Best Barley Recipes

BarleyAdd some variety to your grains by experimenting with barley. Barley is considered the first grain to be domesticated and many consider it more digestible than other grains.

The most basic edible form is hulled barley, where the outer inedible hull is removed, but the bran and germ of the grain remain. Pearled barley is steam-processed to remove more of the bran. Most of the barley found in the typical supermarket is pearl barley. Although it is technically a refined grain, it’s much healthier than other refined grains because (a) some of the bran may still be present and (b) the fiber in barley is distributed throughout the kernel, and not just in the outer bran layer. Pearl barley cooks more quickly than whole grain barley.

Barley is rich in nutrients, especially in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which help lower cholesterol and cut the risk of diabetes.  It provides minerals such as manganese, selenium and copper, plus B vitamins and protein.  Like wheat and rye, barley contains gluten, which makes it useful as a flour, but unsuitable for those with gluten sensitivities.

From an environmental point of view, barley is a great choice. Inexpensive and easy to grow, barley provides exceptional erosion control and weed suppression in semi-arid regions and in light soils. It also can fill short rotation niches or serve as a topsoil- protecting crop during drought conditions in any region. It is more salt tolerant than other small grains and can sop up excess subsoil moisture to help prevent saline seep formation. Barley prefers cool, dry growing areas. As a spring cover crop, it can be grown farther north than any other cereal grain, largely because of its short growing period. It also can produce more biomass in a shorter time than any other cereal crop.

You’ll find hulled and pearl barley in the bulk bins at most natural food stores. Barley flour can be found in the baking section.

Barley can be used just like any other grain.  It is popular in soup, or as a pilaf dish, but can also be cooked like rice to serve with stews or curries.  To cook barley, just boil one cup in two cups of water or vegetable stock.


Persian Barley Bean Soup

This filling soup has a wonderful texture, thanks to the variety of grains and legumes it contains, and a fresh taste, thanks to the parsley, cilantro and mint.

Untitled-1Serves 6 to 8.  This recipe is from our own cookbook The Veg-Feasting Cookbook.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup rice
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup brown lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Garnish (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and turmeric and sauté for an additional minute. Add the rice, barley and lentils and stir to completely coat with the oil and the spices. Add the water, cover, and simmer over medium heat until the grains and lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes. Add the garbanzo beans, parsley, cilantro and spinach and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the garnish by heating the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and quickly sautéing the garlic, dried mint and salt for about one minute. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the mint/garlic sauce.

Barley Pilaf

This recipe is very flexible, and can be used as a main or side dish.  Just use whatever vegetables you have available, fresh or frozen, and add peas or beans for additional protein to make it a main dish.

Serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 2-3 cups mixed vegetables (eg. cauliflower florets, green beans, peas, mushrooms)
  • 1 14oz can garbanzo beans (to make it a complete meal)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Fresh basil, cilantro or parsley

In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in oil or a little water until soft.  Add the remaining ingredients, except the fresh herbs.  Bring to a boil, uncovered. Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 35-40 mins. Garnish with fresh herbs as desired, or sprinkle chili pepper flakes to give it some kick!

Breakfast Barley

Add some variety to your breakfast, and use up leftover cooked barley. 

Makes about 3 1/2-cup servings

  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1/2 cup vanilla rice milk (or other plant-based milk)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan or microwavable dish. Heat on the stove or in a microwave until hot.

Barley Scones

These tender scones are delicious plain or topped with fresh fruit. Barley flour is sold in natural food stores and some supermarkets.

Makes 12 scones

  • 1/4 cup fortified vanilla soy- or rice milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons barley flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix non-dairy milk, maple syrup, oil, and vinegar. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup barley flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and raisins in a food processor. Blend until well mixed and raisins are chopped.

Add non-dairy milk mixture and process until a ball of dough forms.

Transfer dough to a flat surface that has been dusted with the remaining 3 tablespoons barley flour. Flatten into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to score dough into 12 wedges (do not separate), then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned.