Job's Tears: a Gluten Free Grain You've Never Heard Of

Job's Tears: a Gluten Free Grain You've Never Heard Of

Job’s tears, also called coix seed, adlay millet, yi ren, and Chinese pearl barley, are a native Southeast Asian plant. The grains produced by this tropical grass have been used for millennia as food, medicine, and even as beads. Despite being sold under the name Chinese pearl barley, it’s not related to barley. Job’s tears are entirely gluten free and very nutritious.

Job’s tears look similar to barley, but they’re rounder and more plump. They have a good ratio of protein to carbs, and have been shown to help lower blood sugar, regulate blood pressure, and support the immune system. They’re also being studied for possible anti-tumor properties.

job’s tears

Image from Things Guyana

The texture of cooked Job’s tears is somewhere between pearl barley and pozole, but its flavor profile is nuttier and closer to oatmeal. You can use it in the same way you’d use pearl barley or steel cut oats.

Job’s tears have been used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They’re supposed to help clear excess damp heat, and are used as a remedy to defend against colds and strengthen the immune system during the late summer and early fall.

In Japan, Job’s tears are brewed into a medicinal tea called hatomugi-cha (はと麦茶), which is said to improve the drinker’s complexion. A different, thicker version of this tea is consumed in South Korea, where it’s called yulmu-cha (율무차). This version includes powdered and roasted Job’s tears, black beans, black sesame, walnuts, almonds, corn, brown rice, and lots of sugar. Job’s tears are also popular additions to soups in Vietnam, and drinks in Thailand.

job’s tears

Yulmu-cha from G Star Live

One of my favorite parts of eating gluten free is learning about new foods I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise! Job’s tears are a great example of this. While there aren’t yet many Job’s tears flours on the market in the West, it’s definitely worth exploring the flavor and texture of whole Job’s tears. So if you’re ready to give these little pseudo-grains a go, you’ll find links to buy it online below, plus some recipes to get you started.

Buy Job’s Tears

It can be a bit confusing buying Job’s tears as a gluten free person, because it’s often labeled as Asian pearl barley. Barley contains gluten, so you definitely don’t want to buy regular pearl barley! The scientific name for Job’s tears is Coix lacryma-jobi, so if that’s on the label, you’ll know you have the right grain.

job’s tears

Image from Humble Market

Job’s Tears Recipes

job’s tears

Image from Purple Tag

* Title image courtesy of Dragon Tea House.

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