Pantry Staples: Pearl Barley

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I get a little panicky if I realize I’m low on barley. I can’t ever seem to get enough of its chewy texture or nutty-sweet flavor, and I depend it for rounding out quick weeknight meals. I probably eat more barley these days than rice! It’s definitely a good one to have in the pantry.

Pearl, or pearled, barley has the outer hull and some of the outer bran removed. This gives it a more uniform shape and it’s signature polished, pearly appearance. Pearl barley also cooks fairly quickly, in about thirty minutes, making it an good alternative to rice or pasta on weeknights.

The ratio I use for cooking barley is 2 1/2 cups of broth or water per cup of barley. Bring the broth to a boil, add the barley, turn the heat down, and cover until the barley is tender, about 30 minutes. This makes enough for dinner plus leftovers the next day, or enough for one big grain salad. I also love using broth instead of water for extra flavor and richness.

Keep an eye out for hulled barley. This is barley with only the hull removed so the bran is left intact. It takes longer to cook, but has a higher nutritional value and a nuttier flavor. You can often find it in bulk bins at food co-ops and places like Whole Foods.

Here are some of my favorite barley recipes:

What are your favorite ways to eat barley?