How to Cook Barley in the Instant Pot

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Cooking barley in the Instant Pot is a quick and efficient method, ensuring perfectly cooked grains every time. Barley, with its chewy texture and nutty flavor, is a versatile whole grain that can be used in soups, salads, side dishes, or as a rice alternative. Here’s an in-depth recipe to cook both hulled and pearl barley in the Instant Pot.



  • 1 cup barley (hulled or pearl)
  • Water or broth (amount varies depending on barley type and desired consistency)
  • A pinch of salt (optional)



  • Instant Pot
  • Measuring cup
  • Strainer


Preparation Steps

  1. Rinse the Barley: Place the barley in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under cold water to remove any dust or impurities.
  2. Measure Water or Broth: The liquid ratio differs slightly between hulled and pearl barley and according to your texture preference:
    • For hulled barley (which is whole grain barley with only the outermost hull removed), a good starting ratio is 2 ½ cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of barley. This results in a chewier texture.
    • For pearl barley (which has been polished to remove the bran layer), use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of barley for a softer texture.
  3. Add Barley and Liquid to the Instant Pot: Transfer the rinsed barley into the Instant Pot. Add the measured amount of water or broth. If desired, add a pinch of salt for flavor.


Cooking Instructions

  1. Seal the Instant Pot: Close the lid and set the valve to the sealing position.
  2. Set the Cooking Time:
    • For hulled barley: Select the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting and adjust the cooking time to 25 minutes at high pressure.
    • For pearl barley: Set the Instant Pot to cook for 20 minutes at high pressure on the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting.
  3. Natural Release: Once the cooking cycle completes, allow the pressure to release naturally. This will take approximately 15-20 minutes. The natural release method helps to avoid any spillage and ensures the grains absorb any remaining moisture, becoming perfectly tender.
  4. Quick Release: After the natural release, if there is any remaining pressure, carefully turn the valve to the venting position for a quick release.
  5. Fluff and Serve: Open the lid once the pin drops, indicating all pressure has been released. Use a fork to fluff the barley. The barley should be tender yet chewy. If it’s not fully cooked to your liking, you can add a bit more liquid and cook for a few more minutes using the “Sauté” function.
  6. Adjust Seasoning: Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Serving Suggestions

Barley is incredibly versatile. Serve it as a base for bowl meals, use it in place of rice or pasta in your favorite dishes, incorporate it into soups and stews, or cool it down to use in salads.


Storing and Freezing Cooked Barley

  • Refrigerator: Store cooked barley in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer: For longer storage, cooked barley freezes well. Spread it on a baking sheet to cool, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.


Nutrition Information for Barley

Barley is a nutritious whole grain that offers a variety of health benefits. Here’s a brief overview of its nutritional profile per cooked cup (approximately 157 grams of cooked hulled barley):

  • Calories: About 193 kcal
  • Protein: 3.6 grams
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 44.3 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams
  • Sugars: 0.4 grams
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Barley is a good source of various nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. It also contains small amounts of iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

The high fiber content in barley can help improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels, and control blood sugar levels. It’s also considered beneficial for heart health and weight management due to its satiating effect.


Reheating Cooked Barley

To reheat cooked barley and maintain its texture and flavor, follow these methods:

Microwave Method

  1. Place the desired amount of cooked barley in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Add a tablespoon or two of water or broth to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plate to trap steam.
  4. Heat on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through, stirring halfway through to ensure even warming.

Stovetop Method

  1. Transfer the cooked barley to a pot.
  2. Add a little water or broth (just enough to moisten the grains) to prevent sticking and drying.
  3. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. If the barley seems too dry, add a bit more liquid as needed.

Tips for Best Results

  • Add Flavor: Consider stirring in a small amount of butter, olive oil, or your favorite herbs and spices while reheating to enhance flavor.
  • Avoid Overheating: Reheat only until the barley is warm to avoid overcooking, which can make the grains mushy.



  • The water ratios and cooking times are starting points. Depending on your Instant Pot model and personal texture preference, you may need to adjust slightly.
  • Barley expands significantly as it cooks, so ensure your Instant Pot is not filled more than halfway to allow room for expansion.



What is the ratio of water to barley?

The water-to-barley ratio depends on the type of barley you’re cooking and your desired consistency:

  • For hulled barley in the Instant Pot, use a ratio of 2 ½ cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of barley. This results in a chewier texture suitable for salads and pilafs.
  • For pearl barley in the Instant Pot, a ratio of 2 cups of water or broth to 1 cup of barley is recommended for a softer texture, ideal for soups and stews.


How long does it take to cook barley in a pot?

On the stovetop, barley cooking times can vary:

  • Hulled barley: Bring water to a boil, add barley, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 to 60 minutes until tender.
  • Pearl barley: Also start by bringing water to a boil, then add barley, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes.


Do we need to soak barley before cooking?

Soaking barley before cooking is not strictly necessary, especially when using an Instant Pot. However, soaking can reduce cooking time and make the grains slightly softer. If you choose to soak, reduce the cooking time accordingly and adjust the water ratio if the barley has absorbed some of the soaking liquid.


What is the difference between pearl barley and pot barley?

  • Pearl barley has been processed to remove the outer husk and bran layer, resulting in grains that are polished, or “pearled.” It cooks faster and has a softer texture compared to hulled barley.
  • Pot barley, also known as hulled barley, has only the outermost hull removed, leaving most of the bran layer intact. It’s considered a whole grain, richer in fiber, and nutrients but takes longer to cook and has a chewier texture than pearl barley.


Pearl barley Instant Pot cooking time

For pearl barley cooked in the Instant Pot, set it to cook for 20 minutes at high pressure. This timing ensures the grains are tender yet retain a slight chew. After cooking, allow for a natural release of pressure, which can take an additional 15-20 minutes, to prevent the grains from becoming too mushy and to ensure all the moisture is properly absorbed.

By understanding these aspects, you can tailor your barley cooking process to suit your taste preferences and nutritional needs, making the most out of this versatile and healthy grain.


Read More

How to Cook Barley on the Stove


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