Learn how to cook barley in the Instant Pot. Enjoy this healthy, inexpensive grain as a delicious side dish for barley salad or your favorite recipes.
⭐ Why This Recipe Works
Relax, save time, and get this wholesome food into your belly.
If you love Instant Pot recipes, our favorite electric pressure cooker provides freedom when cooking something that takes a long time on the stove is fantastic. Fuss-free and the easiest way we know to get it right every time.
💬 About Barley
When you see big wavy fields of barley, chances are, it's what's known as covered barley which means each grain has a rigid inedible outer hull (shell). Nature's resilience at work.
The toughness of barley keeps the yields high and the costs relatively cheap compared to other grains. It also means that barley must be processed to remove the outer husk.
Hulled barley, also known as dehulled barley, is a whole grain that retains all the nutrition that barley has to offer. Minimal processing ensures that the bran and germ (the healthy bits) remain in every nutty, chewy bite.
Although we can all celebrate the merits of enjoying the chewy texture of whole grain goodness offered in a cup of barley, let's get to reality. Hulled barley isn't always available at your local grocery store. What's called barley is most likely pearl barley. Don't despair. It's still a good option.
Hulled and Pearl – how to tell the difference
Color tells the story. Hulled barley is darker and shiner than pearl barley which is a lighter color and has been polished. The appearance of pearled barley is matte and slightly dusty.
🥘 How to cook hulled barley in the Instant Pot
- Use a ratio of water to the barley of 1 cup barley to 2 ½ cups of water or other liquid.
- Secure the lid on the Instant Pot and close the sealing handle.
- Set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 23 minutes. Turn off the warming button.
- When the pressure-cooking cycle is over, allow 15 minutes for natural release.
- Carefully open the steam handle. If the pressure release valve is not entirely suppressed, use a wooden spoon or something so your hand is well away from the steam. This is super important when you use a quick pressure release.
- Fluff the barley with a fork or spoon and enjoy.
What about pearl barley?
Instant pearl barley takes less time. For pearl barley, reduce the water ratio or liquid amount to 2 cups and cook time to 20 minutes.
Instant Pot versus Stovetop
Cooking hulled barley in the Instant Pot is an absolute breeze. Stovetop cooking time ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour (or more). Like cooking brown rice, there's always that lingering potential that it will come out mushy.
📋 More Pro Tips
Help! I ended up with excess water.
No need to panic. Suppose there is a little water or too much liquid after cooking the barley. In that case, drain it or set the Instant Pot to sauté and toss the barley until the extra liquid dissipates.
The nutty flavor of barley is simply delicious when cooked with a pinch of salt and/or black pepper.
For extra flavor, replace water with a flavorful liquid such as vegetable broth. You can also break up a veggie stock cube into 2 ½ cups of water or directly in the Instant Pot.
Depending on what flavor profile you are aiming for, add a few spices or aromatics. Bay leaf, cumin, garlic powder, onion flakes, or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Want to make something sweeter? Try ½ a cup of orange juice with a tablespoon of zest. Lemon or lime juice can be added before or after cooking for a splash of freshness.
Note: If you add diced onion or garlic, sauté it before adding the barley. You can do this right in the Instant Pot. Once you sauté, turn off the Instant Pot and deglaze the bottom of the pot using water or whatever liquid you are using. Clearing the bottom of the Instant Pot prevents the dreaded 'food burning' notice.
💭 Common Questions
1 cup of dry hulled or pearl barley will yield about 3 cups of cooked barley. When cooking barley in the Instant Pot, it's a good idea to use 1 cup or more. You can always save leftover barley for later or freeze it.
In addition to being a good source of fiber, hulled barley is nutrient rich in B vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, and vitamin B-6. The fiber in barley also helps to regulate blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. Not to mention that fiber helps you feel fuller for longer.
It is not necessary to soak barley before cooking; however, it will reduce cooking time by a few minutes. You will lose nutrients if you use the soaking water for cooking.
Although barley is a healthy grain, it is not gluten-free. This holds for products that contain barley malt or barley malt extract and other food with 'malt' or 'malted' on the label.
🥗 Serving Suggestions
Barley makes an excellent addition to salad or grain bowls. You can whip up a creamy salad dressing, add a few veggies and lemon-tahini dressing, and have a barley salad in minutes. If you want to add more protein, pair it with lemongrass tofu, or make a batch of Huli Huli tofu and top it with spicy tahini sriracha dressing. Delish!
Drop cooked barley into a broth-based soup of frozen veggies for the quickest of lazy vegetable barley soup. Replace rice or quinoa in your favorite soup recipe or serve it with curry or sweet and sour sauce. There are so many options you'd probably make a double batch.
🌡️ Storage / Freezing / Reheating
Store leftover cooked barley in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days. You can also freeze barley for several months. Let the barley cool to room temperature before you refrigerate or freeze it.
Reheat the barley in the microwave, add a little water or vegetable broth and reheat it in a pan on the stovetop. One of the best ways to reheat barley is to use a steamer basket. This keeps the barley from scorching on the bottom of the pan. Toss in a few veggies, and lunch is ready in a jiff.
🥣 Dressing ideas for barley salad
How to Cook Barley in the Instant Pot
Learn how to cook barley in the Instant Pot and enjoy this healthy, inexpensive grain as a delicious side dish, barley salad, or in your favorite recipes.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 38 minutes
- Total Time: 43 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Instant Pot
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 cup of barley
- 2 ½ cups of water or vegetable broth (use 2 cups for pearl barley)
- A pinch of salt
- Add the barley and water to the Instant Pot. Include other dry spices or aromatics as desired.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set the steam handle to Sealing. Cook the barley on High Pressure for 23 minutes (20 minutes for pearl barley).
- When the cooking cycle is done. Leave the Instant Pot for 15 minutes of natural pressure release (NPR).
- Fluff the barley and serve.
- 1 cup of dry barley yields about 3 cups.
- Barley is not gluten-free. If you are following a gluten-free diet, avoid barley and products with barley malt.
- Barley will keep it in the refrigerator for 5 days. It can also be frozen for months.
- Reheat the barley in a steamer basket over boiling water. You can also reheat it in the microwave. When reheating on the stove in a pan, add a little water or flavorful liquid, so it doesn’t scorch or stick to the bottom of the pan.
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