Lemon Barley Water

Lemon barley water

The Spruce

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 5 to 6 servings
Yield: 5 to 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
175 Calories
1g Fat
47g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 175
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 14mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 32g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 84mg 418%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 309mg 7%
*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 dates back to the ancient Egyptians and can be enjoyed hot or cold. 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. Some people use sugar in their recipes, but try honey for a more intense flavor. If you have any fresh ginger handy, finely grate about 1 tablespoon of it and boil it with the barley for a gingery kick.

Barley adds body and a nutty flavor to the drink. 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. Use the leftover barley to make a tasty side dish, add it to soup, or make risotto.


How to Make Your Own Lemon Barley Water

"Great tonic for cold and flu season! The suggestion of adding ginger is highly recommended." —Renae Wilson

Lemon Barley Water Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3/4 cup pearl barley

  • 2 medium lemons, zested and juiced

  • 6 cups water

  • 1/2 cup honey

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

    Barley being rinsed in a colander
    The Spruce
  3. Place barley in a 2-quart saucepan with grated lemon zest and 6 cups of water.

    Barley in a pan with water and lemon zest
    The Spruce
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

    Barley boiling on the stovetop
    The Spruce
  5. Strain mixture into a heatproof bowl. Reserve the barley for another use.

    Barley in a colander next to strained liquid in a bowl
    The Spruce
  6. Add honey to the bowl and stir to dissolve.

    Honey next to bowl of barley water with wooden spoon
    The Spruce
  7. Stir in lemon juice and serve hot or then let the mixture cool to room temperature.

    Squeezed lemons next to barley water
    The Spruce
  8. Pour into bottles and refrigerate until chilled. Serve and enjoy!

    Barley water in bottles
    The Spruce

How to Store

Barley water will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. If you like to enjoy barley water hot, you can reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.


Don't toss that barley! With a little more cooking, the grain can be used in a variety of applications:

  • The barley will only be partially cooked after making barley water. Pearl barley needs to simmer for at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour) in a 2:1 ratio of water or broth to grain. The barley is done cooking when it is tender with a bite, like al dente pasta, but not hard.
  • Use barley in salads or pilafs, as a hearty grain in soups and stews, or as a grain base and pile vegetables, meat, herbs, and sauces on top.