How to Cook Pearl Barley: A Step-by-Step Guide

Pearl barley is a versatile, nutritious, and easy-to-prepare grain that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and desserts. Unlike some grains that require soaking or special cooking techniques, pearl barley can be cooked on the stovetop in just 30-40 minutes. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps for cooking perfect pearl barley every time.

Choose the right pearl barley

When shopping for pearl barley, look for grains that are plump, uniform in size, and free of debris or discoloration. It’s a good idea to buy pearl barley from a bulk bin so you can see what you’re getting and avoid any pre-packaged batches that may have been sitting on the shelf for too long.

Measure the pearl barley and liquid

For every cup of pearl barley, you will need about 3 cups of liquid. Water is the most common cooking liquid, but you can also use broth or a combination of water and wine or beer for added flavor. Some recipes may call for a higher or lower ratio of pearl barley to liquid, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Rinse and soak the pearl barley (optional)

Rinsing and soaking pearl barley is not strictly necessary, but it can help remove any dirt or debris and reduce the cooking time. To rinse the pearl barley, place it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cool, running water. To soak the pearl barley, place it in a bowl and cover with water for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain the soaking liquid before cooking.

Cook the pearl barley

In a medium saucepan, bring the liquid to a boil. Add the rinsed and drained pearl barley, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the pearl barley is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If there is any excess liquid, drain it off. Fluff the pearl barley with a fork and serve hot.

Store and reheat leftover pearl barley

If you have leftover pearl barley, let it cool to room temperature and transfer it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, place the pearl barley in a microwave-safe dish with a splash of water or broth and heat until hot.


Q: Is pearl barley gluten-free?

A: No, pearl barley is not gluten-free. It contains gluten, which is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.

Q: Can I cook pearl barley in a rice cooker?

A: Yes, you can cook pearl barley in a rice cooker using the same ratio of pearl barley to liquid (1:3) and cooking time (about 40 minutes on the “normal” or “white rice” setting).

Q: What are some recipes that use pearl barley?

A: Pearl barley can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, salads, patties, risottos, and even desserts. Some popular recipes include mushroom risotto with pearl barley, vegetable barley soup, pearl barley salad with roasted vegetables, and berry barley pudding.