Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa

Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa
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Salads can be a tough sell in the winter.  The weather is depressing so cozy comfort food is all we really want. And “cozy” doesn’t generally apply to a salad. And the ingredients required for a salad? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason winter produce isn’t particularly celebrated. But if your definition of the word “salad” is lenient, and it really should be because “salad” is a surprisingly broad term, you can in fact make a cozy salad. And today’s Warm Barley Salad happens to be a prime example of that fact.

Squeezing lemon juice over shallots

Let’s break this Warm Barley Salad down. This salad features chewy grains of pearl barley dressed in a zingy lemon poppy seed dressing. The salad is rounded out with seared chunks of kielbasa, crisp slices of Granny Smith apple, and torn tender radicchio leaves.  Yes, that’s right, this salad hits all the notes. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and earthy – the gang’s all here. Oh, and did I mention the barley and kielbasa hit the table warm? I personally love when there are contrasting temperatures in a single dish. The apple is cool and refreshing, while the barley warms you from head to toe. How can things be dull with a dish like this in front of you? 

Whisking olive oil into salad dressing

So let’s talk about how to make this salad. Because the temperature of each component is central to the charm of this dish, it pays to plan. My suggestion is you start by pickling the shallots. That way they have plenty of time to get delicious. And don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe within a recipe. When I say pickle the shallots, I mean pour the lemon juice you’re going to use for the dressing over them and let them hang out. There is nothing complicated happening here. And we’re only looking for lightly pickled shallots because we have other sour and tangy ingredients to pull from. 

Tearing radicchio into bite-sized pieces

Once the shallots are underway, move on to the barley. I used pearl barley, which cooks up much faster than pot or hulled barley. It also doesn’t need to be soaked. The one drawback of pearl barley is it is slightly less nutritious than pot barley because the outer bran layer is removed. But having said that, any type of barley is very nutritious, so I wouldn’t worry all that much. I prefer the shorter cook time and the overall texture of pearl barley, so I think it’s worth it.

Sliced kielbasa on a cutting board

Cooking barely is remarkably simple. Bring a quart of water up to a boil, salt the water, and add the barley. Reduce the heat to medium and let the barley cook for 25 minutes. The barley should be tender and most of the liquid should have been absorbed. Fluff your barley as you would rice then cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Covering the barley keeps it from drying out and it also traps the steam, so the barley will continue to soften and cook. 

Seared Kielbasa in a skillet

With the barley cooking and the shallots pickling, we have time to prep our remaining salad components. Ordinarily, I would suggest prepping your ingredients prior to cooking anything. But this is one of those unique instances where you have a good 30 minutes to kill in the middle of a recipe. Why not fill the time with some light chopping? So chop your apple, tear your radicchio, and slice your kielbasa now. And while you’re at it, mix the salad dressing as well.

The Warm Barley Salad in a bowl ready to be tossed
Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa

And speaking of the dressing, let’s talk about it. This dressing is a very simple take on a creamy classic – lemon poppy seed dressing. This is more of a vinaigrette version of the original. If you would prefer a creamier dressing, cut back on the olive oil by a quarter cup and add two tablespoons of Greek yogurt. This dressing contains the juice of two lemons. And yes, it’s the same lemon juice we’re using to pickle the shallots. So strain the shallots and pour the lemon juice into a bowl. Your shallots should be a blushing shade of pink by now. To the lemon juice add a minced clove of garlic, a tablespoon of Dijon, and a couple of tablespoons of honey to mellow out the tartness of the lemon. Now slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Stir in the poppy seeds and set them aside.

Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa

The last thing we’re going to do is sear the kielbasa. By the time you’re adding oil to a pan, the pearl barley should be close to done and everything else should be good to go. Searing kielbasa is very straightforward, so there isn’t much point in going into too much detail. Once the kielbasa is good to go, pile the barely in a bowl and add the kielbasa, apple, radicchio, shallots, and lemon poppy seed dressing. Toss to coat and add some fresh dill. And that’s your salad!

So that’s everything you need to know about this Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa. With a delicious contrast of flavors, textures, and temperatures, this salad truly has it all.


Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa

Warm Barley Salad with Kielbasa

This Warm Barley Salad features tender grains of barley dressed in a lush lemon poppy seed dressing and complimented with tart slices of apple, tender leaves of radicchio, pickled shallots, and seared meaty chunks of kielbasa.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad
Servings 4


  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 Large skillet


  • 3 shallots thinly sliced into halfmoons
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 Granny smith apple
  • ½ head radicchio
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 250g (9oz) kielbasa sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill finely chopped


  • Place the shallots in a bowl and cover them with the lemon juice. Set the shallots aside to pickle at room temperature for one hour.
    3 shallots, 2 lemons
  • Pour the water into a large saucepan and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and liberally salt it. Add the barley and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
    4 cups water, 1 cup pearl barley
  • Slice the apple and tear the radicchio leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set both aside.
    1 Granny smith apple, ½ head radicchio
  • Place the garlic in a bowl. Add the mustard, honey, and salt. Drain the shallots and add the lemon juice to the bowl. Set the shallots aside. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Add the poppy seeds and stir to combine. Set aside.
    1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp salt, ½ cup olive oil, 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Heat a quarter-sized amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the kielbasa slices and sear until golden on both sides. Take the pan off of the heat and cover it to keep the kielbasa warm.
    250g (9oz) kielbasa
  • Place the barley in a large bowl. Add the kielbasa, apple, radicchio, and pickled shallots. Pour half of the dressing over top and add the dill. ** Toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a platter and garnish with lemon slices and additional poppy seeds. Serve immediately.
    2 tbsp fresh dill


** This dressing recipe makes enough for two salads. Store the leftovers in a resealable container in the fridge. The dressing will keep for 1 week.
Keyword apples, kielbasa, pearl barley, poppyseeds, shallots

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