Barley: The Secret to Perfection in the Kitchen

Follow this recipe to the letter, and you'll always have perfectly cooked barley. Barley, a whole grain that is tender and chewy when cooked, is nutritious, simple to prepare, and has many applications.

Side angle shot of cooked barley in a blue bowl

A little more exploration of my Mediterranean kitchen cupboards One of my favorite grains, barley is today's featured ingredient.


Barley, being a whole grain, has a pleasant chewy texture and a mildly nutty flavor. Because of its high fiber content, abundance of vitamins, and mineral content, it is a common component of the Mediterranean diet.

Barley is a versatile ingredient, and I frequently use it as a soup or salad topper or a meal starter. I've used it as a stuffing for squash, and when I want a sweet breakfast cereal, I make a bowl of warm barley, milk, and Greek honey.   

Hulled vs grains of pearl

Hullered barley and pearled barley are the two most common kinds.

Crushed grain

Hulled barley is a form of minimally processed barley in which only the inedible outer hull is removed, leaving the bran and endosperm intact. Hullered barley is more nutritious, but it needs to be soaked in cold water for a few hours before it can be cooked. However, the cooking time is significantly longer (45 minutes to 1 hour).

Whole grain barley with pearls

Pearl barley, which is my favorite kind of simple grain, is a lighter cream color because it lacks the husk and bran layers. Although pearl barley is not technically a "whole grain," it still provides a number of health benefits. To save time and effort, I usually opt for the pearled variety, which is ready to eat in under 30 minutes (without pre-soaking). )

Barley, in whatever variety you select, is simple to prepare. You only need a few cups of water or broth and some basic seasonings (plain kosher salt will do). )

barley in a bowl with a bag of dry barley in the back

Could you tell me if barley contains gluten?

Barley should not be consumed by those on a gluten-free diet because it contains gluten. For barley-based dishes, the closest gluten-free grain substitute is brown rice. In a bind, quinoa can stand in.


There are three cups of liquid required to cook one cup of barley. Barley, like many other grains, expands considerably when cooked, so you can expect to get three times as much tender cooked barley from one cup of dry barley grains.

Procedure for Preparing Barley for Meal

In this case, I'm working with pearl barley, but the cooking process is essentially the same for hulled barley. Here's how to whip some up:

  • In the case of hulled barley, soaking the dry grains is necessary. Add 3 cups of water to the dry hulled barley grains in a large bowl. Don't touch it for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. This step is completely discretionary, but it does improve the cooking water's ability to permeate the grains. (If you are using pearl barley, skip this step.)
  • Get the grains going. Combine 1 cup of barley with 3 cups of water (or broth) and bring to a boil. Adjust seasonings to taste. A sprinkle of kosher salt does the trick for me. Simmer, covered, on medium heat until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes to an hour. Cooking time for pearl barley is 25-30 minutes, while hulled barley takes 45-60 minutes to prepare.

    cooked pearled barley in a pot

  • Garnish and drain. The cooked barley should be drained in a colander. Chop some parsley and sprinkle it on top before serving.

    barley in a colander to drain

What is the shelf life of cooked barley?

Advantageously, this grain can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for later use. Also, it can be frozen.

When the barley has cooled to room temperature, place it in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. It has a three- to four-day shelf life in the refrigerator.

Alternatively, once the grains have cooled, they can be stored in the freezer for up to one month. If you'd like to reheat the barley the next day, simply let it defrost in the fridge. Then, combine it with a few tablespoons of water and place it in a saucepan on the stove. Barley can be warmed in a covered pan over medium heat, tossing it occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

Barley's many possible applications

Barley's mild, nutty flavor makes it an extremely adaptable grain. As it does not compete with other flavors, it can be used in a variety of applications.

Barley is a very versatile grain that can be used in place of any other grain in a recipe. It has a flavor and texture that are most like brown rice and farro.

Use it to up the volume in dishes like this roasted cauliflower salad or this turmeric lemon chicken soup (I purposefully don't add noodles to the chicken soup, saving that space for grains).

For added coziness, I like to serve my stews over a bed of pearl barley. This chicken stew in the style of the Mediterranean is one of my favorite dishes to serve with barley because it is both comforting and satisfying.

Cooked barley can stand in for rice in easy dinner bowls like my Mediterranean tuna bowls or Lebanese chicken fatteh bowls.

And when I'm in the mood for something sweet, I make a porridge out of pearl barley and flavor it with dried fruit, savory spices, and a touch of brown sugar, as I do in this recipe for burbara.

The applications of this healthy grain are practically limitless. Blend things that wouldn't normally go together

horizontal image of barley in a blue bowl

More FAQs

Compare the nutritional value of barley and rice.

Barley shares a nutritional profile with both white and brown rice. On the other hand, it's a better source of fiber. Barley is superior to other grains if you're trying to up your fiber intake.

In what ways does barley benefit one's diet?

The high fiber content aids in digestion and satiety. It's a good source of nutrients like vitamin B3 and the minerals copper, manganese, selenium, and phosphorus.

Should barley be soaked before being cooked?

Pearl barley, unlike other grains, does not require soaking before being cooked. A few hours of soaking time in water prior to cooking is recommended for hulled barley. In any case, the hulled grain will take longer to cook (around 35–40 minutes).

Foods you can make with barley

We are currently highlighting Pearl Barley. Browse through all the cereals

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Check out some other Mediterranean recipes.

  • It is not necessary to soak pearled barely (move on to the next step). When preparing a dish with hulled barley, you can choose to soak the grains in water for a few hours before cooking. Put 1 cup of dry hulled barley grains and 3 cups of water into a large bowl to start the soaking process. Keep aside for a minimum of a few hours and up to an entire night to soak.
  • Add 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of boiling water or broth. Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and cook. Barley takes about 25 minutes for pearl barley and up to an hour for hulled barley to reach tenderness and a chewy consistency when cooked at a simmer. Drain
  • A fork should be used to fluff the cooked pearl barley. If you'd like some parsley on top, add it now.
  • Dry vs An approximate three times as much cooked barley can be obtained from one cup of dry barley.
  • How long should I soak barley before using it? Unlike other grains, pearl barley doesn't need to be soaked before cooking. Soaking hulled barley for a few hours before cooking is recommended.  
  • Cooked barley should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It has a three-day shelf life. It can be frozen for up to a month if kept in an airtight container. For a speedy reheat, defrost frozen barley in the fridge the night before. Next, place the barley and a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Warm for a few minutes, covered, over medium heat, or until hot.  
  • Barley: Where to Find It Browse our online store for barley and other grains.
  • Come to our store for authentic Mediterranean foodstuffs, such as EVOO, spices, grains, and more.  
Calories: 176 kcal Carbohydrates: 38.9 g Protein: 5 g Fat: 0.6 g Animal Fat: 0.1 g Unsaturated Fat: 0.3 g The Benefits of Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g Sodium: 13.4 mg Potassium: 140 mg Fiber: 7.8 g Sugar: 0.4 g Vitamin A: 11 IU Calcium: 19.8 mg Iron: 1.3 mg
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