How to make healthy choices every day

Blood Orange Braised Cabbage on Barley


All right, it’s official. I am so over winter. Although I can sense the days getting longer and the sky brightening ever so slightly, I just feel schlumpy. Is that a word? No. But I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

When the world is cold and dark, I want comforting foods that stick to my ribs and fill me with warmth. I’ve been on a creamy polenta kick lately, enjoying lots of the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread, rich curries, and coconut soup. One ingredient that really epitomizes hearty, winter food for me, is barley. Adding barley to a soup enhances the flavour and adds a rich creaminess to any broth. This is how I was introduced to barley in fact, but recently I’ve been cooking it whole and using it as a base for winter salads with add-ins like roasted veggies, toasted nuts, and even soft-boiled eggs. I find that it is really filling without that being heavy – something that is important to me even on the darkest days.


Barley comes is commercially available in a few varieties, as hulled whole grains, scotch barley, and pearled, of which most of us are familiar. The process of pearling barley is quite similar to the process used to remove the bran of grains like rice, turning brown rice into white rice. However, barley can be sold lightly pearled or completely pearled, which changes the taste, texture and overall cooking time of the grain. Of course the more pearled the grains of barley are, the less nutritious they are as so many trace elements are contained in the bran which is stripped during this process. It is for this reason that I encourage you to seek out hulled, whole grain barley (sometimes sold as “hulless” or dehulled” barley), scotch barley (in between hulled and pearled) or pearled barley that has only been lightly processed (sold as “lightly pearled” barley – see photo above). Steer clear of medium to fine pearled barley that is very light in colour with little of the brown bran still in tact.

Barley is a fiber superstar. In fact, one cup of barley provides the body with 13.6 grams of fiber – that’s over half of your daily recommended intake (the same amount of brown rice by comparison, contains only 3.5 grams of fiber). Barley is also known for its high selenium content – an essential trace mineral that is lacking in many of our diets. Not only is selenium needed for thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense, and immune function, but there are now clear links between selenium and cancer prevention. Selenium has been shown to stimulate DNA repair in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, as well as induce apoptosis – our cells’ mechanism for self-destruction when they are abnormal, worn-out, or damaged. [1]


This dish was inspired by the last of the citrus I found at the market and the realization that I hadn’t yet taken advantage of blood oranges this winter. Blood oranges are one of my favorite fruits. They are sweet like navel or Valencia oranges, but with an unmistakable tang, somewhere between a lemon and a raspberry. Their deep pigment is due to their anthocyanin content, a powerful antioxidant that is also responsible for the colour of cherries, black bean and ah-ha! Red cabbage too. It’s safe to say that this dish is full of fiber and life-giving nutrients, mighty enough to get you through this last stretch of frosty winter days.


I hope all of you out there in the Northern Hemisphere are still hanging in! We’re close now.

Love and sunshine,
Sarah B


Source: [1] 

61 thoughts on “Blood Orange Braised Cabbage on Barley”

  • Just made this and WOW! The flavours are great. Very easy to prepare and I love your recommendation on keeping the cabbage al dente. I sprinkled some slivered almonds on top and it added a nice extra crunch. Thanks for sharing, will definitely make this again.

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  • I love this recipe!!! I´ll make it tomorrow again. It´s a really nice way to use barley (instead of the everyday brown rice)
    Super recomended!!!

  • Inspired by this post, I added some hulled barley to my salad the other day, and I have to say I absolutely hated the texture. Made me feel like a bit of a failure as an Earth Mother, ha! Perhaps it was the context–the lemony tahini dressing I was using was the littlest bit bitter, so that the whole time it felt and tasted like I was chewing on lemon seeds. I think Scotch barley would be a nice in-between. Will have to seek some out. As for the rest of my hulled barley, I will either try it with the sweetness of an orange, as you have here, or in a soup!

  • Thanks, Sarah. The salad looks great! I never would have thought of the combination of barley, red cabbage and blood oranges. My wife and I will be trying this recipe this weekend. Thanks again,

  • LOVE these photos! This salad looks delicious, and I’m happy to learn that blood oranges are so good for me – can’t get enough of them this time of year.

  • I’m going to be whipping this up for dinner tonight. I’ve got barley bubbling away in the rice cooker and I’m about to do some slicing, juicing and heating. Can’t wait to taste it.

  • I love this recipe. Thank you so much Sarah for always thinking of ways to mix savory, sweet and the best of the season.

    Mmm, mmmh!

  • I made this for myself for lunch today: sun is shining, the crocuses are coming up, the boys are outside playing and crabbing at me because I told them they still have to have long-sleeves on, and it feels like, maybe, spring is here. This was delicious!

  • Just wanted to say that I made this last night and it was wonderful! My two boys (1 and 4 years old) scarfed it down, too! We’ll definitely be making this again. 🙂

  • Made this for a pot-luck dinner to feed a mix of omnivorous and vegan guests. It was simple and delicious- perfect for a get-together on a cold grey snowy day!

  • That looks amazing! You are so talented.

    I’m traveling to Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, do you still work at that raw restaurant?
    If so, which one, or would you recommend some vegetarian (preferably vegan) restaurants in the city?

  • This salad looks beautiful! Was wondering if soaking the barley would decrease the cooking time at all?

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  • Sorry – here in Miami there is no winter shlumpiness. :). But we get enough periodic chill to make this look enticing anyway. I had a cooking question. If I add barley to a veggie soup I’m making, do I have to cook it first or will the liquid in the soup cook it for me? Sorry if tis is an obvious question but I am new to both healthy eating AND cooking.

  • As an Aussie living in Norway I couldn’t agree with you more! The only thing keeping me going is that the sun is starting to feel warm! This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing and keeping me motivated on the food front!

  • Barley is such a good addition to soups, isn’t it? I find it just makes them a little bit heartier. I really like how you’ve used orange to sweeten the cabbage in this recipe. Definitely worth trying out with my barley next time 😉


  • that’s look perfect color you got from the orange, what kind of orange do you use, I means is that in perfectly ripe, cause I saw that orange is great combination white red cabbage.

  • Oh, I just love this; citrus are still looking great at the markets here in nyc, and we just happen to have a couple of blood oranges hanging out in our fruit bowl. Also, schlumpy is totally a word! Great way to describe the torpor of late February 🙂

  • I’ve been experiencing this winter schlump you speak of…if it lasted much longer I might start wearing a muumuu. Luckily we just got some fresh powder here in CO and my arms have maintained enough muscle mass to push myself out the door and get my sexy back on the slopes. Look like you’re finding you own version of sexy with this recipe and the amazing photos you took. Love the grapefruit! In schlumpy solidarity. m

  • Hi Juliette,
    I also live in Holland and know you can buy Barley at Natuurmarkt.
    Success met jouw boodschappen!

  • Hi Sarah,

    I have been reading your blog for a few years now and I love, love, LOVE it! I just watched your Amsterdam TED talk and was totally blown away – over the last couple of years, you have inspired me to make make many changes in the way my family shops and eats, but to hear you explain the concept in such clear and simple terms was really eye-opening, like an instant refresher course! Today my change is going to be nut milk 🙂

  • Me too Gaby! So sick of the heat, and can’t wait for cool weather to try some of the wonderful dishes on this blog. In fact, maybe I wont wait!

    Thanks Sarah x

  • I am officially sick of summer (in australia) but i’m bookmarking this recipe to make when our weather turns cold. Looks amazingly beautiful. SO happy to have found your blog x

  • Mmmm, I love barley and I love red cabbage! I’ve not had barley as a simple grain for topping with something saucy and yummy, I usually use it to bulk up chili and soups or tossed with veggies (raw or roasted), or a creamy risotto type dish. Had no idea about the selenium content either so thanks for the info. I also tend to have red cabbage raw, besides my Mummy’s delicious slow cooked red cabbage and apple.
    Look forward to trying this, maybe I’ll pick up a red cabbage at the farmers’ market on Sunday:)

  • I was introduced to barley during summer, in a fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella barley salad, back home, in Italy. It was so great I made more and more often. I totally forgot about it during this long winter, though. Now that you reminded me I will keep an eye open to buy it again, if I can find it here in Holland. I’ve never tried it in the winter-y version, thanks, I will definitely try this recipe out.


  • What a lovely, bright, and hearty recipe to get us through the last bit of winter! I, too, am so over it… I am going to have to go in search of the last of the season’s blood oranges so I can make this dish soon!

  • Blood orange is also one of my favourites and I can’t wait to hunt some down to make this before they disappear (probably the only thing that makes me sad about winter ending is the end of blood orange season).

    We’re almost there! I’m guessing that it is similar in Denmark, but apparently here in Germany this has been the darkest winter on record. Thank goodness for citrus season. I don’t know what we’d do without it.

  • I am so with you. I am sick for the second time this month, and all I can think is, “when is winter going to be over?!?” I am craving comforting yet nourishing food (nothing that will weigh me down) as well, and this recipe looks right up my alley. It’s only fair that I share a recipe with you as well, so here you go…I made this last night, and it was delightful!

    stay strong! spring will be here soon!

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