Three-Grain Salad with Sweet Red Onion Dressing

I am quite aware that I’m known for my love of baking up (and eating!) sweet treats.

And the #1 question I get from people is, “How do you not weigh a ton?!” 

I’m not going to lie and say that all the baking doesn’t catch up with me once in awhile. Because it surely does. Every now and then, and much more frequently the further I creep away from being 30…I am reminded that my body doesn’t snap back like it once did. And that’s when I have to remind myself of my motto: “everything in moderation”. Instead of eating four cookies in one sitting, for example, I’ll slow down and enjoy one fresh out of the oven and possibly another one after supper.

I can also tell you that we (that includes my whole family) don’t clean up every last crumb ourselves. Treats get taken in to work, given to friends and neighbors, or made when we know we’re having company to share them with. Quite a bit of it gets frozen, too, which makes for a quick and easy homemade bite when unexpected guests drop by. It gives me joy to share what I’ve made in the kitchen. 

And I would be completely holding back if I didn’t say my body needs to keep moving to keep the pounds off. Both my body and my mind benefit from a good brisk walk/run in the fresh air, a game of catch with Blake and the girls, or a bike ride to the park. When my jeans are pinching my waistline and my brain isn’t connecting the dots as quickly as it should, I know it’s time to get a move on!

So this brings me to sharing this great recipe for Three-Grain Salad with Sweet Red Onion Dressing. Because, honestly, I don’t eat sinful things like Caramel Custard Pots with Salted Caramel Sauce every day of the week (although that sure was a tasty experiment!). I aim to make healthy balanced meals for our family. Fresh fruits and veggies are a huge part of our everyday life, along with lean meat proteins and increasingly more and different whole grains.

Over the past year, I have been stepping out of my neat little box of familiar grains, experimenting with – and falling in love with – ones I couldn’t even pronounce a year ago. Right now my breakfast of choice is a warm bowl of nutty chewy steel-cut oats, sprinkled with cinnamon, a spoon of brown sugar, and a small handful of dried fruits and chopped nuts. It’s delicious and so very satisfying. Just like this three-grain salad I’ve fallen for.

pearl barley, wheat berries, long-grain brown rice

The recipe calls for pearl barley, wheat berries, and long-grain brown rice, and was adapted from a cookbook I nabbed last fall from my grandma’s freebie pile. That is, a room full of extremely random stuff Grandma Renelt has purged (I couldn’t believe my eyes when they caught sight of her mom’s little woven sewing box…the one I remember playing with, winding it’s tinkly music box, at Great Grandma Voss’ house when I was a kid…I’m so happy it’s now mine!), as she’s preparing to downsize and move into a smaller, more manageable home this spring.

The salad is full of texture and flavor with its three grains and variety of fruits and vegetables. And the vinegar based dressing is especially good, with grated onion sweetened up by honey. I had no problem convincing Blake to try it, as he’s always liked barley and any variety of rice. This salad received a very hearty thumbs-up all around. I hope you like it, too.

Please share with me…
What are your favorite grains?
(Because I plan to keep experimenting!!) 

Three-Grain Salad with Sweet Red Onion Dressing

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


for the salad:

  • 5-1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. uncooked wheat berries
  • 1/3 c. uncooked long-grain brown rice
  • 1/2 c. uncooked hulled or pearl barley
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/4 c. diced carrot
  • 1/4 c. diced celery
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 medium unpeeled apple, chopped
  • 4 medium green onions, chopped

for the dressing:

  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. canola oil
  • 1/3 c. cider vinegar
  • 2 T. grated red onion
  • 2 tsp. white wine Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


for the salad:

In a large saucepan, heat water and wheat berries to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in brown rice and barley, then cover and simmer about 50 minutes longer or until grains are tender. Drain if necessary.

for the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix cooked grains and remaining salad ingredients. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until chilled. Before serving, toss the salad again. If desired, drizzle more of the reserved dressing over the salad and toss again. If you have leftovers, the grains will continue to soak up the dressing. Simply add more reserved dressing as needed before eating. I never did use all of the dressing for this salad.

The salad keeps very well refrigerated for several days.

Adapted from Whole Grains: Easy Everyday Recipes by Betty Crocker.


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30 Responses to “Three-Grain Salad with Sweet Red Onion Dressing”

  1. #
    Shaina — April 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    What a gorgeous salad, Brenda. My family and I love grain salads. They have the ability to be simple and remarkably complex at the same time.

    • Brenda replied on April 11th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Shaina. I grew up with meat at every meal, and still often feel like I’m deficient if I don’t have some form of it. But with grain salads, I never do. A tasty hearty salad like this IS a meal!

  2. #
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — April 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Mmm what a salad!! Yum!

    • Brenda replied on April 11th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Katrina! :)

  3. #
    Aggie — April 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This seriously sounds and looks amazing Brenda! I started experimenting with whole grains more a couple of years ago. A newer to me grain that I absolutely love is farro. I’ve had it at restaurants in a pilaf, but I made a farro taboulie last summer that was so delicious. You are now reminding me to make it again!!

    I have got to try that dressing!!

  4. #
    Paula — April 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    This salad looks lovely and it introduced me to wheat berries which I had not heard of before. The dressing you made looks like a perfect one for it. I agree, the older we get, the harder it is to keep things as they were (when we were younger) and the rule of thumb, *everything in moderation* if followed as well as regular exercise certainly helps.

    • Brenda replied on April 11th, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you, Paula. Hope you had an awesome time with your grandkids last Friday, and that you’re having a great week!

  5. #
    Courtney Rae Jones — April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    What a fantastic looking salad! :) The dressing sounds delicious!

    • Brenda replied on April 11th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you, Courtney!

  6. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — April 12, 2012 at 2:21 am

    I totally know what you mean – eating sweets can get the best of you from time to time but you’re definitely right, moderation is key, as hard as it is. This salad looks incredibly fun with everything that’s going on. I’ve never actually added barley into my food but I’m excited to give it a try. And that red onion dressing sounds incredible!

    • Brenda replied on April 14th, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Thank you! Barley is actually something my husband’s family made me more aware of, and I’m so glad! Delicious!

  7. #
    Maria — April 12, 2012 at 7:02 am

    What a great salad! Love the dressing too!

  8. #
    Wenderly — April 12, 2012 at 7:06 am

    What lovely salad! I can just taste all the vibrant flavors dancing on my tongue (in my mind)! Can’t wait to try it IRL! I love your new look too! I haven’t been around the web much since I started working! It’s always so nice to stop by for a visit with you and your beautiful blog Brenda!

    • Brenda replied on April 14th, 2012 at 7:49 am

      Thank you, always so lovely to hear from you! Hope all is well with you and your new work schedule – have a great weekend!!

  9. #
    Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin — April 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I share your motto – and this is just my kind of recipe :)

  10. #
    Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids — April 12, 2012 at 11:18 am

    That salad looks delicious. Your recipes are a constant source of cooking inspiration for me. Have a great weekend!!

  11. #
    Normal Food For Normal People — April 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    This looks like a great bunch of ingredients that I wouldn’t mind mixing together for my own whole grain salad. While I usually can’t stand celery (still) I even might consider it in this case for the added crunchiness.

    • Brenda replied on April 14th, 2012 at 7:51 am

      Truthfully, I’m not the biggest celery fan myself! I don’t like eating it on its own, but do like a bit of it for its crunch and flavor in cold salads. I also like it in chili. :)

  12. #
    cluttercafe — April 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    this looks so good! I’m going to see if I cna put it together right now! Thanks Brenda! A pretty picture as well.

    • Brenda replied on April 14th, 2012 at 7:51 am

      Thank you! Hope you like it, too!

  13. #
    Catherine Adde — April 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Hi – this looks good but if one is cutting Wheat from their diet, is there a substitute for Wheat Berries I wonder?

  14. #
    Lydia — April 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Ohh this looks delicious! I am always looking for new grain recipes. I have been trying to find some new recipes for barley and quinoa :)

  15. #
    fromscratchtoplate — April 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi! I love your blog, so I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award.

  16. #
    Alyssa M. — April 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve never heard of white wine Worcestershire sauce, can you find it in most grocery stores? I can’t wait to try this as I am venturing into all of the different grains!

  17. #
    Brenda — February 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Hello. I made this salad tonite, using your delicious dressing recipe. I changed it up a bit. I used quinoa, brown rice (the same brand as you) and I used a can of mixed beans, pinto,kidney,chickpeas. Red onion, celery, yellow pepper and chopped tomato. It is in the fridge cooling right now and I am sure we will love it because I already tasted a bit. Very yummy. Thank you Brenda! Love your name, by the way!


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