Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley

This recipe has either a small amount of prep and a lot of cooking OR a large amount of prep and comes together real quick. Either way there is a lot of time in between cooking the components to do other things.

[Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley]

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley

As you can see, I made this in an electric skillet. Well, I baked the barley. I probably could have done the whole thing in the skillet though. Something to think about for another time.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 hours
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 10 strips of bacon
  • 2 onions, halved, peeled and cut into 1/8″ half moons
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 16 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chopped thyme


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°
  2. Lay bacon strips in the bottom of the electric skillet as it preheats to 350°F. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes then flip the bacon. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until crispy. Transfer to a double layer of paper towels to drain. You might need to cook the bacon in batches; I did. When all the bacon is cooked drain the bacon fat, saving it for another use.
  3. Return 1 tablespoon of bacon fat to the electric skillet and reduce the temp to 300°F. Scatter the sliced onions over the bottom of the skillet. Cook until you have made caramelized onions. It’ll take close to an hour however it is worth the wait.
  4. While the onions cook bring the chicken broth to a boil. Place the barley and butter in a glass baking dish that has a lid. Pour the boiling broth over the barley, give it a stir and cover it with aluminum foil. Place the lid on top of the foil. Bake for about 1 hour. When done make sure all of the liquid has been absorbed. If it has been remove from the oven, remove the cover and fluff with a fork.
  5. After the onions have cooked for 30 minutes you can microwave the mushrooms to give them a head start. Dump the sliced mushrooms in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave, on high, for 5 minutes. It can’t hurt to stir the mushroom half way through cooking. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave, peel back the plastic wrap (watch out for steam) and drain the mushrooms.
  6. During the last 15 minutes of cooking the onions add another tablespoon of bacon fat to the skillet and add the drained mushrooms. Stir to combine the onions and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms and onions to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the barley isn’t ready at this point you can turn off the skillet.
  7. When the barley is cooked add it, and the chopped thyme, to the electric skillet with the onions and mushrooms. Stir everything to combine. Season to taste with black pepper and additional salt, if necessary.

The idea for baking the barley came from Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode Just Barley. Inspiration for the rest of the dish came from flipping through a couple of cookbooks looking for ideas of what to do with the barley.

I chopped up 1/2 cup of garlic scapes to add at the very end and then forgot to add them. I think the crunch of the scapes, as well as the slight garlic flavor they bring, would have boosted the overall dish. I’m always forgetting the garnish.

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