Lemon Barley Water Recipe

Lemon barley water

The Spruce

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 5 to 6 servings
Yields: 5 to 6 cups
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
148 Calories
0g Fat
38g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 148
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 8mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Protein 2g
Calcium 35mg 3%
*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.)

Lemon barley water is an old-fashioned tonic that was given to the weak as an alternative source of nourishment.

As a child, my mother would be served breakfast in bed when she was under the weather. On her breakfast tray, would be a vase with a fresh rose in it, a boiled egg and Vegemite toast and a bottle of lemon barley water to help buoy her spirits.

Some people use sugar in their recipes, but try honey for a more intense flavor. If you have any ginger handy, finely grate about 1 tablespoon of it and boil it with the barley for a gingery kick.

Pearl barley or pearled barley is the variety best suited for this recipe. Pearled barley just means that the bran has been removed through a polishing process and has been steam treated for quicker cooking.


  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 2 lemons (zested and juiced)​
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for lemon barley water
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  2. Place the barley in a sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear.

    Wash barley
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  3. Place barley in a 2-quart saucepan with grated lemon zest and 6 cups of water.

    Place barley in a pan
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  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

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  5. Strain mixture into a heatproof bowl. Discard the barley.

    Strain barley
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  6. Add honey to bowl and stir to dissolve.

    Stir in honey
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  7. Stir in lemon juice and then let the mixture cool to room temperature.

    Stir in lemon juice
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  8. Pour into bottles and refrigerate until chilled.

    Pour into bottles
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  9. Serve and enjoy!

Why Barley Water Is Touted to Be Good for You

Drinking barley water for health reasons dates to the ancient Egyptians. Barley is loaded with B and E vitamins, antioxidants and 8 g fiber per 1/4 cup raw.

Barley Water Is Consumed Worldwide

In Mexico, lemon barley water is one variety of a popular street beverage known as aguas frescasBrits,
Australians and Asians all have their own varieties drunk either chilled or warm.

Using Barley Instead of Rice in Cooking

Just as brown rice is considered a healthier alternative to white rice, barley trumps brown rice. It cooks a little differently, so follow the tips below.

  • Barley takes much longer to cook (about an hour for 1 cup of dry barley) than white or brown rice.

  • Barley requires more liquid than white or brown rice (3 cups of water per 1 cup of dry barley).

  • Barley is meant to have a bite to it (be al dente). If you prefer more tender barley, soak it overnight using 2 cups water to 1 cup dry barley). When ready to cook, drain it and bring 3 cups water for every 1 cup soaked rice to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

  • For variety, try using chicken, beef or vegetable broth instead of water and add chopped onion, minced garlic or fresh chopped herbs.