There are various barley products on the market—the most popular being pot and pearl barley. If you’re unsure how to differentiate between the two, you are not alone.
To understand the difference between them, you must also take into consideration a third kind of barley—whole grain or “hulled” barley.
Whole grain or “hulled” barley is the whole grain form of barley because only the outer husk or hull has been removed.
Pot and pearl barley have been put through a pearling machine. This process, called pearling, removes the inedible hull and polishes the kernel.
Pot barley has been pearled for a shorter amount of time and still has most of the barley bran intact.
Pearl barley gets its name from the extra rounds of polishing it goes through. The pearling removes the hull, as well as the bran layer.
Regardless of which type you choose, barley is always a healthy option. Whole grain or “hulled”, pot and pearl barley all fall under the Health Canada approved claim that links the consumption of three grams of barley beta-glucan per day to reduced cholesterol levels, keeping you heart healthy.
Barley is versatile and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
“Don’t ever think you can’t make a recipe because it calls for a different type of barley than the one you have on hand,” said Linda Whitworth, market development manager with Alberta Barley. “The texture of pearl barley when used in a dessert like barley pudding is finer, but you can still use pot barley.”
A great example of how pearl and pot barley can be interchangeably used is our Barley Casserole. We’ve taken a classic dish, the casserole, and reinvented it using either pearl or pot barley. This recipe is also a timesaver; preparation is minimal, then it goes into the oven for an hour, making it a convenient choice for busy weeknights.
The centre bin contains the barley that has spent a few seconds in the pearler. The outside bins house the inedible hull and other material.
The difference between pot barley (left) and pearl barley (right) is subtle. Except for deserts, like pudding, don’t worry about substituting one for the other.
Thank you. I often wondered about the difference between the two barleys, now I know.
Great article, exactly what I wanted to find.
Thanks for the clear explanation. I`ll be making minestrone today,
and it calls for pearl barley.
As I could only find pot barley, I`ll try it for that soup.
Thank you for the explanation, I always wanted to know the difference.
Concise & exactly what I want to know
Thank you so much! Just the information I was hoping to find 🙂
Sounds like pot barley would take longer to cook than pearl barley but the taste seems the same.
thank you for that I always wondered. So when I make beef barley, it does not matter which kind I use, pearl or pot are about the same.
Thank you for providing such a thorough explanation! I had no idea of the differences
Thank you for explaining this to me as I hesitated to use my Pot Barley in recipes. Now I know I can but it may take a little longer to cook. All barley needs to be washed first I think.
Perfect! That answers my question. Thank you!
I asked my husband to buy barley to use it in my chicken soup, I made 3 phone calls to know which one to buy, pot or pearl….Had I read this article first, I would have known right away. Thank you