Learn About Barley

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is Barley?

Barley is a grain that grows from a type of grass.  The grass looks similar to wheat with long, wispy stalks.  Barley is small, brown, and rice-shaped with a protective outer shell.  Barley comes hulled or pearled.  Hulled barley does not have the outer shell, while pearled barley does not have the shell or the bran, a hard exterior layer.  Cooked barley typically has a chewy texture.

What Does Barley Taste Like?

Barley has a mild taste, sometimes described as nutty.  It is often compared to brown rice in flavor.  Because of its natural mild flavor, barley is often used as a base to other strong flavors.

Learn About Barley
Barley grains piled in a wooden bowl.

How Do You Eat Barley?

Barley is eaten cooked.  Barley tends to absorb the liquids used to cook it, similar to rice, so barley is frequently used in place of rice like in barley pilaf.  Chicken stock, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock flavor and cook barley better than water in some dishes.  Some people eat barley for breakfast as oat-free oatmeal, topped with fruits or spices.  Barley is used in some breakfast cereals as one of the healthy grains.  It is stirred and cooked into soups to add a different dimension of texture.  Barley is even ground into flour or turned into malt syrup.

Where Can You Buy Barley?

Look for barley in the grains aisle of the grocery store.  Specific barley variations or products may be in the health food aisle.  Health food grocery stores also carry barley.

How Do You Store Barley?

Store barley in a sealed, airtight container in a cool, dry place.  

Fun Fact About Barley

Barley is grown to feed animals. 

Did You Know?

Barley is one of the oldest domesticated grains in the world.  It has been used for around 10,000 years.

Recipes Using Barley

Vegetable Soup

Adding barley to your vegetable soup adds another texture and depth of flavor. Prepare vegetable stock, your favorite vegetables, and barley in a large stock pot. Stir in salt, pepper, and minced garlic and simmer ingredients on the stove. Ladle finished soup into bowls and top with fresh parsley.

Barley Pilaf

Substitute rice with barley for a twist on rice pilaf. Simmer barley, chicken broth, and salt until the liquid evaporates. Add peas, chopped carrots, and corn to add a fresh crunch.

Breakfast Barley

Enjoy barley in place of your oatmeal. Prepare barley in a saucepan with milk and honey until it resembles oatmeal. Serve with fresh fruit. For apple pie breakfast barley, stir cinnamon into the mixture as it simmers. When the barley finishes cooking, top with diced apples and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Barley Bake

Create a barley casserole as a hearty side dish. Lightly toast barley in a saucepan with butter, minced garlic, and onions. Pour barley mixture into a baking dish and incorporate vegetable broth, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake until barley is soft and the liquid has evaporated.

Barley Salad

Toss barley with vegetables for a new take on a traditional tossed salad. Cook barley in vegetable broth, salt, and pepper and cool. Combine barley with corn, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and Italian vinaigrette to create a delicious appetizer. Finish by sprinkling feta cheese on top.


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