It’s Better with Barley!

When it comes to grains, do not underestimate barley, an ancient grain with a host of health benefits. One of the world’s most treasured cereal grains, it is use by cooks and chefs around the globe.

When exploring barley, it is important to note that barley is available hulled or pearled. 

  • Hulled barley is minimally processed and earns the whole grain title. While the inedible outer hull is removed, the grain still retains the bran and endosperm layer. 
  • Pearled barley, while still a nutritious choice, is not technically considered a whole grain. The outer shell, the bran, and sometimes part of the endosperm is removed. As you would expect, pearled barley is still nutritious, but not as nutritionally dense as its hulled cousin. 
  • The benefit of pearled barley is that it cooks in 25-30 minutes, compared to hulled barley which takes 45 minutes to an hour to cook. 
  • Once cooked, barley, in either form, can be used interchangeably. Be sure to note which type of barley is being called for when using the grain in a recipe.

A single cup of pearled barley has 193 calories along with 6 grams of fiber and 3.5 grams of protein. Hulled barley has a slightly higher load of the main nutrients due to being a whole grain, but both are excellent choices – rich in phytonutrients with a low glycemic index. 

Because of barley’s chewy texture and nutty flavor, the grain lends itself well to soups, stews, salads, cereals, breads, and fermented beverages. 

It is available as flour, flakes, grits, and more. You can use barley in any number of ways, as it will not overpower other flavors. Barley can take the place of almost any other grain in a recipe, but it is most similar to brown rice and farro in taste and texture. While barley is not a wheat product, it is important to note that the grain is not gluten free. 

Barley cooks up just like any other grain – simply boil water. It swells considerably when cooked, so 1 cup of dry barley grains will yield 3 cups of tender cooked grains. Follow package directions for specific cooking instructions. Barley is ready when most (or all) of the liquid is absorbed, and the barley is tender with a slightly chewy texture.

Enjoy the grain right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days. Since barley freezes well for up to 3 months, extra barley can easily be recycled for dishes like soups or casseroles. 

Barley can be enjoyed all day long in so many different ways:  

  • Enjoy as a hot cereal with a dollop of protein-rich Greek yogurt or creamy ricotta cheese and top with fresh, seasonal, or dried fruit.
  • Use as a base of any grain salad or grain bowl. 
  • For a heart-healthy dish packed with flavor, try this Barley and Black Bean Salad.
  • Barley adds heartiness to this traditional Beef Barley Soup. Or for a lighter, but still robust soup, this Chicken Barley Soup may fit the bill.
  • Perfect for a chilly night, this nourishing Beef Stew is packed with vegetables, mushrooms, and barley. Make a pot of this stew up to 2 days ahead so it is ready for a quick reheat for a weeknight dinner.
  • For an easy side, this tomato-based risotto uses barley instead of rice. It is an ideal accompaniment for any chicken, fish, or meat entrée.
  • This high fiber Vegetable Barley Ragout made with cauliflower and cremini mushrooms is a delectable meatless stew that is filling enough to satisfy any comfort-food craving. 
  • This Great Northern Bean and Barley Salad was a big hit at Jill’s recent program about Pulses!

Great Northern Bean and Barley Salad

Serves 6 

Make this easy salad one day and enjoy it during the week. Pair with a whole grain bread for a satisfying plant-based meal.


  • 1 cup pearl barley, uncooked
  • 4 cups of water or low sodium broth
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 -15 oz can of Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
  • ½ cup bottled champagne vinaigrette dressing
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper


  1. Combine barley, water or broth and salt (optional) in a 4-5 quart sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20-25 minutes. Drain and lightly rinse.
  2. Place beans, barley, tomatoes, walnuts, herbs, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in vinaigrette and mix well. 

Per 1-cup serving: 375 calories, 16 grams fat, 1 grams sat fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, 350 mg Sodium, 49 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 11 grams protein

Recipe adapted from

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