Barley is a whole grain that is inexpensive, nutritious, and delicious. So why isn't it used more often? This hearty grain is nutty tasting, with a slightly chewy texture. When properly cooked, it adds flavor and interest to everything from stews to salads. Start with barley to make delicious recipes your whole family will love.
Barley is high in dietary fiber, especially insoluble fiber, which is in short supply in the typical American diet. It also contains lots of beta glucan, a compound that helps lower cholesterol. Barley is a great source of niacin, a B vitamin that helps reduce the risk of heart disease. It also contains a good amount of magnesium, which can help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
There are several types of barley found in the grocery store. In decreasing order of nutrition, hulled barley is long-cooking, with just the hull removed. Pot barley just has the outer hull polished off, with some of the bran removed as well. Pearl barley has been polished, or 'pearled' several times, which removes the bran layer. While this makes the barley more quick-cooking, it also removes some nutrients. You can also find barley flakes and barley grits.
Barley requires very little preparation in the kitchen. Rinse it well and look it over to remove any extraneous debris like twigs or dirt. It is a natural whole grain, after all! Hulled barley cooks in about 90 minutes, while pearl barley takes about 45-55 minutes to cook to tender, nutty perfection. But always follow the package directions.
Add barley to just about any soup or stew, and think about using it in salads. It also makes a fabulous hot breakfast cereal. Enjoy these easy barley recipes!
Start with Barley Recipes
- Chicken Barley Corn Salad
This easy and beautiful main dish salad is the perfect choice for a hot day, or even in the dead of winter when you want to eat something fresh and light.
- Barley Breakfast Delight
I am not a fan of hot cooked cereals. I just don't like the texture of cooked oats or farina. But I'll eat cooked barley by the bowlful! This easy and delicious recipe can be made while you're getting ready for your day.
- Crockpot Beef and Barley Vegetable Soup
A hearty crockpot soup combines beef and barley in this delicious recipe.
- Crockpot Barley Casserole
You can serve this pilaf as a side dish or as a vegetarian main dish. Or add some cubed chicken breasts or thighs to the barley and cook it as directed until done for a great poultry main dish.
- Crockpot Barley Vegetable Soup
Lots of veggies, including sweet potato, onion, corn, and green beans, made this delicious vegetarian soup hearty.
- Barley Orange Salad
Here's a salad recipe with a twist: a sweet fruit salad that uses barley instead of rice. Try it!
- Tomato Barley Soup
This vegetarian soup is hearty and delicious. If you like it spicy, add some red pepper flakes or chopped jalapeno pepper to the carrot mixture.
- Beef and Barley Crockpot Stew
Beef round steak, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms make this hearty barley soup so delicious. And it cooks in the crockpot for long-simmered flavor.
- Cheesy Barley Sandwich Spread
I had a brainstorm about this recipe while researching this article. It's now my new favorite make ahead sandwich spread. Try it!
- Barley Black Bean SaladI love this rich and hearty main dish salad. It's a delicious vegetarian choice, but you can add some cooked chicken or ham if you'd like.
- Barley Salmon CasseroleSalmon, barley, and black beans make up this healthy and hearty main dish casserole recipe. It's perfect for a cold winter night.
- Chicken and Barley Black Bean Salad
Wild rice, black beans, chickens, and grape tomatoes combine with barley in this delicious main dish salad. I make this one even in the dead of winter!
- Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken Stew
This is one of my favorite stew recipes. The barley and chicken combination, with corn, onion, and baby carrots is delicious and nutritious.
- Crockpot Grains Cereal
And finally, this crockpot cereal recipe combines lots of whole grains with dried fruit to make a delicious, chewy, and hearty breakfast recipe.
Ho HV, Sievenpiper JL, Zurbau A, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effect of barley β-glucan on LDL-C, non-HDL-C and apoB for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(11):1239-1245. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.89
Della Pepa G, Vetrani C, Vitale M, Riccardi G. Wholegrain Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Evidence from Epidemiological and Intervention Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(9). doi:10.3390/nu10091288