Barley and oat Moroccan bread rolls

Healthy Moroccan barley and oat rolls

Based on the same recipe for Moroccan barley galettes, I decided to replace barley semolina with steel-cut oat/oat bran. It turned out to be a wonderful combination that gives a moister inside (hearth), which makes it last longer without fridge/freezer.

With all the benefits known to barley, it might give a bit of flatulence. So adding oat to the dough makes its digestion much easier.

Barley and oat Moroccan bread rolls

Barley and oat Moroccan bread rolls. credit @Nada Kiffa

In the same frame of work, this dough is also sticky and does not need kneading. I just use a food processor for a few minutes to aerate it.

Either I flavour the dough with the traditional cumin seeds or aniseed options. Feel free to add any healthy seeds you like.

Barley and oat bread is freezer-friendly.


Makes  about 12 rolls
Prep: 7 min – proofing: 2 h + 1 h (depending on the weather) – baking : 20-25 min

  • 150 g of steel-cut oat or oat bran (small or medium calibre)
  • 250 g of tap water, normal to lukewarm temperature
  • 1 tbsp of sea salt
  • 200 g of barley flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp of instant dried yeast + 3 to 4 tbsps of lukewarm water
  • 100 g of lukewarm water
  • 15 g of linseed or flax seed
  • 1 heaped tbsp of cumin seeds or leveled tbsp of aniseed

To roll

  • 5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • About 200 g steel-cut oat or barley semolina


The texture of Moroccan barley bread

The texture of Moroccan barley bread, Cedit @Nada Kiffa


In a bowl, mix yeast with 3 to 4 tablespoons of lukewarm water.

In a larger bowl. mix the first 3 ingredients: oat, salt and water. Stir. Add the seeds

Fold in the the barley flour and the yeast mix. Start mixing and incorporating the water as you go.

Mix the ingredients by hands (*) or using a food processor (with a paddle attached) for about 3 minutes just to aerate.

Cover and set aside for a few hours (2 to 3) until the dough softens and become slightly spongy.

Pour the olive oil in a small plate and spread the oat in a bigger plate.

Grease your hands with olive oil and try to roll the dough the size of a golf ball. It does not have to be perfect. Once you place the ball over barley grits and roll it, it will be easier to get a rather regular shape.

Place each ball on the baking sheet, leaving some space between them. Slightly flatten it anywhere between 1 and 1.5 cm. It will slightly rise during baking but it will be hardly unnoticeable. 
Cover the baking sheet with a damp tower and set aside in a warm place for about 60 min.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200-220 degrees C (fan/regular) for about 20 min.


 (*) If you are used to make enriched sweet dough by hand then this bread will need the same treatment for about 5 min.

(**)I also like to bake it for 20 minutes to keep the crust slightly soft considering that I use this bread for my morning or afternoon open sandwiches and my panini-maker gives the sides a nice crisp. So bake it depending when and how you will be serving it.

Moroccan barley galettes served with extra virgin olive oil and different types of Moroccan honeys

Moroccan barley galettes: Harcha d’ chaiir


If making bread gives you headache, this healthy version is the right thing for you!

Barley bread or flat galette is a common thing across Morocco. Barley happens to be one of the healthiest option one has when diabetes is lurking around. With a little slice, you get a feel of satiety as opposed to whole wheat or white flour!


Moroccan barley galettes served with extra virgin olive oil and different types of Moroccan honeys

Moroccan barley galettes with the usual spread. Credit @Nada Kiffa

I made barley bread during all my pregnancy because I suffered from gestational diabetes and I was able to manage my sugar blood levels most of the time while still enjoying bread.

Mehrach or Barley bread in Moroccan street food

When I was little, I recall my father bringing barley bread for breakfast and heat a mixture of honey and olive oil, then dip a slice until it’s fully soaked and almost caramelized. It was such a treat along with a good glass of hot mint tea!

Unfortunately, most of the barley bread found sold in different stalls across Morocco seems to be mixed with regular white flour. The real deal is still there but only a few offer both options..

Barley bread or harcha are easy to make because you just need to mix and let proof, shape and let proof then bake. No kneading required. Harcha won’t need a second proofing and gets instantly pan-fried so it’s even less headache!

Barley has low GI

Since barley won’t develop a gluten network after kneading, so there is no need to do so. The only thing is that you will have to deal with a sticky dough and get your hands dirty as you will be dealing with a 80% hydration dough . No need to worry because you can use a food processor to mix and grease your hands with olive oil or water while shaping.

While the bread is freezer-friendly, the harcha galette is not and it needs to be eaten the same day or you won’t be enjoying it that much..The galette is thinner than the bread, so it might have something to do with it. I tend to freeze some, get them through microwave for a few seconds, split them and off to the panini maker or toaster.

Handling barley flour and grits

Initially, barley bread is prepared with 100% barley grits which should be given time to soak in water in order to plump up. But you can use 50%-50% grits to flour as indicated in the recipe below. Using the flour only will save you time while using grits only will give you a dense bread. Mixing them both will give you a good texture.
I do tend to add oat bran or wheat bran to replace one or the other and make other healthy versions of barley bread or harcha. They really come out great!
Another classic combo for a Moroccan breakfast: barley bread, olive
oil and jben cheese

Makes 12+ mini rolls or 15 mini-harcha galettes
Prep 10 min- proofing: 2-4hrs – baking: 20 min

  • 300g small barley grits/semolina/tchicha
  • 200g barley flour
  • 20 g for fresh yeast or 10 g of instant dried yeast(you could replace with a ratio of sourdough)
  • Enough water to cover the barley grits (see recipe to understand the logic of work)
  • 1 tbps of salt
  • 2 tbsp of cumin seeds (not needed for harcha)
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil

Finishing and shaping

  • 200 g of barley grits for rolling
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil or a small bowl of water
Pre-wash the barley grits/semolina 3 or 4 times and then add enough water to cover it (just about). The semolina will absorb most of it. Set aside for 4 hours or overnight.
Mix the yeast with 1/8 cup of lukewarm water to activate it. Set aside for 10 min.
Tilt the bowl to get rid of excess water. Add the salt, flour, yeast and stir to combine. Drizzle the olive around the dough from the sides of the bowl and try to flip it (the dough) upside down).
The dough should be tacky and sticky. Cover and leave for 2 to 4 hours depending on the weather. It won’t rise but it will become a bit spongy.
To make barley bread rolls
Cover a baking sheet with baing paper (or oil and generously sprinkle it with barley grits).
Spread a thick layer of barley grits on a small working surface, grease your hands with olive oil and try to roll the dough the size of a golf ball. It does not have to be perfect. Once you place the ball over barley grits and roll it, it will be easier to get a rather regular shape.
Place each ball on the baking sheet, leaving some space between them. Slightly flatten it anywhere between 1 and 1.5 cm. It will slightly rise during baking but it will be hardly unnoticeable.
Cover the baking sheet with a damp tower and set aside in a warm place for about 45 to 60 min.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200-220 degrees C (fan/regular) for about 20 min.
To make barley harchas
Grease a heavy griddle/skillet/heavy pan with a tiny bit of oil, Sprinkle barley grits and place it over medium heat.
Follow the same guidelines above except that you won’t let the harcha proof a second time and you will need to flatten it to a maximum of 1 cm thickness.
Place each flattened ball on the griddle/skillet/pan and cook each side until coloured (it’s good to have some dark patches). It should take about 10 min for the first side and about 7 to 8 min for the second one.
Some harcha-smiley faces’ with olives for the children
(using a smiley’ pancake pan)

Eat harchas the same day while you can keep extra barley bread in the freezer. Toast it or oven-heat it later on.


A serving of Moroccan spiced Msemmen bought from a stall in Safi

Giant Moroccan spiced onion Msemmens from Street food Morocco


During these hot summer days, I can only salute these people who work so hard, outside in the heat, to earn a living, especially our superwomen who are the pillars of their families!

I remember the day I took these photos, we’ve just finished our late lunch after visiting the clay and pottery making shops in Safi. It was just too hot out there and these women, after clearing up the little shop from all things related to lunch, they had to get on the things to be done for snacking time, namely msemmen and harcha.

The grandma was in charge of chopping while the daughter was in charge of cleaning the little shop/restaurant/joint. Finally, the grand-daughter who was on summer break was in charge of making the giant msemmens (stuffed and plain) and the mega-harcha. It was all about teamwork!

Usually, these mega creations get sold by weight so one can only ask for 1 Moroccan Dirham and get an individual slice (cut like a wedge). That’s a snack on the go.

This spiced msemmen is not far from the one posted previously. It’s done the same way only on a larger scale but instead of fresh tomatoes, tomato paste is added to the mix. It may not be the case for some other vendors..

The main spices remain paprika, cumin and a discreet chili powder addition hardy noticeable.

The main herb used is usually parsley (a great deal) but a bit of coriander could be added to.

These giant squares are for plain msemmen, prepared next to the spiced msemmens

You will find the spiced onion msemmen sold in most of the cities. Just look for it around 4 -5 pm..Whoever prepares it and sell it always sell Moroccan tea with it. They’re a marriage made in Heaven.

My portion..eating it while strolling the Safi old market


A serving of stuffed Moroccan msemmen with onion and spices

Stuffed Msemmen with onions and tomatoes

Msemmen is a wonderful North African laminated pancake or bread. It can be enjoyed plain, served with honey or filled with different mixtures. Similar panfried bread can be found in Asia (i.e paratha in India)
We love Msemmen so much that we can have it any time of the day along with a glass of Moroccan tea or any hot drink.
You actually can’t say you know about Moroccan food if you don’t know about Msemmen.
A small hand reaching to a serving of Moroccan stuffed msemmens with onions and tomatoes

Stuffed Moroccan msemmens with spiced onions . Credit @Nada Kiffa

A recipe with a story

Today’s stuffed Msemmen recipe comes from a wonderful old family neighbour nicknamed “Tanjaouia“. Her bright smiling face and name always brings back so many sweet memories.
Thankfully, she’s still alive and it’s always a pleasure to see her whenever I’m back home as she comes to visit when she knows I’m around.
Tanjaouia must have been such a beautiful woman in her youth, her old wrinkled face can tell. It can also tell that she’s been through a lot in her life. I vaguely remember that she’s lost her husband when I was still little and she went on to raise 6 children, most of them succeeded in their lives and started their own families.
She also managed to keep her little villa neat and looking good all these 30 years after her husband passed away..
The weirdest thing is that I really don’t know her real name. Tanjaouia just refers to her city of origin “Tangiers”. However, everyone called her so since I was little. I do know that she had the best green oranges in her garden and the best backyard where a variety of herbs grow with care. She also had a fig tree, a grape “dahlia” and a few other fruit trees. Most of all, she always had home baked sweets on the table.
I paid her a visit a couple of years ago and it brought me 30 years back down the memory lane. The garden is almost the same. So is the kindness of this woman.

A bit of know-how

Tanjaouia’s stuffed Msemmen recipe is very simple as the filling does not need precooking or cooling time. It just needs some care when flattening the pancake so you don’t end up with many holes.
It’s actually not much of a recipe since I will only give you guidelines. Each msemmen is different in size and the filling depends on that really..
Onions and tomatoes msemmen recipe is not far from the stuffed ones we usually find sold across Moroccan cities for snack time (around 5 pm). Some omit the tomatoes and some add chopped long green peppers.
These stuffed Msemmens can be frozen and heated back in a hot oven or a hot frying pan.


Makes 3 msemmens (about 20 * 20 cm squares)
Prep: 30 min – Cooking: about 5 min/Msemmen
Msemmen dough
  • 250 g of strong white bread flour
  • 150 g of fine semolina flour or durum flour
  • 1/4 tsp of dried instant yeast 
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 200-230 ml of water, lukewarm 
For the filling (adjust if needed)
  • 3 medium-size yellow or white onions, chopped or finely sliced (count 1/2 onion/msemmen)
  • 3 medium-size tomatoes, deseeded, chopped or finely sliced (count 1/2 tomato/ msemmen)
  • A cup of chopped parsley (about 2 to 3 tbsps/msemmen)
  • 3 tbsp of sweet paprika (count 1 tsp/ msemmen)
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin 
  • Chili powder or cayenne to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ingredients: chopped green or black olives, chopped green peppers

For shaping and laminating

  • 100 ml of vegetable oil
  • 100 g of fine semolina flour


Make the msemmen dough as shown here.
Once you get to the level where you flatten the dough thin, ready for shaping, spread the filling in the center and shape the square. In this recipe, you don’t need to use butter during the lamination process, unlike a plain msemmen. You will only need oil and fine semolina flour. You can use a mix of olive oil and vegetable oil.
Flatten another dough ball paper thin, scatter some filling and place one previously filled square in the center. Fold to form a bigger square. Set aside to rest and follow the same logic with the rest of the dough.
Fry the pancakes
Heat a non stick frying pan over medium-heat.
Go back to the first square you made as it would have had time to rest. Flatten it delicately and transfer it to a hot frying pan. Give it 2 minutes per side then start flipping over to make sure it’s all cooked through. The dough changes colour and the layers split.
Usually, when one filled msemmen is cooking, we flatten the next one and so on…
Serve warm with a good glass of tea or a mint infusion.
If for some reason you are worried to pock them with many holes during the flattening process, shape them into small squares and bake them at 190 degrees C for about 20 minutes. The first day I made them, I chopped the onions and tomatoes fairly big, so I decided to bake the msemmens (which have become rghaifs). They turned out really good.