Plants have a non-energy conserving bypass of the classical mitochondrial cytochrome c pathway, known as the alternative respiratory pathway (AP). This involves type II NAD(P)H dehydrogenases (NDs) on both sides of the mitochondrial inner membrane, ubiquinone, and the alternative oxidase (AOX). The AP components have been widely characterised from Arabidopsis, but little is known for monocot species. We have identified all the genes encoding components of the AP in rice and barley and found the key genes which respond to oxidative stress conditions. In both species, AOX is encoded by four genes; in rice OsAOX1a, 1c, 1d and 1e representing four clades, and in barley, HvAOX1a, 1c, 1d1 and 1d2, but no 1e. All three subfamilies of plant ND genes, NDA, NDB and NDC are present in both rice and barley, but there are fewer NDB genes compared to Arabidopsis. Cyanide treatment of both species, along with salt treatment of rice and drought treatment of barley led to enhanced expression of various AP components; there was a high level of co-expression of AOX1a and AOX1d, along with NDB3 during the stress treatments, reminiscent of the co-expression that has been well characterised in Arabidopsis for AtAOX1a and AtNDB2.