Barley Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut

I love combining raw and cooked vegetables in my salads, and this barley kale salad with toasted coconut is no exception. #barley #kalesalad #coconut #salad

let’s take a walk down memory lane. (i’m taking a page from spilled milk here. listen if you don’t already, and you too can laugh randomly while you gym). now it’s probably more of a common occurrence, but i grew up eating kale as a child. it was right next to all the bok choy and broccoli and swiss chard in my parent’s weeknight vegetable rotation. it’s part of the only meal my younger brother knows how to cook (pan-fried tofu, sauteed kale and steamed rice). cooked kale was nothing new.

but raw kale? oooooo girl, that was an adjustment. there’s something so my body is a temple, so rough, so downright green tasting about raw kale and kale salads. not a convert at all, if i’m being blunt and honest. so this barley kale salad with toasted coconut is a compromise. you get the raw greens still, in the form of arugula, but you get to mellow and soften the kale so the vegetable jungle is less intense to wade through.

the first iteration of this barley kale salad with toasted coconut was meh. it wasn’t that flavorful, it felt like a ton of greens for a person who basically eats salad for the toppings. i was thinking about adding shaved parmesan or fish sauce or sesame seeds or fresh fruit or something. but then i kept eating it… and eating it. the crunchy coconut, the chewy barley, the sweet/tart cherries, peppery arugula and fresh (not soapy though i do think anything flower-y tastes soapy) cilantro somehow worked to make it addictive. a few tweaks later (who needs to roast the kale? sauteeing is so much faster esp if the roasted kale didn’t get kale chip crispy anyways), and here’s the version i settled on.

1 year ago: strawberry lemonade cake with fresh mint buttercream | kimchi cucumber naengmyeon
2 years ago: coconut cake with strawberry compote and pink swiss meringue buttercream | chocolate babka french toast with caramelized banana creme anglaise 
3 years ago: big mug coffee roaster, santa clara | garlicky sesame cured broccoli salad
4 years ago: thomas keller’s chocolate chip cookies | chicken dijon

This barley kale salad with toasted coconut might sound plain, but did I mention that it has dried cherries and a punchy sesame soy vinaigrette? #barley #kalesalad #coconut #salad

5 from 3 votes
This barley kale salad with toasted coconut might sound plain, but did I mention that it has dried cherries and a punchy sesame soy vinaigrette? #barley #kalesalad #coconut #salad
Barley Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
This barley kale salad with toasted coconut is the grains + raw greens + cooked greens salad of your dreams.
Course: Lunch, Salad
Cuisine: American, Fusion
Keyword: arugula, barley, dairy-free, egg-free, kale, lunch, nut-free, salad, vegan, vegetarian, vinaigrette
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 483 kcal
  • 1/2 cup uncooked barley
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large bunch kale stems trimmed, large ribs removed
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups baby arugula lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened large-flake coconut toasted
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
  1. In a medium pot, combine the barley and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook for 25 minutes (if you're using pearled barley) to 40 minutes (if you're using hulled barley). The barley should be tender but chewy, and the water should be absorbed. Stir in the dried cherries and let cool slightly.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat some oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the kale and saute until wilted.
  3. Whisk the oils, soy sauce and vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Mix in everything else and serve warm.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.

You can use any grain you want here, but I'd recommend something on the larger size. Quinoa and anything small gets lost amongst all the greens.

This barley kale salad with toasted coconut is a study in deep greens, and is just as gorgeous mixed as it is separated. #barley #kalesalad #coconut #salad

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This barley kale salad with toasted coconut is the grains + greens salad you never knew you needed. Paired with sweet/tart dried cherries and punchy sesame soy vinaigrette, it's a delicious make-ahead lunch. #barley #kalesalad #coconut #salad

26 Replies to “Barley Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut”

  1. This sounds so good. I really like barley and it’s been such a long time since I had any so I should give this a try!

    1. ooh hope you get back to cooking with barley! (:

  2. Looks amazing Heather! I am not a Kale person, but I may have to rethink this because it looks so healthy and yummy! 🙂5 stars

    1. thanks kim! have you tried cooking kale yet? it makes it a lot more tame (;

  3. Right with ya girl, steamed kale with a little oyster sauce was on regular rotation at my house too as a kid. But raw baby kale… game changer! I have yet to try barley in my salad — I’ll have to try it real soon! Thanks for the recipe Heather!

    1. haven’t had kale with oyster sauce, but the idea of that is bringing back the memories of all the gai lan with oyster sauce i had as a kid (;

  4. This sounds like a tangle of great textures and flavors!

    1. thanks, patrick! (:

  5. This definitely looks healthy and a ton of different flavors and textures! I’m down to have this salad any night! 🙂

    1. thanks kelly! i think the key to eating your veggies is just keeping it exciting (;

  6. A beautiful salad. Grains and greens are so lovely together. I’m so glad you mention hulled barley – I personally prefer it over pearled.

    1. thanks, mimi! i tend to go with pearled because hulled takes so long to cook, but i like the flavor of hulled better too (:

  7. I’m a cooked kale girl myself. When I have it raw, it’s usually in the form of baby kale. This is full of nutrition, texture, and flavor! I love the addition of toasted coconut and cilantro. There’s no such thing as too much of either 🙂

    1. even raw baby kale can be a little… jungle-y for me (; and yes, love the toasted coconut and cilantro here!

  8. The dressing sounds so good!

    1. thanks tandy! i think the right dressing makes all the difference (:

  9. I’m not a barley person, but this salad looks so healthy and delicious with all the flavors from the dressing, yum!5 stars

    1. you can definitely sub in another grain for the barley! quinoa’s a bit small to stand up to the greens, but bulgur or wild rice or something else would be tasty (:

  10. I like kale cooked or raw. This salad is so full of flavour and different textures too. I love all the toasted coconut in this.5 stars

    1. thanks marie! give me all the textures and flavors in my salads please (:

  11. Kale is the new favorite. I am actually surprised because I never used kale as a raw ingredient. I used to make chips. But this is new to me.

    1. ooh i have to get back to making kale chips! they’re so addictive (:

  12. I never knew about kale until the recent years. It’s cool that you’ve been exposed to it early on AND YES BOK CHOY, THE ASIAN STAPLE LOL. Oh man, glad you got to adjust to raw kale within time. Your bowl looks so delicious. OK, I am 110% sure you’re a rockstar at meal prepping XD.

    Nancy ♥

    1. haha my mom was kind of a health nut when i was a kid (; also, def not a meal prep rockstar LOL. i usually cook up a batch of veggies at the beginning of the week but besides that i don’t really meal prep whoops.

  13. This sounds so wonderful! I love the part cooked/part raw warm/cool idea. And the cherries are genius! Love love love. Gonna have to try this to get some kale in my diet! Thanks for the recipe and the spilled milk reference!

    1. spilled milk is great!!! someday i’ll make it to one of their live shows (:

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