Home » Healthy Grain Bowls » HEALTHY BARLEY BOWL


This Healthy Barley Bowl with roasted butternut squash and white beans is full of color, texture and flavor, and is a perfect well-balanced vegan lunch, dinner or make ahead meal!

top down view of healthy barley bowl with items surrounding.

A life uncomplicated, that is the way to live, and this Roasted Butternut Squash, Beans & Barley Bowl is a perfect example of simplicity and deliciousness.

These simple, easy dishes are so many times overlooked. Let’s embrace them more often!

Colorful, tasty, and extremely satisfying, this healthy grain bowl is a wonderful complete meal including lots of protein from the beans & barley, as well as tons of fiber.

The butternut squash with its sweet roasted flavor gives life and warmth to the dish while adding its benefits of iron, potassium, and vitamin C.

Add spinach, avocado, a touch of thyme and this has rounded out nicely without breaking the bank.

top down view of ingredients used to make healthy barley grain bowl recipe.

Ingredients + Subs

In this barley bowl recipe, butternut squash is roasted, barley is simmered, and white beans and spinach are sauteed, making for a healthy and delicious vegan grain bowl that can easily be customized to suit your taste.

Here is everything you’ll need, plus substitution ideas (measurements are in the recipe card below):

  • pearl barley – use 10 minute barley for quickness, or regular pearled barley if you have that on hand which will take about 45 minutes.
  • vegetable broth – will give the most flavor when cooking the barley, can sub with water as well
  • olive oil
  • butternut squash – substitute with a sweet potato, or add a cubed beet or handful of halved brussels sprouts
  • onion – any color will do
  • great northern or cannellini beans – chickpeas is great too
  • baby spinach – sub with baby kale or arugula
  • garlic powder – can sub with fresh minced garlic
  • thyme – other herbs that would be great here with the butternut squash are rosemary and sage.
  • mineral salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • avocado – adds a nice creaminess, can also drizzle with Tahini Dressing
side by side photos of roasted butternut squash on baking sheet and cooked farro.

How To Make A Barley Bowl

Here you’ll find a quick look at the steps and what your finished results should resemble. For the full printable instructions, see the bottom of the post.

  • Cook the grain. If using regular barley, start with grain as it will take 45 minutes. If using 12 minute quick cooking barley, start with the squash.
  • Roast the butternut squash. Squash will be cubed and tossed with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, then roasted in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Squash is ready when fork tender.
top down view of sauteed white beans and spinach in a cast iron skillet.
  • Saute the green + beans. Lastly, saute the onions, add the spinach and cook until wilted (using a cover will help wilt the spinach faster). Add the beans and a dash or two of garlic powder, and cook until heated through.

And now you’re ready to dine!

Serve with avocado and season to taste with salt & pepper.

More Healthy Grain Bowls!

You can never have too many healthy grain bowls in your kitchen library. Take a look at these other recipes, you may find a new favorite for the meal rotation!

top down view of vegan barley bowl.

If you try this vegan barley bowl or have a question, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.



Healthy Barley bowl with roasted butternut squash, beans and spinach is a bowl full of simple goodness! Change up the beans and grain to suit your taste.

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 45 min
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: bake, saute, simmer
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 1 cup dried pearl barley
  • 2 3/4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 2 1/2 cups), diced
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) great northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 23 handfuls baby spinach
  • generous dash of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)
  • mineral salt & fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • avocado, to serve


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook grain: In a medium size pot add barley, a pinch of salt and water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove cover and let set 5 – 10 minutes, fluff with a fork. Drain any remaining liquids. If using quick cooking barley, follow package instructions making 4 servings (1 cup barley + 1 1/3 cup veg broth).

Roast squash: While your barley is simmering, prepare your butternut squash by cubing into 3/4 – 1 inch pieces. Place on roasting pan lined with parchment paper, a silpat or lightly greased. Toss the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and salt. Place on middle rake for 25 – 30 min, stirring once. Squash is ready when fork pierces easily.

Beans: In a medium size pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat, add onions and cook about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted (using a cover will help wilt the spinach faster), add beans and a dash or two of garlic powder, cook until heated through.

Serve: In individual bowls, add a portion of barley, beans and butternut squash. Add a side of sliced avocado.

Serve with avocado and season to taste with salt & pepper.

Serves 3


Switch up the butternut squash with sweet potato.

If you like this bowl, but prefer gluten free options you can sub with brown rice or quinoa.

Just about any bean will work here, use your favorite or what you have on hand.

Other herbs to use are rosemary or sage.

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

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  1. Yummm! Enjoying this bowl for this week’s lunches and in the future!

  2. Anyone recommend a sauce they’ve made for this?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      MY reply: You can try using this easy Chimichurri or simple Tahini Sauce recipes. Sometimes we like to thin hummus with water and use that as a sauce (you can flavor it with sriracha, spices or herbs). I hope that helps!

  3. Delissio 👌…
    Simple, tasty & Filling!!
    Switched up barley for Jerusalem Couscous… just as yummy.
    Thanks a million

  4. I believe they are the same, no distinction between ‘pearl’ and ‘pearled’ and does contain gluten. Of course I could be wrong. ;) It does have a fair amount of protein. I’v never heard of the Asian barley you mentioned above and will have to look into it. :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Have you tried it with roasted sweet potato before?

    1. julie@thesimpleveganista says:

      Yes, it's so good! I highly recommend trying it as well.

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