Barley Bean Chili - Chef Abbie Gellman MS, RD, CDN

Barley Bean Chili

Chef Abbie Gellman RD

Barley Bean Chili

Beans are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein in addition to a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, copper, folate, iron, and zinc. This Barley Bean Chili recipe is vegan and delicious, especially during winter and for any upcoming festivities! And here’s the best part, it’s a (vegan) vegetarian bean and barley chili!


Barley was one of the first cultivated cereal grains and currently is ranked fifth in acreage and crop production globally. Barley is a staple in the diets of many countries, such as Morocco, China, and India.  In the United States and Europe, most barley is used for animal feed, and malt and alcohol production.1  Once you make my Barley Bean Chili, and enjoy barley’s chewy texture and mildly nutty flavor I hope it becomes a staple in your diet!

Barley is a very sustainable food source because it is able to grow where other cereal crops cannot due to soil quality, low rainfall and altitude.  Barley is grown in a range of climates from Norway to Chile.  Currently, the largest barley growers are Russia, France, Germany and Australia. 2

Pearled vs Hulled Barley

In my recipe for Barley Bean Chili I recommend using “pearled barley.” It is the most readily available barley and it cooks in about 40 minutes.  Pearled barley has the outer husk and bran layer removed and it has been polished (polished is unanimous with pearled).

Hulled barley, also known as pot barley or barley groats is less readily available and has only the outer, indigestible husk removed.  Hulled barley is chewier and nuttier and has a higher nutrient content of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Feel free to use hulled barley if you have access to it in your grocery store, it will make for a more nutrient dense Barley Bean Chili! Hulled barley requires a longer cooking time, I recommend soaking them overnight, in a separate pot from the beans, because the beans require a longer cooking time.  Then, add the overnight soaked hulled barley to the recipe as you would with pearled barley.

Pearled Barley Nutrition

Pearled barley is a cereal grain, that does contain gluten, similar to wheat and rye.  A cup of cooked barley has about 193 calories, 3.5 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fiber.  Similar to oats, barley is high in a special type of fiber called beta-glucans, which can help to control blood sugar.3  Barley is also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.


Beans are the star in my Barley Bean Chili, and I highly recommend using dry beans! After soaking beans overnight they will cook in under an hour and in the process develop a savory broth that adds a depth of flavor canned beans cannot replicate.  You can find dry bean blends or purchase a few different bags of dry beans and mix yourself!

Each bean has a slightly different taste, texture and appearance so I highly recommend using a bean mix.  My Barley Bean Chili uses a half pound of dry beans, which will yield about 1.5 cups of cooked beans.4  If you want to make a double batch of my Barley Bean Chili, make sure to double the amount of beans.  Cooked beans also freeze well in plastic containers.

If you use canned beans, it’s important to note that one, 15 ounce can yields about 1 ¾ cups of beans, drained.  So, that’s a little less than two cans of beans, so I would recommend using both cans!  Try using two different varieties of canned beans such as pinto, white, kidney and/or black beans.

Bean Nutrition

A ½ cup of beans provide 7+ grams of protein and fiber.  Beans are also a good source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, copper, folate, iron, and zinc.5  Animal sources of protein are typically higher in protein, but are devoid of fiber, an essential nutrient that is lacking from the Western diet.

Let’s Get Cooking!

My Barley Bean Chili is vegan and big on flavor!  The blend of spices and vegetables make this my go to chili recipe. Feel free to adjust the recipe to the ingredients you have on hand, but I highly encourage you to keep the cocoa powder! Cocoa when combined with chili and tomato gives a rich and savory flavor similar to ground beef or sausage.

My Barley Bean Chili is inexpensive to make, and can feed a crowd by doubling or maybe even quadrupling the recipe! If you want to keep it vegan you can use coconut yogurt, or Tofutti sour cream. Otherwise, top it with shredded cheese, sour cream or plain yogurt.

Similar Pages

Looking for more bean recipes? Try my Instant Pot Bean Soup, Easy Baked Beans, Vegan Lentil Soup or my Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas.


  1. Newton AC, Flavell AJ, George TS, et al. Crops that feed the world 4. Barley: a resilient crop? Strengths and weaknesses in the context of food security. Food Sec. 2011;3(2):141. doi:10.1007/s12571-011-0126-3
  2. Newton AC, Flavell AJ, George TS, et al. Crops that feed the world 4. Barley: a resilient crop? Strengths and weaknesses in the context of food security. Food Sec. 2011;3(2):141-178. doi:10.1007/s12571-011-0126-3
  3. Thondre PS, Henry CJK. High-molecular-weight barley beta-glucan in chapatis (unleavened Indian flatbread) lowers glycemic index. Nutr Res. 2009;29(7):480-486. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2009.07.003
  4. Bean Counting: The Bean Yield Chart. Bean Institute. Accessed May 28, 2020.
  5. FoodData Central. Accessed May 27, 2020.

Bean & Barley Chili

4.75 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Soup
Keyword: barley, black bean, chili
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Chef Abbie Gellman RD


  • Beans:
  • ½ pound dry beans any mixture (for this recipe, I like pinto, white, and black beans, but use any type you prefer)
  • Chili:
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 6 ounces vegetable stock low sodium
  • 1/3 cup barley pearled
  • 3 plum tomatoes diced
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup chipotle pepper in adobo chopped
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional garnish: sour cream or yogurt shredded cheddar cheese, avocado


  • Beans:
  • Soak beans overnight in a bowl with water covering them by a few inches. The next day, drain and rinse beans then transfer them to a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and leave undisturbed for an hour. If not yet cooked through at one hour, keep at a gentle simmer and begin checking every 20-30 minutes, adding water as necessary and tasting for doneness. Once done, drain, add a pinch of salt, and set aside. Note: do not season the beans while cooking, this will toughen them and they will not cook through.
  • Chili:
  • Heat dutch oven or large pot on medium-high heat, add olive oil, then sauté onion, pepper, and garlic.
  • Add tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder to create a paste and sauté for another minute.
  • Add vegetable stock, beans, and barley. Cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and cook for another 40 minutes until barley is tender. Add more stock or water if barley absorbs all of the liquid too quickly.
  • Add cocoa powder, chipotle pepper, honey, and water (to loosen if necessary). Add salt and pepper.
  • Add garnish (optional) and enjoy!
  • *Note: can use 2 cups of canned beans, rinsed and drained, in place of dried beans if preferred

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