Pearl Barley - how do you use it?

I’m looking for information on Pearl Barley. I saw a youtuber use it in a soup, but I don’t really know what it is. Can anyone educate me a bit about Pearl Barley??
What are its uses??
Is it a substitute for rice?? (Sunshine is getting tired of rice as a starch with dinner)
Do you like it??

Any and all opinions, ideas, information are welcome.

Please and Thank You!!


You could use it as a rice sub. Most often, it is added to soups and stews as the carb (and it gives off enough starch to help thicken). You see it paired with beef and/or mushroom a lot. Here’s a lighter take with chicken (use whatever herbs you want):

I like it, but tend to buy it during cooler weather, since stews are more of a fall/winter thing for us.

If you have leftovers, I’ve treated it like rice and done a fried rice approach with it. It works.


@Desert-Dan - since this would be a great discussion for others who might not be reading the NAF board, I moved it and its reply to a new thread here in the Cooking Discussions board.


When I tire of brown rice or farro, pearl barley is my go to. I use it in place of oatmeal, in salads, and stuffing and even drink the broth. Healthy stuff.

ETA: colder months its great in lentil soup.


As for me - I love pearl barley in things like beef-barley-vegetable stew - which I also think of more as a cold weather meal. It really helps to thicken the stew/soup.

Be warned - a recipe might tell you to add only a quarter or half cup of pearl barley to whatever soup/stew you’re making, and when you add it, you look at it and say “No way is that going to be enough!” and you add more. Ummm…yeah. Don’t do that. You’ll then find out that barley absorbs a LOT of liquid and increases in size, and can thicken a soup/stew so much you need to add a lot more liquid! (Ask me how I know that. :slight_smile: )

So start with what the recipe calls for, and if you like the recipe, add a bit more the next time in a small increment.

How to use it? Risottos, casseroles, a summer salad with veggies, as part of a stuffing mix. If I have leftover lamb, I love to make a lamb & barley stew with potatoes and carrots and tons of fresh complimentary herbs. It’s a filling grain, IMO - fills you up without feeling stuffed. You want a bit of a bite to it - I wouldn’t call it “al dente” but you want a bit of a chew, is probably better phrasing.

Lots of recipes out there:


I know this is not answering your question, but has she tried farro? Semi pearled farro has been a revelation for me, especially in salads.


Thank You!! @LindaWhit

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I have never heard of farro, but I will research that, as well.

Thank you!!

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By co-incidence, dinner tonight is a lamb & pearl barley casserole. This is the second half of the cooked dish. As often with dishes like this, we made a big one - eat half & freeze half.

It’s also good for making a “risotto”. Something like this recipe from the wonderful Jeremy Lee


I do mine in my rice cooker.

Use 3 cups liquid, broth or water, for each 1 cup of pearled barley, 2.5 cups if you like a chewy texture.

Flavor the liquid with soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce or whatever you like, 1 tablespoon salty and 1 tablespoon aromatic.

Now you can make additions like enoki, beech or seafood mushrooms, or thinly sliced zucchini or Japanese eggplant atop the barley.

Set on steam. When the bell rings, fluff the barley, close the lid, and let it steam naturally for 10 minutes. If the barley is still underdone, add a tablespoon water and set on cook again.

I often add 1/2 cup lentils and up the water by 1/2 cup.


I add to my rice (white or brown) in a 1:1 ratio.

Cooked pearl barley is also great in stir-fry dishes, including with leeks and Chinese pork belly.


If you look how to utilize other grains beside rice I can highly recommend Joshua McFadden’s “Grains for Every Season” (but there are also other hood grain cookbooks). There are good recipes but more importantly it gives you good guidance how and when to use other grains - and there are many tasty ones like barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rye, bulgur, farro, freekeh, spelt, wheat berries etc. One recommendation I would have to use whole grains and not pearled one - it’s less about nutrition (but there is a significant difference) but more about much better flavor


I’ve used pearled barley for many years as a breakfast dish for the kids. Like oatmeal, usually sweetened but on occasion savory. It takes a lot more time than steel cut oats to get tender, but they thought it was worth the wait.

I’ve also used it in soups forever it seems, too. Mainly beef soups and minestrone. Not sure why I never grab it for poultry based soups. Just never do.


I have some fish sauce in the fridge, definitely going to try using my rice cooker, as well.

It appears the only store even remotely close to me that carries Pearl Barley is Walmart. Sunshine & I are going to be in that area on Thursday, so we’ll make a Walmart run and pick up a bag.

I’m excited to try something new & different. I’m also hoping Sunshine will take a liking to it. She really isn’t a fan of lentils, so I’ve been limiting my use of them. I really need to add some variety (and nutrition) to our meals.


Red and black beluga lentils basically melt away when you cook them, although they do leave the barley an interesting color. I would add some chopped onion or green onion with the lentils.


We bought a bag of sprouted barley which we did not care for. So in response, we bought a 5# bag of pearled at the ‘Indian’ H-Mart for next to nothing. When it is gone, I will experiment with a small bag of whole grain.

Also, the macros on pearled barley are still pretty fabulous. It is lightly refined and not highly processed.


I really enjoy his books.

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I’ve never seen anything but the pearled. Next time I’m in a market with more grain choices, I’ll look for the whole.

Does it take a longer cooking time?

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I’m going to keep trying but I tried one bag of emmer farro that I tried every thing I read about to get to the texture I wanted and couldn’t make it work, even after soaking, cooking for 40, 60, 80, 120+ minutes! I still have some though, so I will keep trying. Maybe it was just that bag.

In the meantime, I haven’t been able to find a good comparison of the nutritional profile of whole and semi pearled (one popular one calls it “scratched”) farro, so if anyone has one, or a whole farro brand that cooks reliably in 60 or less minutes, please share!

I follow their cooking instructions to the letter. I usually cook 4 cups at a time and freeze them in one cup portions to use in dishes.