12 Ways to Cook With Barley

Barley vegetable soup with lentils recipe

The Spruce

Barley is an ancient grain that's nutritious, affordable, and easy to cook. The pleasantly chewy and lightly nutty grain can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. Use it to add texture and heft to soups and stews, pilafs, porridge, and stuffing. Barley can even be used to make a nourishing tea.

To cook barley for a recipe that calls for the grain to be cooked, combine one cup of barley and two cups of water or broth in a pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Barley is also delicious added to salads or tossed with fresh herbs and lemon for a simple side dish.

Note that all of these recipes call for pearled or pearl barley. This type of barley has the outermost layer of bran removed, making it much quicker and easier to cook. It's also the most common variety found in the grocery store.

  • 01 of 12

    Easy Homemade Vegetarian Barley and Vegetable Soup

    Basic vegetarian barley soup

    The Spruce

    Tender barley makes this vegan soup a meal in a bowl. Flavored with tomato, bay leaves, and parsley, vegetarian barley soup is easy to customize to suit your tastes. Use your favorite mix of vegetables in this soup—as long as you cook them until tender, any veggies will work in this versatile dish. Mushrooms would add a nice earthy element, and sausage can be added if you're not vegetarian. Use vegetable broth for the best flavor.

  • 02 of 12

    Crock Pot Turkey Barley Soup

    Turkey barley soup recipe

    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

    Crock pot turkey barley soup is a nice rustic spin on chicken noodle soup and is a tasty way to use up leftover turkey. After quickly sautéing the vegetables, simply add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker and let it fill your house with a delicious aroma. Instructions are included for cooking the dish on the stovetop if you don't have a slow cooker.

  • 03 of 12

    Vegan Barley, Wild Rice, and Cranberry Pilaf

    Vegan barley, wild rice cranberry pilaf recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Nutty, chewy barley pairs up with wild rice for a healthy and delicious vegan pilaf. Orange juice, lemon juice, and dried cranberries add a fruity touch. Walnuts add a delicious crunch and, if you're not eating vegan, feta cheese adds salty creaminess. The festive side dish is worthy of a Thanksgiving spread but simple enough for an autumn family meal.

  • 04 of 12

    Vegetarian Barley Stuffed Squash

    Vegetarian stuffed acorn squash

    The Spruce / Jolinda Hackett

    Barley stuffed squash is an attractive vegetarian main dish that's easy to make. The barley is cooked with vegetables and vegetable broth for a flavorful filling. Stuffed into acorn squash halves and roasted, it's a filling dish that's easy to embellish. Add dried cranberries, sautéed mushrooms, or chopped fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Vegetarian Bean and Barley Vegetable Soup

    Vegetarian bean and barley soup

    The Spruce

    Beans provide delicious protein in this barley vegetable soup. The recipe calls for pinto beans, but white beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans also work nicely. A mix of dried spices adds fragrant flavor to the warming soup. Add whatever vegetables you like, such as cauliflower, zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, or cabbage.

  • 06 of 12

    Lemon Barley Water

    Lemon barley water

    The Spruce

    Lemon barley water is a nourishing drink that tastes great hot or cold. Pearled barley is boiled along with lemon zest, and then the liquid is strained. Mixed with fresh lemon juice and honey, it's a sweet and tart drink with a nutty, bready flavor from the grains. If you'd like a little spice, add some fresh-grated ginger.

  • 07 of 12

    Mushroom Barley Soup

    Mushroom Barley Soup

    cheche22 / Getty Images

    Mushrooms and barley frequently appear in recipes together, and for good reason—they are an excellent flavor combination. The two ingredients come together in mushroom barley soup for a vegetarian main dish that's always a favorite. Using both dried, reconstituted mushrooms as well as fresh mushrooms gives this dish layers of flavor.

  • 08 of 12

    Easy Greek-Style Barley Salad

    Easy Greek style barley salad

    ​The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

    Barley provides a pleasantly chewy base for this Greek-style salad. Bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion, and parsley make this dish super fresh, and crumbled feta cheese and olives amp up the flavor. A simple, healthy vinaigrette brings the whole dish together. Add some spinach or baby greens if you like and serve as a light lunch or as a side dish to grilled fish or chicken.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Shrimp, Barley and Lemon Stew

    shrimp and barley stew

    The Spruce / Laurel Randolph 

    Barley adds a natural creaminess to soup broth, giving this shrimp, barley, and lemon stew body. Sweet potato brings a little sweetness and spinach adds color and a different texture. Fresh lemon zest and juice adds brightness and pairs perfectly with the tender shrimp. Don't add the shrimp until the end so that they don't overcook.

  • 10 of 12

    High-Protein Barley Vegetable Soup With Lentils

    Barley vegetable soup with lentils recipe

    The Spruce

    Lentils and barley are a nutritious and filling base for a high-protein vegetable soup. They also cook for about the same amount of time, making this dish mostly hands-off. Mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce add rich flavor and lemon juice and parsley keep the soup light. Serve with crusty bread or a green salad for a satisfying lunch.

  • 11 of 12

    Korean Barley Tea (Bori Cha)

    Korean barley tea recipe

    The Spruce / Teena Agnel

    Bori cha, or roasted barley tea, is a popular beverage in Korea. Served hot or cold, barley tea is nutty and toasty. If you can't find roasted barley or barley tea, you can make your own at home. Roast barley in a sauté pan just until browned and toasted, careful not to burn the grains since it will produce a bitter taste in the tea. Refrigerate any leftovers.

  • 12 of 12

    Barley Breakfast Delight

    Barley Breakfast Delight

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Barley doesn't just make great savory dishes. The grain also takes well to sweet applications like this breakfast delight. Cooked with pear nectar, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon, it's like a fruity and spiced oatmeal. But unlike oats, barley grains tend to retain their texture while still creating a thick, porridge-like consistency. Top with a sprinkle of nuts and dried fruit for a healthy morning meal.