What is Job’s Tears?


This is what the Job’s tears plant looks like.

This was what I was wondering when I saw the “Job’s tears Salad” at Green Cuisine one day. As I’ve learned, these pretty-looking bead-like grains are derived from a tall tropical plant of the grass family. It is native to Southeast Asia. It may be sold as Chinese pearl barley, but it is not even related to barley.

There are two varieties of Job’s tears-one is wild, and the other one is grown as a food crop. The wild type is used as beads for making necklaces and other ornaments because this variety has a hard oval husk that can make good, durable beads. The farmed variety possess soft shelled spheres which are edible and are used as a grain when the husks have been removed.


Tea made with Job’s tears.

In Korea and China, distilled liquor is produced from this grain, and in both countries, Job’s tears tea can be found.


Job’s tears, polished and with husks removed, ready to be cooked.

Job’s tears is considered to have herbal, medicinal qualities. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Job’s tears is used to make the spleen stronger, and to prevent “damp heat”. Conditions traditionally treated with Job’s tears include edema, diarrhea, rheumatoid arthritis, and problems with urinating.

Job’s tears is gluten-free, so if you habitually avoid gluten, this is another wonderful food to add to your cooking repertoire.

What to Do With Job’s Tears

You can use this grain to make salads. Soups, sauces, stews, congee, and curries are also possible with Job’s tears.

Cooking With Job’s Tears

You may soak the grains for several hours prior to cooking, but this is not necessary. In a saucepan, cover the Job’s tears in a few inches of water and simmer for about 45 minutes, until their texture is tender (but still chewy). Not all the water need to be absorbed for the grains to be cooked. Drain the water from the grains (or save the water to use for soups). You can now use the grains to toss into a salad or into other recipes.

For instance, here is a tantalizing recipe featuring Job’s tears in a coconut broth, and here is a mushroom “barley” soup which wonderfully uses Job’s tears in place of barley.

Job’s tears is an excellent addition to your pantry, especially if you want a gluten-free alternative for your daily recipes.