Top 10 tips for using barley

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Top 10 tips for using barley

Whenever I’m promoting food barley, one of the first questions I get asked is, “how do I incorporate barley into my diet?” With barley’s subtle nutty flavour and great texture, it’s so easy to add into soups, to use in salads and to replace your traditional sides.

To help you get started, here’s my helpful list of 10 ways to “Go Barley!”

1) Rinse your pearl or pot barley off in cold water before cooking. This washes off the residual grain dust from the pearling process.

2) Cook your barley in different stocks for different meals:
• Use chicken stock to pair with salads or to serve with chicken;
• Beef stock for beef meals; and
• Vegetable stock for salads or vegetarian dishes.

3) When cooking pot or pearl barley, make a little extra to use in other dishes.
• Cook barley in broth for added flavour and save some extra to add interest to other dishes, like a Greek salad.
• Plain cooked barley can be used in a variety of dishes including desserts, like pudding.

4) Freeze leftover cooked barley for use at another time. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.

5) Use barley anywhere you might use cooked rice (in casseroles, stuffed peppers, salads or even as breakfast).

6) Cook barley in one-half apple juice to one-half water and serve with fresh or dried fruit for breakfast.

7) Cook your barley on the stovetop, in a rice cooker, in a covered casserole dish in the oven or in a slow cooker. Each of these cooking methods has their own advantage.
• Stovetop: bring your barley to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 50 minutes.
• Rice cooker: barley will cook in the same amount of time as brown rice—approximately one cycle in the rice cooker.
• Oven: place your barley and liquid in a covered casserole and cook it in the oven. If you are cooking something else in the oven, this saves time and energy.
• Slow cooker: cook your barley in a slow cooker for three to four hours on low heat.

8) Try replacing half of your all-purpose flour with barley flour in muffin, quick bread or cookie recipes. You can use up to 100 per cent barley flour in these recipes with excellent results.

9) When having a barbeque, serve barley casserole or barley risotto instead of baked potatoes for a delicious alternative.

10) Try barley couscous for a change of pace. This is usually available in specialty or Mediterranean stores and is great addition to any meal.

Linda Whitworth

Linda Whitworth is a food barley specialist and home economist with an extensive background in the food industry. Read More >


  1. Umair

    I’m a Muslim and a great fan of barley, especially barley bread. According to our Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) barley is the best among all grains from God. I recently moved to Calgary but am unable to find barley in stores. Could you please tell me where to buy barley?

    • Cole christensen

      Thank you for your question.

      Pearl and pot barley are available in all grocery stories – either near the rice section, or in the bulk area. Flour is available in all Safeway stores and Calgary Co-op stores.

      These things are also all available in bulk and health food stores.

    • Maria Soriano

      Umair, I live in Montréal, where as you know there is a large population of people from the Maghreb. I always buy my barley couscous and a barley soup preparation (rougher grind) at a Moroccan halal butcher and grocery shop next to Jean-Talon market. Of course there are more Maghrebi people here as iit is francophone, but engineers and other professionals from the Maghreb countries have also moved to Alberta due to the petroleum industry. If you find a Maghrebi or even a Middle Eastern shop, they should have it or be able to order it.

  2. Jane D

    Can I replace pearl barley with quick cooking (10 minute) barley when using a slow cooker? If so, how do I adjust the cooking time?

    • Freya

      Hi Jane!
      Yes you can use Quick Cooking (10-min) barley in a slow cooker. you can add it at the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, or follow the original recipe because the quick cooking barley has a good consistent texture that it won’t become mushy after long cooking time.
      I hope this helps 🙂

  3. Kerry

    Hello! Iam making a beef stew on high for 4 hours in my slow cooker and would like to sub the potatoes (3 chopped) it calls for with pearl barley. How much p.b. should I use and do I have to cook it first?

    • Alberta Barley

      Hi Kerry,

      Thank you for commenting here! I am happy to read that you are substituting barley into your stew.

      I would say a cup would work well for your stew. If you are like me, and like really thick stews, the next time you make it you could add a bit more. But I would start with a cup and go from there. If your stew is too thick for your liking you can always add in a bit of water or broth to thin it out.

      As for the preparation of your barley you don’t need to cook it first. Barley generally cooks on the stove in about 45 minutes, but cooks well in a slow cooker on low for 6 – 8 hours or high for 4 – 6 hours. But, when you are preparing your barley you should rinse it. Rinsing will remove any dust or particles that were collected during harvest/processing.

      Let me know how your stew turned out.

      – Sydney

  4. Patricia Higgins

    My father was from the Irish Republic and he constantly made Irish Stew, so we all grew up eating barley almost every day and we rarely got sick and never got fat either. Barely is filling and nutritious and I’m now 62 years old and have never had high cholesterol /blood pressure or diabetes. I still make the Irish Stew the same way my father made it, my neighbour is vegetarian and I gave her some, she loves it and made me show her how to make it.

    • GoBarley

      Hi Patricia,

      What a nice story, it is great when recipes are passed down and shared. I am so happy to hear you love barley as much as we do.

      Keep on cooking and let us know if you try one of our barley recipes.

      – Sydney

  5. D Watts

    Thanks so much for this information! I am new to using barley and this will be very helpful. I look forward to trying a variety of your tips. 🙂

    • GoBarley

      Hi D Watts,

      Our pleasure! It is great you are trying barley out. Let us know which recipes you try and if you have any questions.

      Keep on cooking!

      – Sydney


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