How to Cook Barley

Four Methods:Making Basic BarleyPreparing Baked BarleyCooking Barley SoupTossing Barley Salad

Barley is a nutty-flavored cereal grain high in fiber and many important minerals. It pairs well with a range of savory flavors, and can be fermented to produce alcohol. Depending on how it's cooked, barley may have a soft or chewy texture. Try the basic cooking method for plain barley below, or experiment with baked barley, barley soup, and barley salad.


Making Basic Barley

  • 1 cup (250 ml) pearl or hulled barley
  • 2 to 3 cups (500 to 750 ml) water

Preparing Baked Barley

  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
  • 1 cup (250 ml) uncooked hulled barley
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
  • 2 cups (500 ml) boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) chopped fresh parsley

Cooking Barley Soup

  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb (450 g) dried mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) flour
  • 2 qts (2 L) beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (250 ml) uncooked whole barley
  • 2 tsp (5 ml) salt

Tossing Barley Salad

  • 2 cups (500 ml) cooked barley
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup (250 ml) feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method 1
Making Basic Barley

  1. Image titled Cook Barley Step 1
    Place the water and barley in a large pot. Combine both ingredients in a large saucepan, making sure the water covers the barley completely.
    • You can also substitute broth for water and add salt (to taste) for enhanced flavor, but neither option is necessary.
  2. Image titled Cook Barley Step 2
    Bring the water to a boil. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover the saucepan with a lid.
    • Note that the barley may produce a lot of foam and threaten to boil over the saucepan. Stirring the barley and watching it closely should help minimize the risk of accidental spills.
  3. Image titled Cook Barley Step 3
    Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Pearl barley may finish within 25 minutes, while hulled barley will usually require up to 45 minutes.[1]
    • If the water boils away prematurely, add more about 1/2 cup (125 ml) at a time.
  4. Image titled Cook Barley Step 4
    Cook until all of the water has been absorbed. The barley should triple in volume and be soft, yet chewy.
    • You may need to test the barley every 5 minutes or so near the end of the cooking process until it reaches your desired consistency.
  5. Image titled Cook Barley Step 5
    Turn off the heat. Allow the barley to sit for 15 minutes without stirring, so that it can continue absorbing any excess water.
    • If there's still excess after letting the barley sit, you may need to drain the water away.
  6. Image titled Cook Barley Step 6
    Enjoy. Add the cooked barley to salad or soup, or toss with spices and oil for a delicious side dish.

Method 2
Preparing Baked Barley

  1. Image titled Cook Barley Step 7
    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grab a 1-1/2 to 2 quart (1-1/2 to 2 L) oven-safe baking dish. A glass or ceramic one with a lid is ideal.[2]
  2. Image titled Cook Barley Step 8
    Pour two cups of water into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil on the stove over high heat.
    • Note that you may also boil the water in a tea kettle.
  3. Image titled Cook Barley Step 9
    Place the barley in the baking dish. Pour the boiling water over the barley. Stir to combine.
  4. Image titled Cook Barley Step 10
    Stir in the butter and salt. Make sure that it is well-combined, then cover the dish with its lid.
    • If you do not have a lid for your baking dish, cover it tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. Image titled Cook Barley Step 11
    Bake for 60 minutes. Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for one hour. Place it on the center rack for best results.
  6. Image titled Cook Barley Step 12
    Remove the dish from the oven. Lightly fluff the finished barley with a spoon or fork. Spoon it into a serving dish and serve alongside a main course.

Method 3
Cooking Barley Soup

  1. Image titled Cook Barley Step 13
    Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.
    • Prepare the onions, carrots, and celery by chopping them into bite-sized pieces.
    • Prepare the mushrooms by soaking them in hot water. Note that this should be done about 30 minutes in advance. Strain the water, the chop the mushrooms.
  2. Image titled Cook Barley Step 14
    Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.
  3. Image titled Cook Barley Step 15
    Stir in the minced garlic. Cook the mixture for two minutes more, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.
  4. Image titled Cook Barley Step 16
    Add the mushrooms. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft. This should take another five minutes or so.
  5. Image titled Cook Barley Step 17
    Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium-low, and sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables. Stir the mixture every 30 second for roughly five minutes or until everything seems sticky, thick, and well-coated.[3]
  6. Image titled Cook Barley Step 18
    Gradually pour the broth into the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and add the broth about 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, stirring to combine well. Bring the soup to a slow boil once all of the broth is added.
    • Adding the broth gradually should make it easier for the flour to incorporate itself into the liquid, thereby thickening it. Adding the broth all at once may result in clumps or an unevenly thin consistency.
  7. Image titled Cook Barley Step 19
    Stir in the barley and the salt. Allow the liquid to reach a boil again, then cover the stockpot.
  8. Image titled Cook Barley Step 20
    Reduce the soup to a simmer. Allow it to cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. The soup is ready to serve when the barley is tender and the soup has thickened.
    • If desired, you can adjust the seasonings near the end of the cooking time. Consider adding more salt or sprinkling in some chopped parsley as desired.
  9. 9
    Enjoy. Serve the finished soup while it is still fresh and hot.

Method 4
Tossing Barley Salad

  1. Image titled Cook Barley Step 21
    Cook one cup of barley. Follow the instructions for "Basic Barley."
    • Combine 1 cup (250 ml) uncooked barley with 3 cups (750 ml) water over medium-high heat.
    • Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the barley for 30 minutes, or until soft.
    • Drain, then let the barley cool to room temperature before continuing.
  2. Image titled Cook Barley Step 22
    Place the cooked barley in a bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, and feta cheese. Toss well to combine.
  3. Image titled Cook Barley Step 23
    Combine the red wine vinegar, oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place these ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Use a whisk to mix the ingredients for one minute, or until the dressing appears evenly combined.[4]
  4. Image titled Cook Barley Step 24
    Pour the vinegar dressing over the barley. Mix well with a spoon, making sure to coat the salad evenly with the dressing.
  5. Image titled Cook Barley Intro
    Serve. For the best taste and texture, enjoy the barley salad immediately after preparing it.
    • You can also wait for up to two hours before serving the barley salad. Leave it out at room temperature, and serve it at room temperature.

Things You'll Need

Making Basic Barley

  • Large saucepan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Stove

Preparing Baked Barley

  • Oven
  • Stove
  • Baking dish
  • Saucepan
  • Aluminum foil

Cooking Barley Soup

  • Stock pot
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Stove

Tossing Barley Salad

  • Large saucepan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Stove
  • Large mixing bowl

Article Info

Categories: Cereal Grains