What recipes immediately come to mind when you think of barley? My bet is that you’re thinking of beef barley soup and barley risotto right now. Since barley is our superfood of the month, I decided that it was time to do something different with this nutritious grain. My first thought was to make something with barley flakes (similar to dry oats); however, after visiting four stores and coming up empty handed I knew I needed to revise my plan. If anyone knows where you can purchase barley flakes please put it in the comments section as I would still love to experiment with them.

After browsing a few of my go-to cookbooks I found a great idea for using barley in a different way. The recipe I chose reminded me of rice pudding and since it should be served warm, Sweet Barley Dessert is perfect for the cold winter nights ahead. Two things really enhanced the flavour in this dish:

  1. Anise seed. This was actually the only ingredient not in my cupboard! I found whole anise seed at the grocery store and it worked just fine in the recipe. It was definitely worth buying because I loved the light licorice flavour it added to the dish. Even if you are not a big fan of licorice I would encourage you to try just a pinch in this recipe as you might be surprised.
  2. Toasting the almonds. While the original recipe did not call for this step, toasting nuts intensifies their flavour. Toasting also increases the crunch of nuts, which provides the added bonus of great texture. Just make sure to sprinkle the nuts on top at the end rather than mixing them in so they do not get soggy. You can save time when making this recipe by toasting the almonds in the oven while the barley is cooking on the stovetop.

What about dessert for breakfast? This recipe can definitely pull double duty if you reheat the leftovers and pair it with some fresh fruit. You might want to add some extra milk as well since the barley soaks up a lot of the milk if you refrigerate it overnight.

Sweet Barley Dessert
Prep Time
5 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
8 servings


1 cup (250 ml) pearl barley
3 cups (750 ml) water
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground anise seed, approximately
2 tbsp (30 ml) brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp (30 ml) raisins
2 cups (500 ml) milk
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped or slivered almonds, toasted


  1. In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, combine barley, water and anise.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Stir in brown sugar, raisins and milk.
  4. Divide among eight dessert dishes or ramekins.
  5. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top of each and serve warm.