Easy Instant Pot Barley

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Instant Pot Barley is simple to make and takes just half the time it would to cook on the stove, resulting in a perfectly cooked, chewy barley that you can use for so many different dishes.

» You might also like this Instant Pot Quinoa recipe.

A bowl of cooked barley

Instant Pot Pro Plus

Now you can control your pot wirelessly through an app. Cool-touch handles on the pot itself, and an automatic locking pressure release valve for greater safety. This one does it all.

I must admit that the reason I rarely ever made barley before getting my Instant Pot is because it just takes too long to make. I never think ahead far enough to have the time to cook it for an hour on the stove top.

In the Instant Pot, it takes just 20 minutes with a 5 minute pressurizing at the start. Super simple! I can get the barley going at the start of my dinner prep and it’s done by the time the rest of the meal is ready.

You don’t have to soak the barley beforehand, or do anything else that requires extra time. And there’s no need to give a natural pressure release at the end, so you can release the pressure right away. It’s really just 25 minutes start to finish.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients for Instant Pot barley

All you really need for this recipe is two ingredients. Barley and water. To give it a little more flavor, I often add salt and butter, but those are optional.

Barley – I use pearled barley, which means the outer husk and bran layers have been removed. That does take some of the nutrition out of the barley, but it’s faster to cook and has less of a chewy texture. Most of the barley you buy will be pearled, but you can also buy hulled barley, so be mindful of which one you purchased. More on that below.

Water – I almost always use water, but you can also use broth (chicken, beef, etc) to give the barley a different taste profile.

Optional: Salt & butter -I like to add both because it increases the flavor.

A bowl of cooked barley

Why Use An Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is one of the most useful kitchen appliances you can buy, because it drastically cuts down on the cooking time for developing flavors in soups and stews, getting tough cuts of meat tender, and even baking a cheesecake. And there are many accessories that will help you get more out of your Instant Pot.

If you don’t have one yet, check out our guide on which one to buy. Also see our guide to How to Use an Instant Pot for more information.

A bowl of cooked barley

Which Barley: Hulled or Pearl?

On the package of barley that you bought, you’ll see that it either says hulled or pearled. It’s more common to find pearl barley in the grocery store, however you can also easily find hulled barley, especially in health food stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods.

The difference is in the processing that occurs with the grain. It results in a slight variation that will affect the cooking time. Learn more about it here.

Hulled barley has had the husk removed. Everything else is left in tact. It’s chewier and rich in fiber and is the whole-grain variety of barley. If you’re looking for the healthiest version, it is hulled. However, it takes longer to cook.

Hulled barley

Pearl barley has had the husk and bran layer removed from the grain. This makes it less chewy, less dense, but also less nutritious. It does help it to cook faster though.

Pearl barley

You can use either one. Just be mindful of which one you’re using because they require different cooking times. Hulled barley needs about 30 minutes to cook, while pearl barley needs 20.

How to Make Instant Pot Barley

This Instant Pot Barley recipe is so simple, you’ll be wishing you’d found out about it earlier. You can now add barley to your meals without all that long cook time. I don’t know why 25 minutes is so much better than 45 minutes, but it’s huge when it comes to preparing dinner.

You don’t need to soak the barley before cooking, but it is recommended to rinse it to remove the excess starch. Just give it a quick rinse before putting it in the Instant Pot.

Combine the barley, water, salt, and butter in the inner pot. Lock the lid and set the vent to sealing. Press the pressure cook button and set the time to 20 minutes for pearl barley or 30 minutes for hulled barley. Note that the water ratio is also different for hulled barley.

Raw barley in the Instant Pot

When the time is up, do a natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then carefully turn the vent to release remaining pressure.

Once you’ve opened the lid, do a taste test and if desired doneness is reached, drain the barley and serve. If it’s not tender enough, leave barley in the pot on Keep Warm for 2-5 minutes, until your desired tenderness is reached, or pressure cook again for 2 minutes.

cooked barley in the Instant Pot

Frequently Asked Questions

Does barley need to be rinsed before cooking?

You don’t need to soak the barley before cooking, but it is recommended to rinse it to remove the excess starch. Just give it a quick rinse before putting it in the Instant Pot.

Can I store left over barley to use later?

Yes, if you cook more barley than you can use, it’s possible to store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

What is the proper ratio of water to barley?

If you’re using pearl barley, the ratio of water to barley is 2:1. So you’ll need 2 cups of water for every one cup of barley. The ratio is different for hulled barley that will need a greater amount of water, so use a 3:1 ratio if cooking hulled barley.

You will drain off the remaining water that hasn’t been soaked up by the barley, so don’t worry too much about adding more water than that. It’s only important that you add enough water to properly steam it. Excess water won’t harm it.

A bowl of cooked barley

Main Dishes to Serve This With

This is a great side dish to serve with just about any main dish protein. I like to serve it with chicken and pork. Here are a few options to enjoy:

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A bowl of cooked barley

Easy Instant Pot Barley

Instant Pot Barley is simple to make and takes just half the time it would to cook on the stove, resulting in a perfectly cooked, chewy barley that you can use for so many different dishes.

Note: Made in a 6-qt Instant Pot

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Prep Time 1 min
Cook Time 20 mins
Pressurize Time 10 mins
Total Time 31 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 Servings
Calories 178 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions
 

  • Combine the barley, water, salt, and butter in the inner pot.
  • Lock the lid and set the vent to sealing. Press the pressure cook button and set the time to 20 minutes for pearl barley or 30 minutes for hulled barley. Note that the water ratio is also different for hulled barley.
  • When the time is up, do a natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then carefully turn the vent to release remaining pressure.
  • Once you’ve opened the lid, do a taste test and if desired doneness is reached, drain the barley and serve. If it’s not tender enough, leave barley in the pot on Keep Warm for 2-5 minutes, until your desired tenderness is reached, or pressure cook again for 2 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 178kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 5gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 0.4mgSodium: 305mgPotassium: 145mgFiber: 8gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 17IUCalcium: 23mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Barley
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A bowl of cooked barley

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