Ready In:

2 hrs

Good For:


About This Recipe

By: Chef Laura Bonicelli

Barley is a nutritious whole grain and a member of the grass family.  It’s the grain that beer comes from and one of my favorite additions to chicken soup.  But, it also makes a fantastic base for a bowl or side dish. 

Incorporating whole grains into a diet can seem like a daunting task.  But, the health benefits are impossible to ignore, offering complete nutrition and side benefits like lowering blood sugar.  Whole grains keep practically forever in their dried state, making them a valuable staple to keep in your cabinet.  I now view whole grains, like barley, farro, and wheatberries, just like I view rice as a perfect background to vegetables and, as in this recipe, a neutral base for a zippy dressing.

To expound further on the health benefits of nutritious whole grains, they contain fiber, which helps you feel fuller, aids digestions,  and can lower blood sugar.  Whole grains can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  They are packed with vitamins and minerals and are good for your teeth and gums because they are chewy.

I have to say that sweet potato, yams, and squash take on chili seasonings very well.  I keep the salt and pepper at a minimum at this stage of the recipe, leaving room for the robust flavor of the limey dressing and spicy nut topping. 

The natural sweetness of the vegetable offsets the heat and is a great choice if you’re skipping meat in a recipe. Roasting increases the sweetness and you’ll love the comforting aroma while they’re in the oven.

Once it’s all put together, you have the chewy barley base of the bowl, topped with sweet and spicy peppers and sweet potatoes. You get a slightly sweet, very limey dressing on top of that.  But, for me, the best part is the crunch of the spicy almonds.  I always finish the dish with fresh spinach and cotija cheese.

Buon Appetito!
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Step by Step Instructions

Sweet Potato Barley Bowl

Recipe By: Chef Laura Bonicelli Serving Size: 4 Categories: Comfort Food Dressings and Vinaigrettes Main Dish One Dish Vegetarian



  • 1 pound sweet potatoes -- peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large red bell pepper -- cored seeded, and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 ounces Cotija cheese
  • 1 whole lime -- cut in wedges


  • Preheat oven to 400∞F.


  • Combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, chili powder, kosher salt, and black pepper in a bowl; toss. Arrange sweet potato mixture on one side of an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Place bell pepper in the same bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and place on another side of the pan. Bake until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes, stir several times while baking. Remove pan from the oven.


  • Toast almonds in a small skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic. Add olive oil, chili powder, kosher salt, rind, and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Cool and stir to absorb more dressing.


  • Whisk together olive oil, kosher salt, sugar, pepper, lime rind, lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl.


  • Toss barley with sweet potatoes, peppers, spinach, and enough dressing to coat. Serve topped with almonds and Cotija. Add more dressing if necessary.


"Bonicelli Archive"
"Chef Laura Bonicelli"

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