This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

Here’s how to cook barley and our top barley recipes! This plump, chewy whole grain is ideal for salads, side dishes, and more.

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!

Here’s a grain that’s chewy, hearty, and works in everything from hearty comfort food to fresh salads: barley! This ancient whole grain has been nourishing humans for centuries, and for good reason. It’s packed with protein, fiber and vitamins: and it’s chewy texture and nutty flavor are irresistibly delicious! Throw it into salads and soups, or eat it as a side dish or as an alternative to rice. Here’s more about this grain and our top barley recipes!

What is barley?

Barley is a whole grain with a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It’s a seed of the grass family grass family Poaceae and is the fourth largest grain crop in the world, after wheat, rice and corn. It’s one of the oldest cereal grains and was grown in Egypt over 10,00 years ago!

Is barley gluten free? Barley contains gluten, so it’s not suitable for people with gluten-free diets. It’s not a type of wheat, a common misconception: they’re both different types of grass.

Types of barley

There are two types of barley you can find at the store: hulled and pearl. The difference is similar to white rice vs brown rice: like brown rice, hulled has less of the grain removed during processing. We tend towards using pearl because it cooks faster, but some people prefer the nutritional profile of hulled. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Hulled barley has just the outer husk of the grain removed, so it has more fiber than the pearl variety. It’s darker in color and takes about 1 hour to cook.
  • Pearled or pearl barley is the more common form that has the outer husk and bran layers removed. It takes less time to cook, about 30 minutes. It’s still very nutritious; see below.

Barley nutrition: hulled vs pearl

Some sources recommend eating hulled over pearl barley for nutrition reasons. But the nutritional differences between the two aren’t very significant! Pearl is still a great source of protein and fiber. Here is the nutrition breakdown for 100 grams of uncooked grain (about 1 ½ cups cooked):

Hulled barley35412.5 grams73.5 grams17.3 grams2.3 grams
Pearl barley3529.9 grams77.7 grams15.6 grams1.2 grams

Data source: Medical News Today

How to cook barley: some tips

There are a few ways to cook barley: head to the recipe below for our master method! Here are a few tips on the basic method before you start:

  • Use 3 parts water to 1 part barley. You can also cook it using the “pasta method” without measuring the water. Fill a large pot with water, bring it to a boil, then add the grains and cook until tender.
  • Simmer 25 to 30 minutes for pearl , or 45 to 1 hour for hulled barley. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. You can add more water if the pan becomes dry when cooking the hulled variety.
  • Drain and serve. Once tender, drain any excess water. Then you’re ready to serve! Add salt and butter or olive oil if you’re serving as a side dish, or you can allow it to cool if using in salads.
How to Cook Barley

Barley recipes

What’s the best way to use this grain in recipes? Make it as a side dish and use it instead of rice in dishes like stuffed peppers or fried rice. Or, add it to salads, soups, grain bowls, and more! Here are some ideas:

How to cook other whole grains

Want an alternative to this chewy grain? There are lots of other tasty whole grains to add to your repertoire. Here are a few of our top recipes:

  • Try Farro, a similar grain with a nutty flavor and quicker cook time
  • Go for Millet, a unique seed with a fluffy texture (gluten-free)
  • Try Quinoa, everyone’s favorite gluten-free grain
  • Opt for Bulgur Wheat, a hearty, quick cooking grain

This barley recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based and dairy-free.

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

How to Cook Barley (& Barley Recipes!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x


Here’s how to cook barley and our top barley recipes! This plump, chewy whole grain is ideal for salads, side dishes, and more.




  1. Place the barley, salt, and water in a pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes for pearl barley and 45 to 1 hour for hulled barley (for hulled barley, you can add more water if the pan becomes dry).
  3. Drain any excess water. Season with additional salt, butter or olive oil, and herbs if serving as a side dish. Or, place it in a single layer on a baking sheet and allow to cool for a few minutes (pop it in the freezer to speed up cooling) before using in salad recipes.
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Whole grain
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!