Greek Chicken and Barley Salad is an absolute staple in our house from spring until the early fall. An easy, crowd pleasing recipe, it is filled with fresh, colorful veggies and topped with tangy feta and salty kalamata olives. Shredded chicken rounds out the salad and really makes it a perfect one dish meal. The best part? It can be put together in about 40 minutes when using one or two quick short cuts and is perfect for toting along to work or school or even bringing to a neighborhood gathering. In the summer, all of the ingredients (with the exception of the barley, which I buy in bulk and keep on hand in the pantry) can be found at my local farmer’s market or in my herb garden, which makes it even more fun to make. Even my somewhat vegetable averse husband loves it and usually requests I make it at least once a week in the summer. I consider that a major win.
While I’ve made a few minor tweaks to the proportions in the recipe over time, I take no credit for the basic recipe itself. Greek Chicken and Barley Salad is a reader contest winner featured in Cooking Light a few years ago, but we just love it so much that I couldn’t help sharing. In the original recipe, chicken breasts are seared and then cooked in broth. I prefer to just buy a rotisserie chicken, shred the meat, and dump it in! It is a definite time saver and doesn’t cut out the flavor at all. I usually increase the amount of olives (because I loooooove olives) and definitely recommend that you avoid the jarred/standard supermarket olives and hit up the olive bar at your local gourmet grocer (in Minnesota, I love the olive bars at Lunds & Byerlys). The flavor and texture is so much better and in this fresh salad, that will really shine. A smaller amount of good quality greek olives will also go a long way, so it doesn’t have to be expensive.
I definitely recommend keeping the feta out of the salad until you are ready to serve it, particularly if you are planning on leftovers/packing lunches. It does tend to break down a little after the addition of the vinaigrette and I prefer to just serve it sprinkled on top to really highlight the tangy, fresh taste of the cheese. Finally, I have definitely substituted dried herbs for fresh when making this out of season. It works just fine, but if you have access to fresh, the taste is really worth it.
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- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
- 3 cups good quality chicken stock
- 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 1 large english cucumber, chopped
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Combine the olive oil, lemon juice and rind, basil, thyme, and red wine vinegar in a small bowl or jar with lid.
- Add the salt and minced garlic.
- Whisk together until well combined, or if using a jar, shake until well blended.
- Prepare the barley by bringing the chicken broth to a boil.
- Add the uncooked barley, stir, and cover the pan.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- Fluff with a fork and then set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken and chopped vegetables.
- Add in the cooled barley and top with the dressing.
- Stir well to combine.
- Serve with feta cheese sprinkled on top.