Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad

Please welcome Hank Shaw, who made this Moroccan-inspired chickpea salad for us the other day. It was outstanding! ~Elise

I’ve always been a huge fan of North African food, and Moroccan food in particular. Moroccan culture is an old culture, and the spice combinations and juxtaposition of sweet and savory are not much changed from a thousand years ago, when these flavors dominated both Europe and the Arab world.

Everything in this salad could have come from Morocco, and the barley is something of a Berber touch: Barley is a mainstay of Berber cooking. I have no idea whether anything like this salad exists in Morocco, so let’s say it is Moroccan-inspired rather than an attempt at anything authentic.

Most of the ingredients for this dish are easily obtainable, with the exception of the ras el hanout. Frankly, the salad is great without it, but the addition of this beguiling spice mixture does add another layer of flavor. What is ras el hanout? It is the masala of Morocco. Every person who makes ras el hanout makes it differently. Generally speaking it should include black pepper, cardamom, chile peppers, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric – as well as more unusual stuff, such as lavender or dried rose petals.

I include a rough approximation of ras el hanout in the ingredients, should you be unable to find it in a store.

You can vary a few things in this salad and still have it come out well: Substitute pine nuts for the pistachios, or chopped dates for the chopped apricots. You could even switch out the barley altogether and use something like spelt or farro. But definitely try this recipe as written first: You’ve probably never tasted anything like it.

Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups barley
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and strained
  • 1 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 Tbsp of ras el hanout spice mix*
  • Salt to taste

*Ras El Hanout Spice Mix:

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Method

1 Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the barley and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, water, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the barley is tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how old the barley is.

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 if needed.

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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24 Comments

  1. Garrett

    I use ras el hanout on roast chicken and stuff the inside with onion and lemon. Fabulous spice and a wonderful addition to homemade salad dressings as well.

  2. Gloriana Fernandez

    Delicious salad! Made it last night and just had it for lunch today. Love the combination of flavors and the wonderful interplay of all the different spices. Lovely on a bed of tender salad greens! Regarding sanjeeta kk’s previous post, I keep a meticulous online food journal and maintain nutritional info on some of my favorite recipes. This salad (made as written and using 2 TB olive oil for cooking the barley and an additional 2TB to drizzle over) contains approximately the following per 1 cup (145 g) serving.

    calories: 330
    fat: 15g
    fiber: 9g
    protein: 8g
    sodium: 800 mg
    carbohydrates: 44g
    sugar: 10g

    Hope this helps!

    Wow, thanks a heap, Gloriana! ~Hank

  3. Jen

    Just made this – thought I had barley in the cabinet, but alas…so I substituted millet. It’s great! So easy and a refreshing change of pace. Thank you.

  4. sofasophia

    I made this with left over quinoa (I need to be gluten-free), and topped up what apricots I had with dried cranberries. Spectacular salad — familiar and exotic at the same time.

    Thank you so much for introducing me to Ras El Hanout.

  5. Heidi

    I made this for tonight’s dinner. It was wonderful! I took the liberty of adding 2 more lemons, including the zest and increased the amount of Ras El Hanout. It’s a keeper, as my husband says about recipes that will be repeated. I wonder if one could make a dressing out of the oil, lemon juice and Ras El Hanout? The oil might distribute the spice throughout the dish and enhance the spice flavor.

  6. Bob from Kalamazoo

    I make something very similiar wuth couscous instead of barley and dried cherries (this is Michigan!) instead of apricots. Next time I’ll use the ras el hanout spice. It’s my most requested summer potluck dish.

  7. Beth

    Just finished making this and I love it! I haven’t even let it set in the refrigerator for an hour or two! Great combination of flavors. I added a few black beans to add a little bit more color. I will definitely be making this again.

    Thanks!

  8. Susan

    This is absolutely wonderful for Diabetics. A good make ahead, take to work or just munch on as a mid-afternoon snack. Just what I was looking for. I will be posting this in my blog with that wonderful link you have provided below.
    And to sofasophie, if you make it with kasha (buckwheat grots) it will give you a more intense nutty flavor while having more chew like barley. The gluten free goodess assures it is OK.
    Thanks again.

  9. Valerie

    Amazing recipe, this is perfect for my lunches at work. Thank you!

  10. Suzanne

    This is just what I need for dinner on a hot day. If you have the time can you suggest a protein accompaniment for my hard working sweetie?

    And thank you so much (both of you) for all the fabulous recipes. We haven’t found any thing here we don’t like!

    Suze in northern BC Canada

  11. Kristin

    I made this for dinner last night, and I LOVE it. I love chickpeas and barley, so the combination, along with the brilliant spices, made for a great summer dinner. I brought it to work for lunch today, and will be making it again soon! Thanks so much.

  12. Zee

    This is a great recipe! I made it last night for dinner and it was perfect. I paired it with chicken and it was wonderful.

    One side note: the recipe for ras el hanout should be doubled. If you add up the ingredients as listed, it doesn’t make a full tablespoon (which is what the recipe calls for). I doubled all the spices and had a little more than a tablespoon. I used all of it for the recipe and thought it tasted great.

    I also think next time I might use the rind and juice of a second lemon to give a little more zing.

    Good catch on the amounts Zee! I’ve adjusted the recipe. ~Elise

  13. ben freedman

    wonderful …

    making this tomorrow for the 2nd time. wonderful flavors and texture.

    You are one of my favorite food blogs. great recipes and presentation.

    you do great work!

    Thanks,

    ben

  14. Kendra

    Just made this today and it’s chilling as I type. I tried it before it went in the fridge and it is so yummy! I followed the recipe to a T and am glad I did.
    Definitely a keeper!!!

  15. jane

    I have made this twice, once with barley and once with red quinoa. I took it to a party and everyone raved about it. I got my ras el hanout at the New Amsterdam Farmer’s Market in New York; it was scooped from a bowl labeled “spice mixture” after I asked for ras el hanout, so who knows? But it isn’t garam masala, or curry, so hopefully it really is ras el hanout. The salad is fabulous, and perfect for the hot summer we have had. Definitely has a spot in the regular rotation!

  16. Sandy

    I can’t wait to try this. I love tabouleh, and my husband is a huge barley fan, so this should be a winner.

    I’m curious, though, what is the purpose of laying out the barley in Step 3? I’m inclined to simply pour it in a bowl, then combine the oil and spices in a dressing, as Heidi suggested, and pour over the barley. Would this shortcut somehow detract from the salad?

    It gives you a better texture in the finished salad. Laying out the barley ensures it has cooled completely and that each grain is coated with the little olive oil. Laying it out also lets any remaining water you rinsed the barley with drain away. ~Hank

  17. gail

    I too just made this and just had to taste it before letting it marinate..it tastes delicious and I know it will only get better after it sits…yummy Oh, i found the cardamom at World Market at 1/3 the cost of the local grocery.

  18. Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen

    We loved this! I made a couple of substitutions based on what I had in my pantry; I was about 1/3 cup shy on the barley, so I supplemented with steel cut oats which worked perfectly. Also, I only had about 1/2 cup of apricots, so I supplemented with dried figs. I loved the combination of sweet and spicy, and the heartiness of this in general!

  19. Alison

    Needs more lemon and more spices, but the concept is great. I’ve been throwing this on top of greens for lunch for a few days now.

  20. ellie

    Exotic. Tasty. It’s worth making. I made this to accompany a Moroccan chicken dish.

  21. Sara

    Second time I’ve made this in two weeks. Wonderful! We recently went to a plant-based diet and this is a very nice dish.

  22. Meg

    This is so delicious! I will be making this again and again. The ingredients complement each other so well. The Ras el hanout spice blend adds a touch of heat and an excellent flavor combination. It was especially nice because I didn’t have any ground cardamom and had to grind the cardamom seeds fresh out of the pods. The aroma and the taste were amazing!

  23. Jo

    Just wondering, what kind of parsley needs to be used here? Regular curly leaf or Italian flat leaf? Does it matter? I’m on a salad kick lately, have been stalking multiple food blogs, including all the salad listings on this one.

  24. Patricia

    Fantastic salad. Freezes well, which is great for me because I am usually cooking for one. This is my favorite food site. Thanks so much for sharing!

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