Say hello to what’s soon to become your favorite salad ever— Farro Salad with Peas and Feta. This delicious whole grain is tossed with spring peas, peppery arugula, and lots of fresh herbs, all in a juicy, homemade lemon vinaigrette.
Love giant salads that don’t leave you hungry? I do too. Try this with beets or roasted tomatoes in the winter, when homegrown tomatoes are long gone. Explore other plant-based, vegetarian recipes that just burst with flavor, like chilled Gazpacho, Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, or Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers that fool even the most diehard carnivore.
If you haven't yet discovered how delicious whole grain farro is, well then this is the recipe to make you fall in love. Part leafy green salad, part hearty side, it's packed full of herbs, briny cheese, and a bright lemony dressing.
Making Farro Salad for a get together? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Farro Salad ingredients:
Here's what this salad has in it. It's as simple and fresh as it gets.
- Fresh dill.
- Feta cheese.
- Olive oil.
- Lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper.
So what is farro, exactly?
Farro is a specific type of wheat that has been used in Middle Eastern and Italian cuisine for thousands of years. It’s also very high in protein, nutrients, and minerals. In case you’re wondering, it’s more nutritious than rice. Since it is a type of wheat, it isn't gluten-free.
Farro has a medium brown, chestnut color and a mellow, nutty flavor. It adds heartiness and a chewy texture to this salad, too.
Shopping for farro:
When you’re lucky enough to stumble across a package of farro at the store, things could get a little confusing.
You see, the farro grain sometimes undergoes processing (pearling) to have part of the husk and bran removed. This makes it easier to cook, but also takes away some of its nutrients. Depending on how the grain is processed will dictate how you should cook it. (More on that below.)
Here are the three main types of farro grocery stores carry:
- Whole. The entire grain is left intact (little to no processing). Whole farro has the most flavor, and the most nutrients. However, it takes the longest to cook—30 to 40 minutes.
- Semi-pearled. About half of the grain’s husk and bran has been removed, making semi-pearled farro cook a little quicker than whole grain.
- Pearled. The most common type of farro found in American groceries. It has more of the grain removed, but cooks the fastest— 10 to 15 minutes. You may be able to find this kind at Trader Joe’s--it's called "10-minute farro."
How do I cook farro?
The type of farro you brought home will determine how it should be cooked. Luckily, it’s almost foolproof to cook. As long as it’s tender, you’re good. You might have to taste as you go, until you get the hang of it.
There are two basic methods for cooking farro:
- The rice method, using a specific ratio of farro to liquid and cooking on the stove, covered, until tender. This is a good method for pearled and semi-pearled farro.
- The pasta method, which uses a larger amount of liquid so the grains can simmer freely in the pot. Once tender, the excess liquid is drained off. As you might have guessed, this is the best way to cook unprocessed whole farro.
For this recipe, I like to lightly toast the farro before adding the water, to give it that much more flavor. I go more in depth on cooking, in case you're curious, in How to Cook Farro.
Then I simmer the farro until tender, drain off any extra water, and let the cooked farro cool before adding it to the salad. It firms up a bit, which keeps it from turning mushy in the dressing.
Making the lemon vinaigrette:
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. That's all there is to it.
Assembling the salad:
Compared to the finer points of how to cook farro, putting the salad all together is a breeze. Once the farro is completely cool, toss it in a big bowl with the arugula, peas, dill, and lemon vinaigrette. Season as needed with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the top with crumbled feta cheese and serve.
To make the salad ahead of time, cook and chill the farro, and prep the dressing. Store the ingredients in the refrigerator separately until ready to serve. Then toss everything together when you need it.
Farro can be replaced with pearled barley, wheat berries, or spelt berries. Before you try it, refer to the manufacturer's instructions for cooking, in case they vary.
For a gluten-free substitute, try replacing the farro with sorghum or brown rice.
Farro Salad with Peas and Feta Recipe
For the lemon dressing:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups farro
- 3 1/2 cups water
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 3 cups arugula (about 3 1/2 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese for serving
To make the lemon dressing:
- In a large serving bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Set aside.
To make the salad:
- In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add farro and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add water and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon) and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until farro is tender, about 15-18 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve, then spread farro out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
- To the serving bowl with the dressing, add cooled farro, peas, arugula, dill, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Toss to combine and sprinkle with feta.