Barley is a popular ingredient in soups, stews, and salads. It is a great source of fiber, protein, and essential nutrients. But not everyone can eat barley because of the gluten content.
If you’re on a diet or have an allergy to barley, finding good alternatives can be hard. Many grains and starches contain gluten and other ingredients that may not be good for you.
You might be surprised to learn that there are actually a lot of great alternatives out there. In fact, I’ve found 7 substitutes for barley that will leave your stomach happy and your taste buds satisfied.
Some of the best barley substitutes are Quinoa, Farro, Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Oats, Sorghum, and Millets.
Read on to know how you can use these handy ingredients in place of Barley and answers to a few common questions related to it.
Table of Contents
What is Barley?
Barley is a cereal grain that belongs to the grass family. Its seeds are used as food, but they can also be fermented into alcohol.
It looks like wheat and has many of the same uses. However, its taste is sweeter than wheat which makes it perfect for desserts and pastries.
In addition to being used as a foodstuff for humans and animals, it can be boiled down to make malt. It is often used in the production of beer and whiskey, among other alcoholic products.
People choose to substitute barley for their health or diet reasons.
7 Best Barley Substitutes
Quinoa is a great substitute for barley because it’s gluten-free. It’s been around for centuries and it is still used as a dietary staple in many parts of the world.
In fact, quinoa comes from South America which is one reason why it wasn’t as popular as other types of cereal until recently.
This miracle grain is a complete protein which means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids your body needs to stay strong and healthy. It’s also high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and most of the B vitamins.
Quinoa is popular not only because it has a lot of health benefits, but because it tastes great too.
Farro looks just like barley but is actually more closely related to wheat. It has a nutty flavor which makes it perfect for soups, salads, or risottos.
Because it is high in fiber and minerals, it is very good for you as well as being tasty.
It’s easy to prepare too. Simply soak it overnight and cook per package instructions- usually about 45 minutes to an hour with some water or broth added in the pot so that the grains don’t dry out during the cooking time.
Buckwheat is not actually a grain- it’s part of the rhubarb family. It has a distinct nutty flavor and can be eaten whole or ground into flour.
It’s very high in magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper which are great for your bones.
This type of barley substitute tastes great in rice dishes, but it’s also good for making pancakes.
4. Brown Rice
Brown rice gets its name because the bran and germ layers are left intact during processing.
This makes it rich in nutrients like manganese, selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins which all help you to keep your body strong and healthy.
Brown rice as a substitute is very versatile and can be used for soups, pilafs, salads, and stir-fries. It also tastes great as oatmeal or even pudding!
Oats are a gluten-free option that contains several B vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, and calcium.
They’re great as a breakfast food, but they can also be used in side dishes or desserts.
It’s best to avoid steel-cut oats if possible because the processing method takes away all the nutrients from this type of oat. Stick with rolled oats instead and you’ll get more out of your barley replacement!
Sorghum is another great alternative to barley. It looks like oats but it tastes even better because of its nuttier flavor.
Since sorghum can be ground into different flours (called Sorghum flour), it’s also useful for baking dishes.
It has lots of fiber which means that it’s low in carbs and sodium so it’s good for managing your weight.
Millet is also known as “the smallest grain in the world” which means that you’ll be getting a lot of nutrients for very few calories and carbs! It has more than 5 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup so it’s filling too.
It can be used for pilafs, rice dishes, or barley replacements.
Although it’s a very popular food ingredient, not many people are aware of all the great benefits millet has to offer!
What Does Barley Taste Like?
Barley tastes very nutty- almost like a mix between brown rice and corn.
It has a chewy texture even when it’s cooked so it works well in soups, stews or casseroles because the pieces will absorb flavors from your ingredients.
If you’ve never used barley before, try cooking with quinoa instead. It will be easier to find and it tastes great too!
Is Barley Gluten-Free?
Barley is a gluten-containing grain so it’s not considered to be a gluten-free food.
Is There a Difference Between Barley and Pearl Barley?
Yes. In its purest form, barley is the grain itself. Pearl barley is a refined form of this grain that has been polished to remove the outer hull and bran layers which contain fiber and other nutrients.
This means that pearled barley (and all processed grains for that matter) has less fiber and trace minerals than natural whole grains.
That’s why it’s a good idea to look for whole-grain barley when you’re in the store instead of just buying whatever is on the shelves.
What Does Pearl Barley Look Like?
Pearl barley has a similar appearance to white rice since they have been processed in a similar way.
It also has a slightly shiny surface and it’s white or cream in color.
It’s much bigger than rice though, so be careful not to pick that up instead! 🙂
Should Barley Be Soaked Before Cooking?
No- it’s not necessary to soak barley before cooking. Once you’ve measured out the right amount, you’ll be good to go! Pearl barley need not be soaked before cooking.
Pot barley is best when soaked for at least an hour or overnight to soften it. Peeling barley reduces the cooking time and makes the texture a little bit softer.
As you can see, there are plenty of great substitutes for barley. We hope this blog has been helpful in showing how these different grains can be used to make delicious dishes that feel like home.
If you have any questions about which barley substitutes are best for your cooking needs or if you want help finding a substitute at all, please comment down below! Thank you for reading.