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How to Cook Barley

Marian K May 4, 2019
If not knowing how to cook barley was holding you from utilizing this nutritious cereal grain, then we have all the answers for you. Here are the easy-to-follow instructions.
Barley is a cereal grain, that most people associate with the production of beer. It is used to prepare a wide array of foods including soups, casseroles, breads and cakes. Barley is rich in eight essential amino acids and is said to have properties that help the regulation of blood sugar.
Dehulled barley is considered a whole grain as it still has its bran and germ and is consequently a popular health food. A more refined version is called pearl barley.
Barley has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Middle East and is thus present in many traditional foods of the region. It is customary to eat barley soup during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia.
In Scotland, wholemeal barley flour is used in porridge, while the grain is used to make beremeal and then transformed into bread and biscuits. In Eastern Europe, it is used in soups and stews. This versatile grain can also be used as a coffee substitute. Cooking barley is very easy and given here are instructions about how it's done.

Simple Way of Cooking Barley

  • 1½ cups of pearl barley
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pot, with lid
Pour the water into the pot and add the salt to it. Bring the water to a boil and when it begins to bubble, add in the (pearl) barley. Place a cover on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook on this heat for about 40 minutes, until your barley is thoroughly cooked and tender. If you are using hulled barley, the cooking time will be 90 minutes.
If you want a tastier result, replace the water with stock or broth. You can easily use the result as a simple soup. Other variations include using a half rice-half barley mixture and adding ½ cup of nuts or dried fruit if you are using it as porridge.
While cooking barley in a rice cooker, the ratio should be 2 cups of water per cup of pearled barley. Combine and pour into your rice cooker and season with salt. Cook the barley through one rice cooking cycle and let it stand for 15 mins. If you use brown barley, Soak it overnight in 2 ½ cups of water with a pinch of salt, before cooking in the rice cooker.

Making Barley Soup

  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 8 to 10 ounces kale, stemmed and washed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1½ quarts chicken stock or water
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup whole or pearl barley
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Net bag filled with a few sprigs each of thyme, parsley, bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
Transfer the dried porcini mushrooms to a bowl and cover them with two cups of boiling water. After 30 minutes, remove the mushrooms from the water and keep the water aside. Then rinse out the mushrooms three times in clean water and then squeeze the water out of them (they take in quite a bit) and set aside.
Strain the soaking water through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and if it falls short of two cups, add some water to make up the difference. Set aside. Saute onions in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven until tender (about 5 minutes) and then toss in the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook for about three minutes and then add the garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt.
Cook for another five minutes, by which time you should have a juicy fragrant mix. Time for the dried mushrooms, barley, mushroom soaking water and the stock/water to go in. Sprinkle salt to taste and bring to a boil. Once the liquid begins to bubble, lower the heat, toss in the net bag, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
During this time, slice the kale leaves into narrow strips. After 30 odd minutes, add the kale to the soup. Take the soup off the heat, remove the net bag and serve. The barley and kale should both be very tender.
You now know the basics of how to cook barley, to be able to use it in different dishes and concoctions. While barley porridge is a popular option, some find it too bland, so instead, you can try adding it in casseroles and flavorful soups.