Barley Chili is Perfect for a Cold Winter Day

Barley Chili was a very fun, very successful experiment! Barley is used in soups and stew so often, some people aren’t aware that it can be used anywhere else, and while I certainly want to try some non-soup-and-stew barley recipes in the future, I thought starting out with something familiar would undoubtedly be best. Thus, we went with barley chili.

The recipe was sort of intuitive, in the end. I scoured the long reaches of the internet for recipes, but in the end those just gave me guidance. After all, I think most chili-cooks would agree; making your own chili is an individual, sometimes almost spiritual process. If you want to use my recipe for a guide, or if you want to follow it to the letter, either way would be fine.

Now, as I mentioned before, my live-in taste testers are somewhat sensitive to spiciness, as am I. This chili is quite mild! If you want to spice things up a bit, add a can of green chilies and whatever spices you like best. Also, this chili contains beef and beef bouillon. For those who avoid red meat, ground turkey or chicken makes a fine substitute. For vegan/vegetarian chili, replace the water and bullion with vegetable stock, omit the beef and add extra barley and beans, or corn. The beans I used were canned…you can get great organic canned beans (like Amy’s) or cook your own ahead of time.

This chili was much loved by all in my household, and like all chilies, it got better with time. Without further ado, I present, Barley Chili!!


1 lb lean ground beef

2 onions chopped

5 cloves garlic minced

2 T whole wheat flour

1 t parsley

1 t Worcestershire sauce

2 t chili powder

1 t cumin

pinch of thyme and basil

1 t oregano

3/4 cup barley (hulled)

1 can kidney beans

2 can black beans

2 cans chili beans

Salt and Black Pepper

1 can tomatoes with green chilies

3 cups water

2 T beef bullion

1. Since you are using hulled barley instead of pearled, start by rinsing the barley and boiling it for 30 minutes. While this is boiling, you can chop the onions, mince the garlic, and continue on the step 2.

2. Brown lean ground beef with onions and garlic. I’ve always found that stew, soup, and chili recipes turn out beautifully when they are seasoned at each step, so when I made this recipe I sprinkled some salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder on the beef.

3. Drain the barley.

4. Drain beef, add 2 T whole wheat flour and stir well, then add the rest of the ingredients (including barley!)

and stir well.

5. Bring chili to a boil and then lower heat to keep it at a steady simmer, stirring regularly for an hour or until barley is tender.

6. Serve with all natural sharp cheddar and sour cream, or whatever garnishes your heart desires!

*Notes: Spicing and seasoning is an intuitive and individualistic process that depends a great deal on taste and whether you are using fresh herbs or dried. Please use my seasoning as a guide, not the end-all-be-all. This recipe makes a HUGE pot of chili. Cut the beef, onion, black beans, water, and chili beans in half and use 1/2 cup barley to make it a more reasonable size. If cutting the recipe, please use spices mindfully to avoid over seasoning!*

For additional hints and tips, check out The Tranquil Kitchen at!