This hearty, healthy, and delicious grain salad is also versatile; you can eat it on its own or serve it as a side for grilled or roasted fish or meat. And since it keeps well for up to a week, it’s the perfect make-ahead meal to take on picnics, hikes, camping trips, and to potlucks, or to pack for work or school lunches. If you’ve never had rye berries, they’re pleasantly chewy and extremely healthy, and if you haven’t tried kefir, it’s a probiotic powerhouse akin to a thinner, tangier yogurt. Mixed with fresh herbs, it provides a creamy, piquant counterpoint to the nutty rye berries, sweet carrots, and crisp fried onions. You can add other vegetables and herbs to the salad if you wish.

Notes: As long as you wash your carrots well, you can leave them unpeeled; it saves time and boosts nutrition. You’ll only get as much dressing and as many fried onions as you need for this salad, but both components are well worth making on their own to garnish other dishes too. The dressing will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the fridge. The onions are fried in ghee, which is basically clarified butter that’s been cooked longer until slightly nutty; you can make your own or purchase it ready-made. If making this salad ahead, store the onions separately to keep them crunchy and add just before eating.

Check out the author’s Chilled Avocado, Cucumber, and Kefir Soup recipe too.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 2 hr (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 45 min

Ingredients (21)

For the Rye Berry Salad:

  • 2 cups rye berries
  • 6 cups water
  • kosher salt, for cooking the rye berries
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 rainbow baby carrots, unpeeled and diced Maldon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Fried Onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup Basic Herbed Kefir Dressing
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish

For the Basic Herbed Kefir Dressing:

  • 1 cup organic plain whole-milk kefir
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup combined chopped fresh dill and mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

For the Fried Onions:

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 cup ghee or clarified butter
  • pinch of Maldon sea salt


To make the Basic Herbed Kefir Dressing:

  1. Combine the kefir, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, dill, mint, and salt. Mix and taste, adding more salt if needed. Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld (but it tastes even better when refrigerated overnight).

To make the Fried Onions:

  1. Slice the onion with the grain (pole to pole, not through the equator). In a saucepan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring until the onions are evenly browned and almost crunchy, 15 to 20 minutes. Place them in a mason jar, seasoning with a pinch of sea salt.

To make the Rye Berry Salad:

  1. In a saucepan, combine the rye berries and water and salt the water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until al dente, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain, then spread the berries out on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the car­rots and sauté until golden brown and fork-tender, about 7 minutes. Remove them from the heat, season with a pinch of sea salt and the lemon juice, and let cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the rye berries, carrots, fried onions, and parsley. Drizzle with the kefir dressing, vinegar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to combine. Season with a pinch each of sea salt and pepper, top with the horseradish and serve.

From THE KEFIR COOKBOOK: An Ancient Healing Superfood for Modern Life, Recipes from My Family Table and Around the World. Copyright © 2018 by Julie Smolyansky. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Photograph by Jennifer Davick.