Year-Round Cooking: Chinese Pearl Barley Two Ways

Job’s tears, or coix seed, as Chinese pearl barley is commonly known, is a chewy, earthy grain that lends itself to a multitude of dishes. From warming breakfast cereals to hearty soups, this versatile grain can be eaten all day long. Plus, with one cup making enough barley to last 3 plus meals, this grain sure knows how to stretch its boundaries.

Revered since ancient times as an herbal remedy, Chinese pearl barley has proven anti-cancer properties and the ability to rid the body of extra water and mucus that contributes to weight gain, sluggishness, and arthritis. This warming, easy-to-digest grain is used to treat skin issues and warm the digestive system.

Below, we’re providing two recipes to show you just how versatile Chinese pearl barley can be. But don’t let these recipes limit you. Cook with intuition. Allow your inner spirit to guide you as you add what you have on hand, and season according to your own personal preferences.


Recipe 1: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Barley Cereal

We all need a bit of TLC. This warming cereal is sure to do the trick! And while delicious for breakfast, try it for lunch and dinner, too. One pot will last you a few days.

*To pack a bigger punch, add an additional 5 cups of water and follow the recipe as follows. When cooking is complete, use a ladle to scoop the majority of the remaining water into a heat-safe pitcher. Add honey or brown sugar and serve the “tea” warm or at room temperature.



2 cups Chinese pearl barley, rinsed well

10 cups water*

1 cinnamon stick


Choose from each of the following lists:


A (fresh/jarred)

2 pears, cored and chopped

2 apples, cored and chopped

1 cup jarred peaches in water, chopped


B (dried)

1/2 cup Chinese red dates or figs, rinsed well and quartered

1/2 cup dried mango, chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or blueberries


C (sweetener)

Honey or brown sugar, to taste


D (nuts)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped and lightly toasted

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted



Add the water and rinsed barley to a large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the cinnamon stick and your choice of ingredient(s) from List A. Loosely cover the pot and let cook for 45 to 60 minutes, checking periodically to be sure the water has not dried out.

About 15 minutes before the barley is finished, add your choice of ingredient(s) from Lists B and C.

Spoon the barley cereal into a bowl (with or without the water) and top with your choice of ingredient(s) from List D. For an extra hint of sweetness, drizzle honey over the top! Serve warm.


Recipe 2: Vegetable Fried Barley

A spin-off on vegetable fried rice, this dish makes for a tasty and colorful presentation.


2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped

1/2 red pepper, seeded and chopped

8-10 mushrooms, chopped

4 cups cooked Chinese pearl barley

1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

2 eggs, beaten, optional

2 teaspoons sesame oil



Heat a large wok or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the remaining vegetables to the wok and mix well. Then add the pearl barley. Stir fry for 2 minutes.

Add the mushroom seasoning and soy sauce. Mix to incorporate.

Create a well in the center of the wok. Add the beaten eggs and use a chopstick to scramble the egg into the pearl barley.

Season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with sesame oil.


Easy Substitutions:

Prefer different vegetables in your Vegetable Fried Barley? Go for it! Want to create a dish perfect for your meat-loving family? Add some crumbled sausage or sliced ham. Want to serve this as a hearty salad? No problem! Slice fresh avocado over the top and serve at room temperature.


More Tips:

Click here to read Minimalist Cooking for tips on how to cook a delicious and healthy meal with what you have available at home.