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The Healthiest Grain in the World

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As part of one of the meals in my Vinegar Salad Stir Fry post, I highlighted hulled barley.  Afterwards, two people asked what the difference is between hulled barley and “regular” barley (a.k.a. pearled barley).

Both forms of barley—hulled and pearled—are nutritional powerhouses, high in fiber, selenium, phosphorous, copper, and manganese. They contain all eight essential amino acids. However, with pearled barley, the nutritious outer bran layer is stripped off, leaving just the pearl inside. (Think of it being like white rice to hulled barley’s brown.)

hulled barley

Hulled barley is less processed than its pearled cousin. In hulled barley, the outer bran layer is left intact, meaning this grain is extremely high in fiber, whole grains, B vitamins, iron, etc. It also yields a fun, chewy texture. Unlike the pearled variety, one cannot find this grain in most grocery stores. I usually get mine from the bulk aisle at Whole Foods.

Cooking hulled barley does take a bit longer than cooking the pearled variety. But it offers so much more nutritionally that the extra time is well worth it. (Plus, most of the extra time involves soaking and simmering, so if you set a timer, you don’t even need to be around during the cooking process.)

How to cook hulled barley

For one serving:

  • Measure 40 grams of dry barley (about 1/4 cup) into a small pot with a dash of salt and enough water to cover the barley (2 cups or so).
  •  Let soak for at least three hours. (I usually soak mine overnight; it lessens the actual cooking time.)
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 45 minutes. (Set a timer so you don’t have to watch it.)
  • Stir, then simmer for another 45 minutes (and maybe even another 45 minutes, depending on how soft you want your barley).
  • Your barley is ready to eat… but you can take it up a notch and blend!  (You know I opt to blend.)  I drain the barley, then throw it in the Magic Bullet blender with about 2-3T of water (or other liquid) and maybe some seasonings/add-ins.  I pulse the blender just a few times so that the resulting cereal has the creaminess of a blended grain while still maintaining a fun chewy texture.

What to do with the cooked barley

  • Mix (or blend) with gravy, vegan mayo, or vegan butter (and cheese?) for a yummy risotto-like dish
  • Cook in apple juice, and add raisins, nuts, and curry powder for a sweet Indian-type pilaf
  • Reap even more health benefits by eating it alongside—or topped with—Stir Fry Salad
  • Use the melted banana trick when you blend the barley
  • Top with mushroom stroganoff

halloween 009

(Above, Mushroom Stroganoff, Steamfresh brussel sprouts, and some of that super-healthy barley)


Try using hulled barley (especially blended hulled barley) in any recipe that calls for oatmeal, or top the barley with your usual oatmeal toppers.

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 

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  1. brandi says:

    i love barley! i hope you’re having a good time 🙂

  2. Jessica says:

    I’m jealous — wish I was at the beach too!! 🙂 Barley is sooo good! I get mine from WF bulk aisle too, it’s good and cheap!

  3. Yay barley! I am cooking wheatberries for the first time today…

    Am up for cookie dough anything 😉

  4. Ricki says:

    Barley is one of my favorites, too. We call the less processed type “pot barley” over here. 🙂

    Hope you’re having a blast at the beach!

  5. Hope you’re enjoying the beach! 🙂

    I’m totally on the barley bandwagon – so versatile and delicious!

  6. Whit says:

    Have fun at the beach! I am up for some Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Barley! Sounds fantastic!

  7. Katharina says:

    My grandma likes to make barley soup 🙂 Barley is so yummy!! I would have it for breakfast sometimes during the winter. I like how you can make it sweet or savoury.

    Have fun at the beach, girl!!! Don’t forgot your SPF 😀

  8. MarathonVal says:

    Have fun at the beach! I’m loving the fact that you pre-posted before you left so that we can still get our CCK fix while you are gone! 🙂

  9. Delicious Katie…everything! Thanks for sharing your barley wisdom as I didn’t know the difference between hulled and pearled. Good to know, and I love the idea of blending with a little vegan mayo or perhaps a little avocado. Mmm, you know how I love my creamy green eats!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time at the beach. 🙂

  10. Shelby says:

    I love barley! Never tried hulled but I’ll be sure to pick some up next time I’m out!

    Can’t wait for that recipe!

  11. JB says:

    you’re so good with the previews. always making me anxious for the next post, girl! can’t wait. 🙂
    barley is also really yummy in soup! and i hope you’re enjoying the beach!


  12. Kiersten says:

    Hey Katie! This has nothing to do with barley, but I wanted to tell you that I finally tried your blended grain technique. (Better late than never, right?) I love it! I usually blend mine with a few dates to sweeten it up. Topped with a little chocolate-peanut butter, it feels like I am eating dessert. Thanks so much for the great idea!

  13. Meg says:

    Definitely picking up some barley at the Whole Foobs bulk bins this week 😉

    Enjoy the beach – can’t wait to see that recipe, it looks awesome 🙂


  14. keri410 says:

    I totally robbed my mom’s pantry and stole some of her food storage barley! You’ve really made me want to whip some up and try out some of your recipe ideas! I can’t wait! Thanks!

    Hey, thought you might be interested in a giveaway I’m hosting over at my blog! Check it out!


  15. Maria says:

    Hulled barley sounds amazing! I’ve only tried pearled barley before–thanks for the info, Katie! Omg, and that last picture just makes my mouth water 😀

  16. Christina says:

    Mmm barley is definitely one of my favorite grains! I’ve never made a sweet version though – looks delicious 🙂 Have a great time at the beach!

  17. Meredith says:

    Have a fabulous time at the beach!

  18. Baylee says:

    chocolate chip cookie dough barley? count me in! Have a fantastic time at the beach!!

  19. Kiki says:

    I love pearl barely already, so now I must find hulled! Chocolate chip cookie dough barely sounds amazing ;]

    And I already commented about this on the pancake bonanza post, but I just finished my pancake post! I didn’t know the best way to tell you.

    Have fun at the beach!

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