How to Cook Pearl Barley

What is Pearl Barley?

Barley comes hulled or pearl. All barley is nutritious and tasty, but hulled barley is also extremely tough and hard to cook. Parled barley, on the other hand, cooks relatively faster.

A cup of barley contains 24% of all the fiber your body needs. A cup of barley also gives over ten percent of your daily potassium requirements, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6, and protein, iron. 

In appearance and texture, barley is a bit like brown rice, but it is much chewier. It is also one of the oldest grains known to man, so it has stood the test of time. Besides being nutritious, barley is filling, and it can therefore help you eat smaller portions.  

Pearly barley is often cooked in soups and stews. It has a thickening effect when cooked together with the soups and stews, and it absorbs the flavor of the liquids in which you cook it. You should therefore cook your pearly barley in what you want it to taste like.

How Does Barley Become ‘Pearled?’

When farmers harvest the grain from the ears of barley, it still contains its bran. The barley that has its bran removed is known as dehulled or hulled barley. Barley becomes pearly when you polish the hull giving it a shiny coat. The hull ensures that your barley gives you all the nutrients we have listed above.

Cooking Pearl Barley 

pearl barley
Stuffed qail pearl barley @Pinterest

The first thing you should do when cooking pearly barley is rinsing it. Rinsing is essential when adding the barley straight to a simmering pot of a stew or soup. This cooking method where you add the barley directly to the pot is the most common, so you are likely to cook this way at some point.

Once you add the barley to the pot, you will let it simmer gently for about half an hour, and your parley barley will be ready. This is the approach that breaks down the barley causing it to thicken the broth or stew.

Cook the barley separately if you prefer to add it into the stew or broth without it thickening the food.

There are various ways to enjoy pearl barley, most of which involve using it as a substitute for rice. You can, therefore, add it where rice would be used as a stuffing, including wraps, stir-fries, green peppers, and fried rice.

You can either cook your barley on a stove-top, an instant pot, an instant pot, or using a rice cooker. The following are three methods.

Please note that barley swells. One cup of raw barley can give you up to three cups when cooked.

Stove Top

This method will yield enough pearly barley to serve one person.

– Add three cups of water to a big pot. You can also add vegetable, beef, or chicken soup in the same measure. Add a half cup of barley into the water or soup, put in a half tablespoon of salt, and let it boil.

– Reduce the heat on your stove when the barley boils and leave it to simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

– Drain any excess water and leave the barley to rest for about fifteen minutes.

– Fluff the barley and serve accordingly.

Instant Pot 

Using an instant pot reduces cooking time for your pearly barley. Take the following steps.

– Add water into a pot and put in your rinsed barley and salt to taste. Cover your pot and close its vent.

– Cook for twenty minutes under high pressure.

– Remove the vent and allow the pressure out until it is safe to open the pot.

– Drain any excess water in the pot.

– Fluff and serve.

Using a Rice Cooker 

– Put barley and water (or broth) in a ratio of 1:2.

– Close the rice cooker lid and set it at brown rice and start cooking.

– Cook until the cooker switches to ‘warm.’

– Wait for 5-10 minutes for the steam to continue cooking before opening and draining where necessary. 

You can also cook pearl barley in some more elaborate recipes. The following are examples.

Pearl Barley Pilaf – Four cups to serve eight


– 1 Cup of diced onion

– ½ cup of celery

– ½ cup of diced green capsicum – you can also use red or yell capsicum

– 3-4 ounces of drained can mushrooms or a cup of sliced mushrooms

– 1 Tablespoon of vegetable cooking oil

– 1 Teaspoon of bouillon (you can use vegetable, chicken, or beef bouillon depending on your preference)

– Italian seasoning


  1. Put a pan over a stove and set it at medium heat.
  2. Add the vegetable oil, celery, Italian seasoning, and onion. Allow the ingredients to cook on medium heat as you continue to stir until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the pearl barley, bell pepper, and mushrooms and stir until they mix well.
  4. Add enough water and add the bouillon. Ensure the bouillon dissolves in water and allows the mixture to boil. Reduce the heat once it starts to boil.
  5. Put a lid on the pan and cook on low heat for an hour. Ensure the barley is tender and it has absorbed the liquid before serving. Don’t drain.

Pearl BarleySome important tips

– As you have noticed above, pearly barley is tough. That’s why it takes half an hour to cook. You can shorten the cooking time by soaking it.

– The barley will usually contain some debris and excess starch. Clean it before cooking to remove the debris and excess starch. Cooked cereals stick together and lose their fluffiness when you cook them with their excess starch.

– We observed earlier that barley takes the flavor of whatever you cook it in. You can try cooking it in your favorite vegetable broth instead of plain water – it will take the flavor of the vegetables. You may also cook the barley in any other type of soup, such as beef or chicken.

There are a few more things you need to know about pearl barley. You can store cooked barley in an airtight container for up to two months in the freezer or a maximum of four days in the fridge. It is not safe to refreeze the barley after defrosting, so avoid doing it. You should also know that pearl barley has an abundance of gluten, and it is not suitable if you want to avoid gluten.

Jillian Noon

Hi, I am Jillian Noon, the owner of this beautiful cooking blog. I create this blog to share my passion for cooking and other kitchen & food tips. I hope you will enjoy it!

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