Pearl barley khichdi to mimic sabudana khichdi

Sabudana khichdi is one of the favourites since childhood. When I used to do Navratri fasting in the 80s I would make sabudana khichdi in huge Kadhai at home because everyone wanted generous portions of it. I learnt supplementing the sabudana khichdi with paneer and seeds or nuts back then because that was the only big meal I used to have during the nine days of Navratri fasting.

Later I started doing minor changes to the recipe because this was a favourite and sabudana or sago pearls aren’t the healthiest of ingredients even though they are are neutral, considered cooling and Ayurveda approves it for cooling properties as well as to support lactation etc. Do check out the fortified, low glycemic sabudana khichdi I have shared earlier.

Nevertheless, my quest for a good substitute for sabudana was on and I didn’t realise the solution was just under my nose all this while.

Pearl barley khichdi

I have been using barley in many forms ever since I started my own kitchen. This blog has barley recipes since the early days I started sharing recipes and you will find pearl barley in the form of pasta, risotto, soup, khichdi and herbed pearl barley etc.

Once pearl barley came to my mind as a substitute for sabudana I started planning about how to bring the texture close to cooked sabudana because that’s what makes sabudana khichdi unique.

In fact the taste, texture and properties of sabudana are quite in tune with pearl barley, the later being much more nutritious and low glycemic carb, something that suits us in present day almost sedentary lifestyle.

Pearl barley has a mild sweet taste on the palate and slightly firm texture with a soft bite just like sabudana and takes up the flavours of other ingredients just like sabudana. There couldn’t be a better substitute for sabudana in the classic sabudana khichdi recipe. Trust me I liked the pearl barley version a lot more than sabudana because the slightly firmer bite in pearl barley suits my taste better.

Note that pear barley and barley in other forms is considered cooling, pitta pacifying, gut healing and anti flatulent so it is the best grains to include in summers. Those who drink a mug of jau ki ghaat or barley water everyday will never be troubled by the excessive heat in the body or the ailments caused by summer heat.

With the addition pf potatoes with skin and pink salt in this recipe, it becomes good for hypertensive people as well.

I found a way to use pearl barley that works for me and I and sharing that method in the recipe. If you make barley water regularly by boiling pearl barley and straining the starchy water, you can use the leftover barley pearls in the recipe after draining it really well. If you have access to barley couscous, you might want to use that but I prefer pearl barley any day.

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

To steam together
100 gm barley soaked overnight (in the fridge preferably)
200-250 gm potatoes with skin, diced in small bits and rinsed well
½ tsp pink salt or rock salt

To make the tadka
1 tbsp ghee (don’t replace with any oil please)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chopped green chillies
10 sprigs of curry leaves chopped

To finish
Salt to adjust seasoning
Pepper to taste
Lime juice to taste (or use a little amchoor)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (optional)
¼ cup roasted and crushed peanuts
1 tbsp roasted and crushed sesame seeds


Drain water from the soaked barley, rinse the diced potatoes well.

Mix ¼ tsp salt to the barley and ¼ tsp to the potatoes. Put the potatoes in a pressure cooker pan and pour two tbsp water in it. Now put the soaked pearl barley in a metal bowl and place over the potatoes inside the pressure cooker pan. Fix the lid and place the pressure cooker over pan, cook on high till the first whistle blows and then take it off the flame. This steaming takes just about 5 minutes for the said quantity. Let it cool and release pressure.

Alternately you can layer the potatoes and soaked pearl barley in a pan with 2 tbsp water, cover and let it steam with a light lid. The potatoes should be cooked well but not mushy, Pearl barley should be cooked well with a soft bite.

Proceed to do the tadka and finish the pearl barley khichdi.

To make the tadka, heat the ghee in a wide pan and add the ingredients listed in tadka list one by one and let them get aromatic. Once everything sizzles, dump the steamed potatoes and pearl barley in the pan and mix really well. Add all the finishing ingredients and give it a good mix while the pan is still on stove. Once everything is mixed, adjust seasoning and serve hot. By this time you will get the aroma so characteristic of sabudana khichdi and that makes this recipe such a hit in my opinion.

This pearl barley khichdi tastes good even when it is slightly cold.

Pearl barley khichdi

Pearl barley khichdi is a little more filling than sabudana khichdi and is a perfectly balanced meal so make it for a breakfast that starts your day at a delicious note and keep you energetic through the day or make it a meal any time time of the day.

If you want to make sabudana vada with the same kind of replacement, do try broken barley or barley daliya that’s easily available in the market. Use boiled and mashed potatoes, soaked barley daliya and proceed to make the vadas just like you would do for sabudana vada. I will post the recipe next because we did a trial and it was very encouraging.

Enjoy pearl barley khichdi to replace sabudana khichdi once and you would know what’s your favourite now.