Barley is one of the oldest cereal grains out there, that continues to make its way into our various cuisines in different ways. Barley is a grain used in the process of making beer and whiskey but is also totally edible.
In recent times it has become a modern superfood and many seek to reap its health benefits. It’s an ideal way to help reduce the amount of carbs you eat, and bloating you may experience as a result.
If you are interested in barley, its health benefits, as well as some recipes and cooking uses for the humble grain, keep reading to find out!
What Is Barley?
Simply put, barley is a type of grain, like wheat or corn. It’s actually the fourth most produced grain worldwide, only pipped by corn, rice and wheat, which makes sense.
While also being one of the most popular grains, it has actually been harvested since ancient times, with archaeological evidence of it being grown in Egypt around 8000 BC.
While barley is a common ingredient in many grain alcohols like beer, ale, and whisky, it has started to make its way into most modern peoples’ diets. Many have recently started to swap rice and other carbs for barley – but why?
While pearled barley is still nutritious, it lacks the fiber containing bran. Hulled barley on the other hand has been linked to reducing the risk of certain chronic disease.
One study suggested that those who consumed high amounts of whole grains had a 17% lower risk of death from illnesses. Other studies have suggested that barley could also reduce diabetes and obesity risks.
Barley is also pumped full of phytonutrients, lots of soluble fiber, antioxidants, and many more nutritious features.
Best Recipes That Include Barley
Below you will find our favorite recipes which include barley, providing ideas of how you can get this useful grain into your diet.
This is a pretty versatile and filling dish that does away with meat and potentially negative grains, and fulfills our satisfaction with barley and roasted vegetables.
If you aren’t a fan of quinoa then barley is a good option; this is the kind of dish where barley can replace the carbs you may normally have.
You could serve this dish at any time of the day, but it’s best in the sun as a healthy treat.
2. Barley Pilaf
When you are enjoying your favorite curry at home, or in your favorite curry house, you may have had pilaf rice before, which is basically rice cooked with carrots and peas in chicken or vegetable stock.
This recipe shows how we can create a really tasty carb addition to a stewed dish, whatever the latter may be, by simply swapping out rice for barley.
Here we can enjoy our curries or stewed dishes without any guilt, knowing we have chosen a healthier alternative.
Bored of your bloating and starchy paella? This recipe is not only healthy but presents a pleasant spin on the classic paella recipe that is almost a merging of mushroom risotto and paella (see also “Best Morel Mushroom Recipes“), two dishes that are usually heavy in carbs.
By swapping the empty carbs for barley we get a dish that is much more nutritionally whole. In any case the dish is really tasty and ideal for mushroom lovers who want a quick but healthy dinner.
This shows how versatile both barley and barley paella can be. For those who enjoy a stewed or roasted eggplant this dish can be ideal while also cutting out the empty carbs paella rice can bring without much change.
Moreover, barley has a much nicer taste than most rice, we think, but also holds the dish’s flavor as well as rice could or can.
The good thing about these one pan dishes is you can throw in whatever tickles your fancy, while still being healthy.
We all know rice pudding, right? This dish is basically a healthier and lower carb version of paella from the Lebanese cuisine.
While the original dish uses something called wheat berries, by replacing these, relatively hard to get in the US, grains with barley you get a more nutritionally complete meal.
You can add whatever fruit or flavorings you want to this dish, that comes out quite like porridge. The best thing is you can make ahead and keep in the fridge for a healthy and quick breakfast every morning.
This meatless dish is an ideal nutritious salad to serve alongside any meal, and a great way to introduce barley to friends at a cookout.
This is the type of dish people will go for at a potluck or BBQ without thinking and enjoy barley without knowing it.
With the lima beans this is arguably a nutritionally complete meal on its own with around 13g of protein, but is an ideal accompaniment to meat or fish.
The dish has a savory and fresh flavor also with a pleasant chewiness from the barley.
Everyone in America, especially in the South, loves a good succotash, a hearty grain casserole made to fill your boots.
This particular recipe celebrates summer with its squash and corn, and the barley is such a welcome accompaniment for both textural contrast and nutritious benefit.
The dish helps celebrate the seasons all while being super nutritious and tasty, another great idea for any summer spread at a BBQ or get together.
This dish has a little bit of everything, rich stewed tomatoes, protein rich spinach (see also “15 Best Frozen Spinach Recipes“), all the veg you could want, and a much easier to digest grain in barley which brings some really welcome nutty flavor .
Beyond using barley, the tomato broth is really where the flavor is held, a great cooking technique on its own but ideal to pair with barley that can soak up all that tomatoey rich goodness.
You don’t even need to add any cheese to this dish, but for something more sumptuous then why not.
To show how versatile yor barley usage can be, this dish really takes a grain salad to some unexpected lengths. This healthy salad has everything, it’s super crunchy, fresh, nutty, and packed with protein.
We love pears and in this salad with the walnuts they work just amazingly, applying crunch where the barley brings a chewiness.
Plys, even without meat, this salad is chock full of protein and other great nutrition!
10. Barley Oatmeal
Barley is also a breakfast food that can replace oats with ease, providing a breakfast option that has a little more texture than just being mushy gruel.
Barley has a natural flavor of nutty earthiness that can really pair well with other breakfast flavors common in oatmeal such as cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and more.
This is the kind of thing you can make ahead and still enjoy a nutritious breakfast with.
Everyone loves the combination of pancakes, bacon and syrup in the US so why not try incorporating our barley friend into this breakfast treat.
By adding barley you boost the nutrition in the dish up nice and high when it is originally pretty low at that.
Even with the streaky bacon additions and syrup, the dish has some super healthy fiber that can help you start your day right, without spiking those blood sugars before you have done anything.
You could make this for kids and they wouldn’t even realize they are eating healthy.
Popcorn is just a popped grain, in the common case it is corn. However, you can actually pop any grain you have, including barley. This recipe shows how to pop any grain, but importantly barley!
Raw pearl barley is hard but when popped with this method it is super soft and chewy like any good popcorn. The toasty and nutty flavors are amazing and with your classic salt and butter additions you would put with popcorn can be amazing.
This is a great method but you can flavor your popped barley however you like, sweet or salty, and have a super tasty but relatively nutritious treat.
As you can see barley actually isn’t that hard to get into your diet at all. Basically any dish that asks for some sort of grain, or any dish that asks for rice or short pasta, can easily be replaced with barley.
Barley has a toothsome texture much like pasta or rice does so can be used in any dish.
No matter whether you are having breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, barley can be used for any of these dishes just showing how versatile this dish can be.
Just try it today to get a health kick you won’t regret, and reduce the amount of empty, sugar spiking, carbs that are in your current diet.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like our post ‘15 Best Quail Recipes To Try Today‘.