Barley doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It is a very nutritious grain mostly known for its’ soluble fibre which helps lower cholesterol. Hulled barley (husk removed) is the whole grain version whereas pearl barley has been polished, and the bran and germ have been removed. As a result, hulled barley contains 7g of fibre in ½ cup cooked whereas pearl barley contains only 2g. Other forms of barley include Pot (scotch) barley which has been husked and ground and contains some bran, quick barley which has been steamed and will cook faster, flaked which has been flattened to look like oats and flour barley which can replace wheat flour in muffins and cookies.  

Whole grains, including barley, are known to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and consuming 3 servings per day may help reduce the risk of Type II diabetes by 30%. Whole grains may help protect against colorectal and stomach cancers and help lower blood pressure. Moreover, whole grains are digested more slowly and leave you feeling full longer. Barley has one of the lowest Glycemic Indexes of all the common grains.

1/2 cup cooked pearl barley contains 100 calories, 23 g carbohydrates, 2 g fibre, 1.8g protein and is a source of niacin, selenium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and calcium. Barley is one of the 3 grains that contains gluten, so it is not allowed on a gluten free diet.

Buying and Storing

You can buy barley from bulk bins so long as you know the bins are kept covered and are fresh. Otherwise stick to pre-packaged bags of barley. Once open, don’t keep it in the bag, transfer the barley to an airtight container and store it in a dark, cool cupboard or drawer. Stored properly barley can last several months. Pearl barley lasts longer than hulled barley because it does not contain the germ which is where most of the natural oils are.


The length of time for cooking depends on the type of barley you have.

Hulled barley: 1 hr 40 min

Pot (scotch) barley: 1 hr

Pearl Barley: 45 min

Flaked barley: 30 min

Quick barley: 10-12 min


Barley can be used in the same way as you would use rice, as a side dish, under stir fry or in soup. Barley is more chewy that rice and is a delicious addition to salads, stews and Buddah bowls. Top cooked barley with berries for breakfast or cook it in vegetable stock instead of water and add fresh herbs for a delicious side dish.

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