for potlucks and BBQ's parties.
The recipe makes 4 regular servings or or 6 smaller sides.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Cooling time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barley salad
Servings: 4
Calories: 363kcal
Author: Katia



  • 1 cup (200 grams) uncooked pearled barley, rinsed
  • 3 cups (720 ml) water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 9oz (250 grams) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (7oz/200 grams) cucumber, seeds removed and diced (see notes)
  • 1 can (15oz/400 grams) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ red onion, chopped (optional)


  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 2 ½ Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest (1 large lemon)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or grated
  • ½ scant tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¾ tsp fine salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add barley, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until barley is tender. Drain well, place in a large salad bowl and let it cool for about 40 minutes.
  • Make the dressing by placing olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic into a jar with a lid. Shake vigorously until well combined.
  • Add the vegetables, chickpeas, herbs to the barley and pour over the lemon dressing. Toss well to combined, taste and adjust the seasoning according to your liking if needed.
  • You can serve this barley salad at room temperature or cold. If time allows, I prefer to let it chill an extra 30 minutes in the fridge before serving. Enjoy!


BARLEY:  rinse barley under runny water before adding to the pot, you want to wash away any dust or debris.
HOW TO COOK BARLEY: you can easily double or triple the recipe, simply keep in mind the ratio of water to barley is 3 cups water for every 1 cup of barley.
CUCUMBER: If using Lebanese/baby cucumbers, cut them lenghttwise and  scrape out the watery seeds using a teaspoon. If using an English cucumber (the long one) removing the seeds is optional since are less watery, but sometimes they are a lot and I prefer to remove them anyway. Trust your judgement here. 
STORAGE/MAKE AHEAD: this barley salad keeps well in the fridge stored in air tight container for up to 4-5 days.
NUTRITION FACTS: please note that the nutrition values are based on an online nutrition calculator.  It’s an estimate only and it should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. The nutrition values are for one small serving.


Calories: 363kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Sodium: 458mg | Potassium: 588mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 555IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 3mg


  1. Plant_blessed says:

    5 stars
    This popped up while I was looking for a barley salad recipe. I made this yesterday, subbing out some ingredients for the ones I had on hand, and it was delicious! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! : )

  2. 5 stars
    This is sooo delicious! The recipe is perfect as is! Thank you for posting this. It’s the perfect picnic lunch or potluck healthy dish. Also, I’ve tried many lemon vinaigrette recipes. This has the best ratio of ingredients.

    1. I’m so pleased for this lovely feedback, Sarah! Thanks a lot for sharing, I appreciate it. x

  3. Sheryl Jordan says:

    4 stars
    Had to double dressing to cover amount of ingredients before able to taste it.

    1. Hi Sheryl, the dressing seems to be fine for most of my readers, but I assume it’s a matter of personal preference.
      Glad you liked it and rated the recipe too, thank you! x

  4. Ann-Marie says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Really enjoyed this flavour combination and a lovely change from the usual leafy salads🙏🏻

    1. That’s great to hear, Ann-Marie! Thanks for your lovely feedback. x

  5. 5 stars
    Just what I was looking for! I wouldn’t have thought to use mustard in the dressing, but it really complimented the other flavors!

    1. That’s great, Jen! I’m so glad you liked it, thanks so much for sharing. x

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Katia , this salad looks delicious. I will have it for dinner tomorrow. Include avocado in the list, I saw that it is present in the pictures . Thank you for this recipe.

    1. Ops… thanks so much Liliana, I’ve just added it! : )
      Have a great weekend. x

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