Barley with Mushrooms

This barley with mushrooms recipe is a healthy, meatless side dish. This tasty recipe comes together quickly and uses a grain that you can feel good about.

This barley side dish recipe is a healthy, meatless side dish. This recipe comes together quickly, is tasty and uses a grain that you can feel good about.

Barley. I adore barley. It takes me back to my childhood kitchen and to my parents’ restaurants where there was often a big pot of soup full of barley and veggies on the stove.

What is Barley?

Barley is the world’s oldest cultivated cereal grain. Pearl barley is usually what you will find in the US, where the outer hull has been removed and which cooks faster than the unprocessed version. There’s also quick cooking barley, which is what we’ll be using today.

Once cooked, barley is a little chewy and has a slightly nutty flavor, similar to brown rice or farro. You are probably most familiar with it in soups.

Using Barley

But barley shouldn’t be relegated to soupdom forever. Barley makes a fantastic side dish. You can use barley the way you use rice by serving it plain beside some fish or under a stir-fry and, as with rice, you can also add some flavors to it while it cooks to make a Barley Pilaf. Unlike white rice though, barley is super-healthy. It’s a whole grain packed with fiber and nutrients.

Now, I’ll admit that barley does have a long cooking time (similar to brown rice) but there is a product called Quick-Cooking Barley that is really delicious and takes only 15-ish minutes to cook. This recipe calls for the quick-cooking variety so that this barley side dish recipe can be made on any busy weeknight.

Two brands of Quick-Cooking Barley to look for on your grocery store shelves: Quaker and Mother’s Natural.

Adding Mushrooms

Oh, and the mushrooms in here are lovely and so meaty. however, while mushrooms have a meaty texture, they are not meat. I know, it’s confusing, and you’re probably now wondering if they’re vegetables. If you are, check this out. And some people have even asked more before if they’re mold.

Please enjoy this barley side dish recipe…



Barley with Mushrooms

  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings


This barley with mushrooms recipe is a healthy, meatless side dish. This tasty recipe comes together quickly and uses a grain that you can feel good about.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. of sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • 3 medium-sized leeks
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 11 oz. (311g, about 2 cups) quick-cooking barley (that’s one typical boxful)*
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar


  1. Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms.
  2. Stir to coat them in oil and then leave them alone for a minute or so until the undersides start to brown. Stir.
  3. Cook for 3-5 more minutes until they’re lightly browned all over, stirring once or twice.
  4. Meanwhile, grab a leek and locate the hairy end (the root end). Trim off the roots by cutting about 1/4″ off of the bottom of the leek. Then make a long cut through the leak from where the hairy end was up to where the coarse green leaves begin.
  5. At this point, you’ve cut the cylindrical base of the leek in half lengthwise. Give the leek a quarter turn on your board and make another long cut from ex-hairy end to coarse green leaves, thus quartering the cylinder.
  6. Grasp the leek by the coarse green leaves just past where your two long cuts end. Starting at the ex-hairy end, chop the leek up by making cuts that are ¼” apart perpendicular to the two long cuts you previously made.
  7. Keep chopping up the length of the quartered cylinder until you get to those coarse green leaves. Discard the leaves and put the chopped leek into a big bowl. Repeat the cutting and chopping of leeks with the other two leeks gathering all the chopped leeks into the large bowl.
  8. Put the bowl in the sink and fill it with lots of cool water. Swish the leeks around. Any dirt that was trapped inside the leeks’ layers will fall out and sink tot he bottom of the bowl. 
  9. Scoop out the leeks and discard the dirty water. Sometimes I do this rinsing process twice if the leeks were particularly dirty. (Lately, the leeks have been super-clean and I’ve even gotten away with just rinsing them in a colander instead of using the bowl method.)
  10. Add the chopped leeks to the mushrooms along with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  11. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the leeks are softened a bit.
  12. Add the barley, the chicken broth, the water, and the bay leaf along with ½ teaspoon more of salt. Stir. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the barley is tender.
  13. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes (all of the liquid should be absorbed at this point).
  14. Drizzle in the cider vinegar, fluff the barley with a fork and serve.


*Quick-cooking barley is sold in a box. In my current grocery store, it is right near the normal barley, which is near the rice. In my grocery store in Toronto, I think I remember it being near the boxes of tabbouleh. That was about 3 feet away from the barley, so close by, but not right next to it. There are two brands that I know of.



This post originally appeared in January 2013 and was revised and republished in February 2021.
Barley with Mushrooms

15 responses to “Barley with Mushrooms”

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  8. Shaina says:

    mushroom and leeks…love that combination! and barley is delicious in soup, so it’s gotta be just as good used in a side dish as well! this sounds great.

    whenever i’m trying to bounce back after a big junk-food binge, i go for a really colorful salad or a light broth based soup loaded with veggies.

    Happy New Year!

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Shaina, I agree! Salad and brothy soups are the best after the heavy holiday food. You just reminded me how much I like doing an asian noodle soup with a spicy broth and lots of veggies. I’m putting it on my meal plan for the week right now!

  9. Suzanne says:

    I love mushrooms, and I love leeks, Haven’t given barley too much of a try, but this recipe may change that. I make lots of salads when I’m trying to eat healthier.

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Suzanne, If you do try out barley, in this recipe or in another, let me know what you think. I love the stuff but am not sure if it has universal appeal or if I just love it because I grew up having it in such comforting soups.

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  11. Marlene says:

    I have never made anything with leeks before. And this might be the recipe that sends me to the store for leeks. Yes, January starts the healthy season, especially after all those baked goods we all made during the holiday season. Two months of baking. I am with you on the healthy recipes. Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday.
    Your co host from Nosh My Way,

    • Christine Pittman says:

      I was happy to participate in Foodie Friends Friday. Can’t wait for the next one! If you do try out leeks, in this recipe or another one, let me know what you think. They are such a nice change from onions as the undertone of a recipe. Milder and, I don’t know, maybe meatier in flavor.

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