Barley Porridge

Barley porridge
Zoryana Ivchenko/Getty Images
Prep: 6 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Pre-soaking Barley: 60 mins
Total: 96 mins
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
116 Calories
1g Fat
25g Carbs
4g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 116
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 11mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Protein 4g
Calcium 72mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Long ago, porridges were made exclusively with the grains themselves. One of the reasons people never liked making barley porridge was due to the length of time it took for the grain to cook. This recipe uses whole barley and follows that tradition in needing a long cooking time. The result is a mild-flavored porridge with a slightly malted flavor (malted barley is used in making beer) and a hint of nuttiness.

Barley porridge is a satisfying breakfast that is traditional in Nordic countries, from which Vikings spread it to their settlements throughout Europe. It is also traditional in the islands of the Caribbean, where cane sugar is used as the sweetener.

Barley is rich in beta-glucan, a form of fiber (also seen in oats) that has a cholesterol-lowering effect. A bowl of porridge is good for your intestinal health. As a whole grain, it also has a lower glycemic effect and won't raise your blood sugar as much as, for example, a piece of white bread. However, if you are sensitive to gluten it is important to know that barley contains gluten.


  • 1/2 cup whole barley
  • 4 1/2 cups water (divided)
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • Sugar, to taste (or honey)

Steps to Make It

  1. Soak the barley in 3/4 cup water for 1 hour.

  2. At the end of the hour, add the remaining 3 1/2 cups of water to a saucepan along with the cinnamon stick, cover the pot and bring it to a boil.

  3. Add the soaked barley as well as the soaking liquid to the boiling water and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes or until the barley is soft.

  4. Remove the pot from the heat and sweeten with sugar and milk to taste, stirring until fully incorporated.

  5. Serve hot with toppings such as fruit and nuts.


  • You can make many variations on this recipe in fruit, nuts, and spices you can include. Chopped almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans will add some crunch.
  • Blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries are excellent choices to top your porridge, either fresh in season or using frozen fruit that you have defrosted. You can include chopped fruit such as pears, peaches, or apples and add them in the last three minutes of cooking to soften them. Similarly, dried fruit such as raisins, figs, or chopped dates can be added at the end of cooking. These can give the porridge enough natural sweetness that you can use less sugar or omit it entirely.
  • You can make the barley porridge the base for a savory dish, omitting the sugar, adding chopped ham and topping it with a poached egg.
  • These days, the ground versions of grains such as barley, sago, and oats are readily available to make porridge. The cooking time is significantly reduced when using ground grains, so ground barley porridge cooks up quickly.