Coconut Barley Pilaf with Corn, Chicken and Cashews

Summary: This is a lovely recipe by Melissa Clark that takes advantage of items you might very well have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. It's a great way to use barley and combines these flavorful elements in a new, pleasurable way.

Yield: serves 4-6


  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 10 ounces), rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup salted, roasted cashews, roughly chopped
  • ½ medium onion, diced small (~1 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups pearled barley
  • one 15-ounce can coconut milk (I use light coconut milk and definitely think you need the better part of 2 cans + more water than MC calls for; just try to keep her milk-to-water ratio steady)
  • 1½ cups corn kernels (from fresh ears (~2) or frozen; if frozen, do not thaw first)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, cilantro, or parsley (or a combo)


Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in cashews and cook 1 minute more. Transfer mixture to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to pot. Stir in onions and jalapeño and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until onions are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in barley and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute more. Add enough water to coconut milk to yield 2 cups liquid and add to pot. Bring liquid to a simmer, then cook, covered, over low heat until the barley is almost tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in corn. If mixture looks dry, stir in 1¼ cups more water; cover and cook until barley and corn are tender, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Return chicken mixture to pot and stir well. Fold in herbs and more salt to taste.