If you are wondering how to make barley in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you are in the right place. This method for cooking barley in an Instant Pot is a great kitchen trick to know about. It is a delicious healthy grain dish to use for meal prep, to serve as a side dish, for buddha bowls, added to soup or used in barley salad. Plus with only 5 minutes of hands-on-time and needing only 20 minutes to cook, it couldn’t be easier! Read on, because I have a complete guide to how to make perfectly cooked barley for you today.

instant pot with a bowl of cooked barley and a measuring cup with uncooked barley

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Why We Love This Recipe For Instant Pot Barley

If you are not regularly adding barley to your menu, I’m going to try to convice you that you need to change that. Not only is it delicious with a nutty taste and delightful chewy texture, but it is also good for you! Plus it is fast and hands-free when it is cooked in an instant pot.

Cooked barley is a healthy grain dish to use for meal prep, to serve as a side dish or use in buddha bowls.It is great in chili and soups like this Slow Cooker Ham Barley Soup with Pesto or to use for a grain salad like this Mediterranean Barley Salad.

Around here, we are all about quick recipes, so I get why choosing quicker cooking grains seems appealing. (Trust me, I am team quinoa too!} And I am well aware that normally barley takes 40 to 45 minutes to simmer on the stovetop. All that changes today my friends, because delicious, fluffy, perfectly cooked barley can be ready in under a half hour when cooked in an Instant Pot.

So if sipping a cold beer is the only way you normally enjoy barley, then get out your Instant Pot and let’s get cooking!

Key Ingredients for this Recipe

ingredients on a counter with text overlay


Barley is a whole grain that has been cultivated for centuries. Barley is high in fiber and resistant starch and minerals. Barley is a cereal grain that is naturally grown with an indigestible outer hull that has to be removed before cooking and eating. To remove the hull the barley has to be processed. There are different ways of processing it which effects the way it is labeled, how it is cooked and its nutrition.

There are two main types of barley on the market, pearled and hulled.

  • Pearled barley is processed by mechanically scraping or “pearling” it to get rid of this hull. Often pearled barley has a rounded look and powery coating. Unfortuntately the pearling process also removes the bran of the grain, which means that pearled barley is not technically a whole grain.
  • Hulled barley is considered a whole grain because only the outer hull is removed and the nutritious bran remains intact. Hulled barley is slightly chewier and has a less “fluffy” texture than pearled barley. It also doesn’t thicken soups as well because it isn’t as starchy.

You can read more about the difference between pearled and hulled barley here.

SHOPPING TIPS: Find pearled barley with bagged dried beans in large supermarkets. It can be sold in bags or boxes. Hulled barley is harder to find. Look for it at Whole Foods or good health food stores in the bulk section.

STORAGE TIP: Keep uncooked hulled barley in your freezer for long term storage as it is a whole grain and contains volatile oils that can go rancid during longer term storage. Pearled barley can be kept in a jar in a cool dry place for up to one year.

Oil or Butter

Pressure cooker valves can get clogged when cooking starchy grains, pasta and beans. Since barley tends to be particularly foamy when it boils it is important to use a little fat when cooking it. This helps to keep the foam down and will prevent the vent from clogging.


For the liquid, use water (seasoned with salt), or you can substitute broth and don’t add any additional salt.

What is the difference between pearl barley and hulled barley?

pearl barley vs hulled barley side by side

Cooking Pearl Barley or Pearled Barley

Pearl barley, also known as pearled barley is barley that has been mecahically scraped and tumbled to remove the outer hull and bran. It cooks in 40 minutes on the stovetop and 20 minutes in the instant pot.

Cooking Hulled Barley or Hulless Barley

Hulled barley is barley that has the outer hull removed, but has not been scraped and tumbled so the bran is still intact. This bran takes a little while longer to penetrate and soften, so it takes longer to become tender when cooked either on the stove or instant pot. It also doesn’t puff up like pearled barley and more resembles wheat berries or farro. It needs an additional 10 minutes to cook in a pressure cooker.

Hulless barley is a variety of barley that has a particularly loose chaff that comes off more easily, so it can easily be hulled without having to pearl it.

Step By Step Instructions To Make Barley in an Instant Pot

stir together the ingredients and cover and set valve to sealing

Step 1: Combine Ingredients In The Instant Pot

Stir together barley, water, oil and salt in the insert of an instant pot.

Step 2: Pressure Cook

Cover and set vent to sealed. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes.

fluff with a spoon or fork

Step 3: Release Steam and Finish

Carefully turn vent to quick release (or natural release if desired.) Remove lid and fluff with a fork. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the instant pot insert, drain the cooked barley through a fine-mesh sieve.

FAQs and Expert tips For Cooking Barley in a Pressure Cooker

Do you need to soak barley before cooking?

You do not need to soak barley before cooking it. However, there is evidence that soaking whole grains can help make them easier to digest and their nutrients more bioavailable.

Do you need to rinse barley before or after cooking?

Barley can have a powdery starch coating them when purchased. If you like to rinse them before cooking it can make the cooked barley slightly less starchy. Rinsing after cooking will wash off excess starch and the barley will not stick together or clump. This can be helpful for salads.

What are ways to use barley besides soup?

Barley can be used as a base for a grain bowl. I like to top mine with soft boiled eggs, seaweed, sesame and sauteed mushrooms. It also is great as a base for a grain salad {Try using it in place of brown rice in this salad.} As a simple side dish, sauté garlic or onion in butter and add the cooked barley. You can add seasonal veggies too, like finely chopped carrots or zucchini for additional veggie servings. Barley and mushrooms are a classic pairing. Try sauteeing mushrooms in butter or olive oil with shallot and thyme and adding cooked barley for an easy mushroom barley pilaf.

Can you freeze barley?

Barley can be frozen and easily tossed into soups or sautees. Transfer it to a large freezer bag, and chill until cold. Seal the bag shut and freeze flat. Once it is frozen, break apart and make sure excess air is press out of the bag. Keep frozen for up to two months. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours or in the microwave. It can be added to soups or chili while still frozen or you can thaw it on the stovetop with a little broth or water, over medium heat, stirring often.

How can you season instant pot barley?

You can season this recipe by adding dried herbs or vegetables if you like. Try adding 1 teaspoon dry thyme, oregano or Italian seasonings. You can also add fresh herbs once it is finished cooking. (I used parsley today.) But dill, basil and chives are also great. You can also cook the barley with broth instead of water for a big flavor boost.

a view into an instant pot with cooked barley in it

Additional Recipes To Try

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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cooked barley from overhead inside the instant pot

Instant Pot Barley

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1/2 cups 1x


This 20 minute instant pot barley is a delicious healthy grain dish to use for meal prep, to serve as a side dish or use in buddha bowls. It can be added to soup or used in barley salad.



1 ½ cups pearled barley* See ingredient note

3 cups water

2 teaspoons olive oil (or unsalted butter)

½ teaspoon salt


  1. Stir together barley, water, oil and salt in the insert of an instant pot.
  2. Cover and set vent to sealed. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully turn vent to quick release (or natural release if desired.) Remove lid and fluff with a fork. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the instant pot insert, drain the cooked barley through a fine-mesh sieve.


Ingredient Notes:

If you use hulled barley for this recipe, use the same ratio of water to barley and pressure cook for 30 minutes.

You can use vegetable or chicken broth in place of the water to add more flavor to this recipe.


Barley can be frozen up to two months. Add directly to soups or chili, or thaw and use for salad. Reheat with seasonings and vegetables for an easy side dish.

Make Ahead:

Chill and cover leftover barley. Keep refrigerated until ready to reheat. This barley can be kept in the fridge, covered, for three days. To reheat, microwave on high power until steaming hot. To reheat barley on the stovetop, stir with water or broth in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook until steaming hot, stirring often.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: instant pot
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 35 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Keywords: instant pot barley, how to cook barley in instant pot, pressure cooker barley