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
Yum

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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Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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