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Chickpeas and Barley

Nutritious whole grain salad of Berber cuisine.

Highly nutritious barley was likely the most important grain of ancient civilizations, partly because of its hardiness and short growing time. Pearled barley is the processed version of the whole grain (hulled) barley, as the germ and much of the bran have been removed. Pearled barley cooks in 20-25 minutes and hulled barley 40 minutes or longer. Barley has a mild sweetness and, when cooked properly, a chewy but tender texture. Barley soup is standard dinner fare, but this grain is also an excellent candidate for a creamy risotto (in its pearled form) or a simple pilaf or grain salad. Barley is grown in great quantity in Morocco and is a mainstay of Berber cuisine, used in couscous and bread. This Moroccan-inspired salad is loaded with common Moroccan ingredients - pistachios, dried apricots, onions, parsley, lemon, and Morocco’s “national spice blend” Ras El Hanout (“top of the shop”).
Adapted from Simply Recipes


  • 1½ cups barley (pearled or hulled, see note)

  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and strained, or 1 cup dried chickpeas, cooked

  • ¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts

  • 1 cup diced dried apricots

  • 2-3 chopped green onions or scallions

  • 1 cup chopped parsley

  • Zest and juice of a lemon

  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix

  • Salt to taste


  1. Add the barley, broth, water, and a teaspoon of salt to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the barley is tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of barley chosen.

  2. Strain the cooked barley through a colander or sieve and run cold water over to cool it quickly. Toss and mix in the colander to strain as much water as you can.

  3. Lay out the barley on a sheet pan and drizzle olive oil over it. Mix to coat well and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl, add the chickpeas, pistachios, apricots, green onions and parsley and mix well. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and mix again. Add the barley and mix. Sprinkle the ras el hanout spice mixture over the barley and mix well. Taste, and add salt, additional lemon juice and spice mixture if desired.

  5. Let the salad marinate for an hour or so before serving. If the barley has absorbed all the olive oil, drizzle a little more on right before serving.

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