How to Cook Barley: A Guide

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It looks as if quinoa and rice are the darlings of the entire grain world, however we’re right here to discuss to you about one other entire grain you need to have in your repertoire—barley! This chewy, nutty grain is beautiful as a aspect dish, tossed into salads or soups, and even used rather than rice, quinoa, or farro in recipes.

We will discuss in regards to the fundamentals of buying barley, cooking it, and serving it. Let’s get cooking.

What is barley?

Barley is a complete grain that’s typically used as a aspect dish, blended into salads, or added to soups and stews to thicken them. It has a barely nutty taste, and it tends to have a considerably chewy texture. Barley is an efficient supply of protein and fiber, and it’s additionally reasonably priced, which makes it an awesome grain to incorporate into many dishes.

Uncooked, dry grains spread out in a single layer.

What’s the distinction between pearl barley and hulled barley?

There are two varieties of barley: hulled barley and pearl barley. They each have an analogous taste; nonetheless, there are some distinct variations between them.

Hulled barley is a browny-white in look. It has a firmer, chewier texture than pearl barley when cooked, and it doesn’t soak up as a lot water. The fiber-filled bran layer is left on, which suggests it’s thought of a complete grain. In some recipes, you may additionally see hulled barley referred to as pot barley.

Wholefully Protip

Hulled barley will get its identify as a result of the outer hull (inedible and difficult) is faraway from the grain. But hulled barley retains its bran and endosperm layers.

Pearl barley is extra processed than hulled barley due to the eliminated fiber-filled bran and endosperm layers. It’s nonetheless thought of a nutritious grain, however it lacks the fiber that hulled barley has.

Pearl barley absorbs a number of water, which is particularly obvious when added to a soup. It can proceed to swell after the soup has completed cooking, leaving you with a thick barley stew while you pull your leftovers out of the fridge.

Some folks like this impact, utilizing pearl barley as a soup thickener. However, for those who’re trying to maintain your soup to a thinner consistency, you’re higher off utilizing hulled barley.

Finished barley recipe in a bowl on a blue table.

Is barley gluten-free?

While we love the entire grain that’s barley, it’s not gluten-free. If you might be celiac or in any other case can’t eat gluten, you’ll want to steer freed from barley.

Should you rinse barley earlier than cooking?

Yes! Rinsing barley earlier than cooking is a good suggestion as a result of bits of mud and particles can get caught in with the kernels. To do that, fill a pot with sufficient water that your barley is roofed by about an inch. Swish the barley round, drain the water, and repeat till the water seems to be clear.

Close view of plump cooked grains in a bowl.

Does barley have to be pre-soaked?

Nope! Barley doesn’t have to be pre-soaked earlier than you cook dinner it—you possibly can simply rinse it (or not) and cook dinner! If it isn’t pre-soaked, barley tends to be chewier and firmer. Soaked barley will cook dinner up to be a bit extra tender. It’s actually up to private desire.

The key profit to pre-soaking your barley is that it might make them simpler to digest If you resolve to pre-soak, cowl the dried grain in water in a bowl, and let it sit out in a single day on the countertop. When it’s time to cook dinner, drain the barley, after which proceed with the recipe—lowering the quantity of water you cook dinner with from three cups to two and a half cups—roughly a 15% discount. Your barley can even take much less time to cook dinner, so scale back the cooking time by about ten minutes.

Overhead of cooked barley grains in a wooden bowl.

How to Cook Barley in an Instant Pot

Cooking barley in an Instant Pot is tremendous easy; simply toss in your water and barley, set the time, and stroll away. Less than half an hour later, and also you’ve obtained contemporary, chewy barley!

For Hulled Barley:

Add one cup of hulled barley and two and a half cups of water—or rooster or vegetable broth—to your Instant Pot.
Cook on excessive stress for 25 minutes.
Let the Instant Pot launch stress naturally for quarter-hour.

For Pearl Barley:

Add one cup of pearl barley and two cups of water—or rooster or vegetable broth—to your Instant Pot.
Cook on excessive stress for 20 minutes.
Let the Instant Pot launch stress naturally for quarter-hour.

Fluffy cooked barley in a pot with a wooden spoon.

How to Cook Barley on the Stovetop

Cooking barley on the stovetop takes a bit longer than within the Instant Pot, however it’s simply as easy.

Add one cup of barley—pearl or hulled—to a big saucepan, together with three cups of water or inventory.
Bring it to a boil and let the barley simmer uncovered over medium warmth. Pearl barley must be checked after 25 minutes, and hulled barley must be checked after 40 minutes.
It is finished when the barley is tripled in measurement and feels tender. If your pot runs out of liquid earlier than the barley is completed cooking, add extra water or inventory and maintain checking each 5 minutes.

Wholefully Protip

Barley tends to foam and boil over because it comes to a boil. Keep an eye fixed on it, and ensure to scale back the warmth to a simmer as soon as it’s boiling.

Overhead of grain salad with radish, asparagus, and cooked barley.

How a lot barley are you able to count on to have after it’s cooked?

With grains like barley that swell and develop, it may be difficult to decide simply how a lot you’re going to have while you’re executed cooking. But we’ve obtained a simple trick for you. Just stick to this ratio: one cup of cooked barley will cook dinner up to three cups of cooked barley.

Wholefully Protip

If you’re trying to infuse your barley with a bit extra taste, why not cook dinner it in vegetable or rooster broth as an alternative of water? Barley will take in the liquid it’s cooked in, so it’s an awesome candidate for including spices and taste in the course of the cooking course of.

How do you retailer cooked barley?

Cooked barley shops very effectively. If you’re going to be utilizing it inside three days, you possibly can retailer it within the fridge in an hermetic container. If you’re on the lookout for extra prolonged storage, it lasts for up to three months within the freezer in an hermetic container.

Tight view of spoonful of beef barley soup on a spoon.

Colorful dish of cooked barley and fresh vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers on a plate.

How do you cook dinner with barley?

The most typical use for barley is in soups and stews. If you’re on the lookout for a great barley soup recipe, you possibly can’t go unsuitable with my vegan fall vegetable stew with black beans and barley! When including to a soup or stew, you often add dry barley and let it cook dinner within the broth to soak up the flavour of your dish.

When your barley is pre-cooked, it makes a superb base for veggie and grain bowls. You may use it in its place to wheat berries in your entire grain salads. Cooked barley even works as an oatmeal different for breakfast. Here are some barley recipes to get you began:


Close view of grains of barley on a wooden spoon.

How to Cook Barley

3 cups

Cook Time:

Total Time:

Barley is a nutritious and versatile entire grain that may be an awesome addition to many dishes. Before you boil your pot of barley, find out how to cook dinner it on this publish.


For Stove Top:

1 cup of pearled or hulled barley

3 cups water or broth

For Instant Pot, Pearl Barley

1 cup pearl barley

2 cups water (or broth)

For Instant Pot, Hulled Barley

1 cup hulled barley

2 ½ cups water (or broth)


For Stove Top:

Bring barley and water or broth to a boil, then take away the lid and scale back the warmth. Simmer uncovered. For pearl barley, begin checking at 25 minutes. For hulled barley, begin checking at 40 minutes. The barley is finished when it has tripled in quantity and is tender but chewy. Add extra water if the pan turns into dry earlier than the barley has completed cooking; verify each 5 minutes till desired chewiness is reached.

For Instant Pot:

Cook barley and water or broth on excessive stress for 20 minutes for pearl barley or 25 minutes for hulled barley.Let Instant Pot naturally launch for quarter-hour.

Nutrition Information:

Yield: 6

Serving Size: 1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving:

Calories: 111Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 71mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

At Wholefully, we consider that good diet is about rather more than simply the numbers on the diet details panel. Please use the above data as solely a small a part of what helps you resolve what meals are nourishing for you.

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