Cooking barley (pearl or hulled) in an instant pot or pressure cooker is the fastest, easiest way to cook this heart-healthy grain to fluffy perfection in only 20 minutes! Use cooked barley as you would rice or oatmeal- in salads, for breakfast, and all kinds of recipes.
Barley is a nutty, earthy grain with a wonderful flavor and chewy texture that’s really inexpensive. It’s packed full of soluble fiber and nutrients, making it a heart healthy grain. It’s kind of an in-between of oats and rice – more versatile and less slimy/mushy than oats, and more hearty and nutritious than rice.
I love using barley to make all kinds of things, but one drawback is that it takes a long time to cook. Enter: the Instant Pot!
Barley can take up to an hour to cook on the stovetop. But if you use a pressure cooker, it will only take 20-25 minutes of completely hands-off time (plus the time it takes to come to pressure). No stirring, just the instant pot working its magic while you live your life.
You can make a batch of barley and store it in your fridge for a few days, using it throughout the week in recipes that are very quick if you already have the barley cooked.
Here’s how to cook barley in an instant pot, including both pearled AND hulled barley, as well as the differences between the two and recipe ideas.
What is the difference between pearled and hulled barley?
Pearled, or pearl, barley is barley that has been processed more by removing the outer hull. In this way, it’s similar to white rice or white flour.
Hulled barley is barley that still has its outer layer, and is the “whole grain” version of barley, like brown rice or whole wheat flour.
Pearl barley takes less time to cook and has a more neutral flavor than hulled. Hulled barley takes longer and has a more firm, nutty flavor.
But here’s my favorite part- pearl barley, even though not considered a whole grain, is MUCH more nutritious than other processed grains. It still packs a lot of nutrients and fiber. Hulled barley is more nutritious and has more fiber, but both are beneficial.
I used pearl barley to make this recipe, and that is what’s pictured in the photographs. But it’s so easy to adapt this method to cook hulled barley as well.
How to cook barley in an Instant Pot
You only need barley (pearled or hulled) and water to cook barley in a pressure cooker. I also recommend adding a little salt and oil for the best flavor and fluffy texture. Here’s how to do it.
- First, add the barley to your Instant Pot. If you are using hulled barley, rinse it off first in a colander under running water- this will help get rid of some of the bitter flavor.
- Then, add water, a pinch of salt, and a little oil to the pressure cooker. I used extra-virgin olive oil, as I do in 99% of my recipes, but you can use another kind if you prefer.
- Close your pressure cooker lid and make sure it’s sealed properly.
- Set your Instant Pot to high, manual pressure for 20 minutes for pearled barley (25 minutes for hulled barley).
- Once it’s done, quick release the sealing vent (I like to use a wooden spoon or spatula to do this, as it can be quite alarming and loud!). Wait for the float valve to depress before you open it.
- Fluff with a fork or spoon and you’re done!
What kind of pressure cooker to use
I used a 6 qt. Instant Pot to make this, but you can use any other pressure cooker you want. This recipe only makes about 3 cups of cooked barley, so you can use a mini Instant pot if you want.
How to store cooked barley
Store cooked barley in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Store cooked barley in your freezer in an airtight bag with as much air squeezed out as possible for up to 3 months. Defrost before using, or add directly to soups and stews.
Recipes to use cooked barley
- Spinach and Barley Arancini
- Barley and Lentil Salad
- Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables and Barley (from The Mediterranean Dish)
- Herb Mushroom Barley (from Fifteen Spatulas)
- Breakfast Barley with Fruit and Nuts (from The Lemon Bowl)
- Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms
- Summer Barley Salad (from Kristine’s Kitchen)
- Egyptian Barley Salad with Pomegranate and Feta
Other Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Split Pea Soup
- Instant Pot Fish Stew
- Instant Pot Chicken, Broccoli, and Quinoa with Cheese
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
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Instant Pot Barley
- Add the barley (1 cup), water (2 cups), salt (1/4 teaspoon), and olive oil (1 tablespoon) to your pressure cooker. Stir together.
- Make sure the vent is set to "sealed." Cover the pressure cooker and set the pressure to manual, high, for 20 minutes.
- When the time is up, quick release the pressure by using a wooden spoon (or something similar) to change the vent from "sealed" to "venting."
- Once the float valve has depressed and it's safe to open, open the pressure cooker and fluff barley with a fork.
- To use hulled barley, follow the same instructions but rinse the barley under cool water in a colander before adding to the instant pot, use 2.5 cups of water, and set the time to 25 minutes instead of 20.
- The instructions used to say 2.5 cups water, but I changed it to 2 because of lots of reader feedback that there was liquid left. I think brand, size, and age of the barley has a lot to do with this – if you have any extra liquid left, you can just drain it out like you would pasta!