A cozy spiced lentil barley salad that’s light yet hearty, making it the perfect autumn and winter salad. Delicious legumes and grains paired with the refreshing flavors of citrus orange and crunchy fennel, topped with chewy sweet dates and salty, nutty pistachios for an incredible fall or winter meal. Even better, it tastes great on the second day.
This lentil barley salad is one of my favorite recipes for a quick and easy, very satisfying warm, and cozy meal! The recipe originated in my first winter prep video in 2022, labeled as ‘Spiced Lentil and Grains.’ This was after spending months in Italy, enjoying my Donna’s cooking, and learning her secret for cooking legumes: flavoring every step. Instead of the usual practice of boiling lentils, beans, or grains in plain water or broth, she added numerous aromatics to the pot while they cooked, infusing the ingredients with incredible flavor that elevated any dish.
So, when autumn rolled around that same year, I wanted to transform this delicious, basic method of cooking lentils and grains (my choice at the time was barley) into a dish that was incredibly easy yet full of wonderful texture, a variety of ingredients, fresh seasonal flavors, and more. My primary goal is to inspire versatility with my recipes. I like to think of myself as providing ideas, inspiration, suggestions, and cooking methods that you can adapt or modify to suit your preferences or the ingredients you have on hand.
Drawing inspiration from the traditional Sicilian salad, which spotlights oranges and thinly sliced fennel as its main elements, I couldn’t resist enhancing it with additional textures and flavors to create a burst of deliciousness in every mouthful.
This dish is fantastic as the star of the show or as a side dish, and it’s especially great for meal prep because the flavors meld together even more over time.
Lentil Barley Salad Recipe Ingredients
- Lentils: My favorite varieties are Puy lentils or French lentils because they hold their shape well and have a nice chewy bite. However, green, black beluga, or brown lentils also work perfectly well, though they won’t have the same al dente texture.
- Spices Blend: It might seem like a lot, but these are my go-to spices. Spices can be an investment, so if you don’t want to buy so many, I love using Baharat or ras-el-hanout spice blends. However, you’ll find at least one, if not a few, of these spices in 99% of my recipes because I believe you don’t need a cabinet full of spices you’ll never use. Instead, having around 10 essential spices that you use every time you cook is more practical.
- Vegetable Broth: Of course, you could use water, but as I mentioned earlier, we want to add as much flavor as possible, so any type of broth or stock is key.
- Orange: This citrus complements every spice so well and is a classic ingredient to pair with fennel. It’s rare for me to create a dish without citrus because it adds a zesty brightness that’s always needed to uplift any dish.
- Fennel: An autumn and winter seasonal gem. While I dislike licorice candy and fennel seeds, for some reason, I love fennel. This vegetable has numerous health benefits.
- Medjool Dates: These add another layer of texture and flavor, with a bit of chewy goodness paired with the caramel-like sweetness. Dates are the perfect topper, but you can substitute them with any small dried fruit, like raisins, cherries, or cranberries.
- Pistachios: Something salty, nutty, and crunchy, which is essential. Any nut or seed you love would work here; just make sure it’s roasted to bring out its flavor.