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Wheat Berry Sweet Soup with Spices and Dried fruits "Burbara"

Updated: Jun 19

Eid il-Burbara

or Saint Barbara's Day (Arabic: عيد البربارة‎), is a holiday annually celebrated on December 4 among Middle Eastern Christians. Traditionally as I read in lebanon, adults and children wearing masks and disguised in costumes go around houses in the villages dancing and singing the story of Saint Barbara; and in each house, they are offered food specially prepared for that feast. It is celebrated in honour of the Christian Saint, Saint Barbara. The general belief among Christians is that Saint Barbara disguised herself as many different characters to elude the Romans who were persecuting her.

The story of Saint Barbara is a pretty interesting one. According to Fanoos.com Saint Barbara was born in the mid-3d century in present-day Lebanon or Turkey. She was the daughter of a rich pagan. According to legend, Saint Barbara witnessed a miracle while fleeing from her father, who had kept her locked up in a tower. She ran through a freshly planted wheat field, which grew instantly to cover her track.

Middle Eastern Christians recreate this miracle symbolically by planting different seeds and grains (wheat, barley, lentils, beans, chick peas, etc.) in soaked cotton wool. On Christmas, shoots from the seeds planted on St. Barbara's Day are used to decorate the nativity scene. What part of Saint Barbara's story is correct, I have no idea, so its best to stick to my favorite part; the Wheat Berry soup. Saint Barbra’s day, is seen as the start of Christmas celebrations and so the tradition of preparing the wheat berry soup or porridge continued and with time it got its famous name “Burbara”.

The soup

Wheat berries sweet soup because it’s Dec 4 and all Christians in the Middle East celebrate the feast of Saint Barbara and make this sweet treat in her memory. The wheat berries get soaked overnight in water. Then boiled till tender. I boil the wheat berries with a cinnamon stick and star anise. When the berries are half way cooked through I add the chopped apricots and raisins, fennel and anise all freshly ground to get the most aromatic treat and add a little bit of sugar to taste. The dried fruits will plump and become so juicy. In the Middle East we call it “Burbara” named after Saint Barbara. The best part about this treat is the garnishes. I love it with fresh pomegranates, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, coconuts, and more diced apricots. My grandmother loves to add sweet candied chickpeas so crunchy and colorful and a taste of childhood. Hope you give this a try, it's so comforting on those cold winter mornings or perfect warm as a night cap. Plus who wouldn't want a sweet soup anyways!!!


1 pound wheat berries

3/4 cup sugar (adjust to your taste) start with half a cup you can always add more

2 cups chopped dried fruits (apricots and raisins are pretty traditional but you can add cranberries or whatever you like)

2 tbls fresh ground anise seeds

2 tbls fresh ground fennel seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

2 star anise whole

1 cinnamon stick


Blanched almonds

Pine nuts


Shredded unsweetened Coconut

Fresh Pomegranate Seeds

Sugar coated candy’s


1. Pick over your wheat berries looking for any shells or impurities

2. Rinse the wheat few times, the husks will often float to the top so make sure you discard that.

3. Pre soak your wheat berries over night in cold water. Pre soaking your wheat will shave off a bit of the cooking time and yield to plump grains.

4. Drain the water. Add your berries to a pot large enough, add fresh water to cover. For every cup of wheat berries add 2 cups of water. Stir often and if water evaporates add more so the grains don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

5. Add cinnamon stick and star anise.

6. Bring the mixture to boil. Lower the heat to simmer, Cover the pot and cook until the wheat berries are tender about an hour checking after the first 30 minutes. stir often as the wheat berries like to stick to the bottom of the pot.

7. During the last half hour of cooking add all the flavorings: Spices, and dried fruits.

The mixture will thicken a bit, the fruits will plump up making for a delicious serving of grains and fruits. Serve hot or cold with any of the suggested garnishes or whatever you like.

This sweet hearty soup is delicious served for breakfast.

Recipe notes

What are wheat berries?

Wheat berries are a true whole grain! You may not recognize the name, but without these kernels, there would be no flour. Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels. They are thick, short grains similar to brown rice. Wheat berries are loaded with nutrients and very easy to prepare.

What do they taste like?

When boiled, and cooked wheat berries have a chewy bite and subtle nutty, earthy flavor. They are perfect in sweet and savory applications.

When cooking wheat berries keep in mind few things:

The specific kind of wheat berry you buy, as well as how old it is, will influence the cooking time. Start checking your berries at about 30 minutes and keep checking every five minutes after that until they reach a tender, yet chewy consistency.

If you have pearled or semi-pearled varieties, it will definitely need less cooking time. Start checking them, for doneness at 15-20 minutes.

To get the most nutrients out of your wheat berries:

Be sure to get the whole variety and not the pearled type which has been milled to remove the outer bran: a process that makes wheat berries quicker to cook but removes much of their fiber.

#driedfruit #saintbarbara #middleeasterntraditions #christmas #beginingofchristmas #burbara #sweetporridge #anise #fenell #apricots #raisins

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