This Savory Barley Breakfast Bowl is a delicious and nutritious way to start the day. Cooked pearl barley (which can be made in advance) is topped with avocado, greens, toasted spiced almonds, pickled beets (optional but DELICIOUS), a creamy herbed yogurt sauce and a perfectly cooked egg if you choose.
The beauty of this bowl is that all of the components can be made ahead of time. So on hectic mornings when you want a healthy meal to fuel you for the day ahead, you can just quickly assemble your bowl ingredients and top your masterpiece with an egg. Breakfast is served!
Keep reading for step-by-step instructions for making Savory Barley Breakfast Bowls at home.
Why This Recipe Works
- Earthy, nutty pearl barley makes a delicious bed for an interesting mix of toppings that work together perfectly.
- Everything (with the exception of the egg) can made made ahead of time so there is no fussing in the morning when you just want to assemble and go.
- A few special touches (think spiced almonds, herbed yogurt sauce and pickled beets if you are into it) bring big flavor to this simple breakfast.
- Pearl (or medium) barley is the grain the forms the base of this recipe. For more information on what pearl barley is and how it's different from other forms of barley, check out the FAQ section below. No barley? No problem! Simply used cooked steel cut oats, farro, rice, quinoa, or other hearty grain in its place.
- Sliced avocado and a handful of chopped greens (or micro greens or sprouts) add cool creaminess and vegetal freshness and nutrition.
- Sliced almonds are toasted in a skillet with a mixture of cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper and salt and sprinkled over the top of the bowl adding a welcome crunch and big flavor.
- A simple savory skyr (yogurt) sauce livens everything up and bring a saucy richness to the dish. Don't want to bother making the sauce? Simply use a dollop of plain yogurt instead.
- Finally pickled beets, either homemade or store bought (try it!), add zing and a perfectly cooked fried or poached egg tops this show stopping with delicious style and flair. These are optional but delicious. A sprinkle of crumbled feta over the top is nice too!
How to Make This Recipe
- Begin by cooking your barley. I like to do this pasta style, meaning I boil a pot of water, add a little salt and the barley and cook until toothsome but tender (about 25- 35 minutes). Drain just as you would a batch of pasta. Feel free to do this up to 5 days ahead of time and store the barley tightly covered in the refrigerator. You can do this in as large of a batch as you like depending on what you have planned for the week.
- Make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients and store until ready to use (again, up to 5 days).
- Toast the almonds. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds, spices and salt. Cook and stir frequently until the almonds turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Assemble the bowls: Fry or poach an egg to your desired level of doneness (I like mine with a runny yolk but you do you) and set aside. Add a couple of generous spoonfuls of warm cooked barley to the bottom of a bowl. If your barley has been in the refrigerator, simply warm in the microwave or on the stove top in a sauce pan over low heat with a splash of water. Top with sliced avocado, chopped greens, micro greens or sprouts, chopped pickled beets, a dollop of sauce, the cooked egg and a sprinkle of spiced almonds and cheese. Enjoy!
- Make your life easy by preparing everything in advance so there is no need do anything except make the egg and assemble the bowls in the morning.
- Feel free to play around with this recipe! There are many different ways to assemble a savory barley breakfast bowl. Make it your own!
Hulled barley is minimally processed. Only the inedible outer shell of the grain is removed leaving the bran intact. While this means your grains will take longer to cook (possibly over an hour), they are more nutritious. In order to speed cooking time and increase the bioavailability of nutrients, it helps to soak hulled barley overnight prior to cooking.
When pearl (or medium) barley is processed, the nutrient and fiber dense bran of the grain is removed. This shortens the cooking time of the grain but removes some of the nutrients and fiber that make barley an appealing grain from a health perspective. Even though pearl barley does not have the same nutritional punch as hulled barley, it still retains more nutrients than most processed grains.
Instant (or quick) barley is pre-steamed pearl barley and takes only 10 or 15 minutes to cook.
To cook pearl barley, bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Add 1 cup of pearl barley. Cook until tender, about 25-35 minutes. Drain through a fine mesh strainer. 1 cup of dry pearl barley will make about 3 cups of cooked barley. Barley can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cooked barley can also be frozen in a freezer safe container such as a Ziploc freezer bag for up to 3 months. Check out this blog post for more information on making barley in the Instant Pot if you would rather go that route.
Yes! Simply used a plant-based yogurt for the sauce and skip the egg and cheese or use a vegan cheese.
Use a different grain in place of the barley such as steel cut oats, farro, rice or quinoa. Add cooked vegetables such as mushrooms, roasted cubes of butternut squash, roasted red peppers or roasted sweet potatoes. Add a little crumbled and cooked breakfast sausage or bacon. Swap out the pickled beets for pickled red onions.
Looking for more barley recipes? I've got you covered:
Savory Barley Breakfast Bowls
- 1 ½ cups cooked pearl barley (see note below for cooking instructions)
- 1 avocado sliced
- Microgreens sprouts or chopped baby spinach or other greens
- pickled beets, diced small optional
- Crumbled feta cheese
- ⅓ cup Cardamom Spiced Almonds (see recipe below) or toasted sliced almonds
- Creamy Herbed Skyr (Yogurt) Sauce or a dollop of plain yogurt
- Chopped fresh herbs
- 2 Fried or poached eggs optional
Cardamom Spiced Almonds
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- pinch salt
- Make the spiced almonds: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds, cumin, cardamom and coriander. Cook, stirring frequently, until the almonds are golden brown and spices are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
- Poach or fry two eggs to your desired level of doneness. Set aside.
- Place about ⅔ cup of warm, cooked barley in the bottom of a bowl. Top with sliced avocado, greens, diced pickled beets and a cooked egg. Spoon a dollop of yogurt sauce or plain yogurt over the top. Sprinkle with spiced almonds, feta cheese and fresh herbs. Repeat with second bowl. Serve immediately.
If you loved this recipe, give it a star review! Also, snap a picture of your Savory Barley Breakfast Bowl and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #truenorthkitchen and tagging me @true_north_kitchen.