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Barley or groats, is a wheatish-colored cereal grain which is included in the diet mainly for its nutritional worth and most extensively for preparing malt beverages. Botanically a grass called Hordeum Vulgare, this chewy grain tastes somewhat like nuts and is consumed as a breakfast porridge. In the powdered form, it is included in a number of health drinks. Besides these, barley is also included in a number of soups and stews. Barley is of different types. Barley beer, whiskey, casserole, stuffing and barely salad are some of the most popular barley recipes.

History of Barley Recipes

Barley is known to be having Ethiopian and Asian roots. The crop seems to have been domesticated about 10,000 years ago. Barley has been one of the vital foods of both humans and animals. The preparation of barley wine dates back to 2800 BC. and barley water was regarded as a medicinal substance from time immemorial. Evidence of barley recipes being made from the ancient times is seen in the fact that the ancient Greeks made bread from barley. Barley wine was drunk by the ancient Romans and the ancient athletes drank barley for its strength giving properties. As barley was relatively less expensive than wheat, in the Middle ages, a bread was made with barley in combination with rye, as a substitute for wheat bread. Barley recipes were introduced to the South American cuisine by the colonial Spaniards while to the North American cuisine, the English and the Dutch colonials introduced it. Today North America, Canada, Russia, France and Germany are the major producers of barley.

Culinary Uses of Barley

Barely is consumed in different ways. The cereal may be simply boiled with water and a little salt or sugar added for taste. It may be mixed with milk and served as a filling course for breakfast. Barley is used in a number of cuisines to make soups and stews. Barely is essentially cooked by boiling and the cereal may or may not be soaked in water prior to cooking it. Barley bread is a baked dish made using the cereal. Barely is also used for making pasta and cakes. Barley malt is used in the brewing of alcoholic beverages. Barley is used for culinary purposes in different forms – hulled, pearled and hulless. Hulled barely is one in which the outer covering of the grain is removed and it is used for making barley grits and flakes, which are used for making porridges etc. The hulless barley is the one which has the outer hard covering attached to the grain. It is used less in barley recipes. Pearled barely is hulled and polished barley, but its usage in the culinary context is not that of whole grains. A number of barley recipes prescribe the usage of powdered barley for different barley dishes. Barely powder is added to different types of bread doughs across the different cuisines of the world. The Western baked bread made of leavened dough and the Indian breads which resemble flatbreads may all contain barely as one of their essential ingredients. Apart from breads, barley flour is used for making cakes and other baked goods. Barley malt which is produced from soaked and dried barley kernels, is primarily used for beer and secondarily for making syrups, flavoring agents and barley extract. Barley water is considered one of the most nutritious drinks for convalescent people. Scotch barely is the husked cereal with a coarse meal-like feel. Barley recipes made with coarse barely have a prolonged cooking time as they take a long time to soften. Quick barley is used in modern cuisines owing to cooking time constraints. This barley is prepared by steaming and drying pearl barley. It cooks fast and hence is conveniently used by those who do not have much time to spare for cooking.

Popular Barley Recipes

Barley is included as an ingredient in a number of interesting recipes across the globe. Popular barley recipes include:

  • Barley and Vegetables Stew: This stew is made by cooking vegetables in water or broth with the addition of pre-cooked barley. Herb and spice seasonings are added to the dish. When the vegetables are tenderized and the stew attains a thick consistency.

  • Stuffing or Dressing- This is a delicious preparation of barley with other vegetables. Quick cooking barely is preferably used in place of other varieties. It is cooked along with vegetables like zucchini. Bulgur wheat also adds to the taste, nutritive worth and volume of the stuffing. Almonds are added along with onion and thyme seasonings to the final dish.

Nutritional Worth of Barley

Barley is a cereal with immense nutritional worth. It is included in the human diet especially for its remarkable strength giving properties. It is considered to be an effective remedy for male virility problems. Known to be high on dietary fiber, it is known to regulate intestinal health and also lower bad cholesterol. Barley being rich in Niacin, the B vitamin, is also consumed due to its heart-friendly properties. It protects against artherosclerosis. Barley is also found to be beneficial in preventing heart failure, in alleviating post menopausal complications in women and also in treating Type 2 diabetes. Barley is also known to prevent the formation of gall bladder stones. Because of its immense nutritional worth barley and barley recipes are generally eaten as a much-preferred breakfast cereal.

Best Ways to Cook Barley

Barley, when cooked becomes tender and care should be taken not to overcook it and make an agglutenized mass which makes it unappetizing. Before cooking, the kernels or the grains can be toasted in a skillet to strengthen the nutty flavoring. Barley casseroles, salads and soups can be prepared ahead of time and preserved in the freezer to blend the flavors better. Oil, vinegar or lemon juice flavorings over barley serve to enhance the flavor of barley recipes. Vinegar especially, when added to barely, while cooking, tends to prevent it from separation and keep it fluffy.

Barley: Trivia

Despite its high nutritional worth only 10 percent of barley is used as an ingredient in solid food. The rest is either used as animal food or in the form of malt for brewing beer. Barley assumed the status of a very important crop till the 16th century in Europe and was also used as currency.