How To Cook Barley In An Instant Pot?

Barley is a tasty and nutritious grain that is great for incorporating into soups, stews, or eaten as a side dish. Pot barley is not the same as barley harvested straight out of the field and is processed to remove the tough outer hull, but not so much as to remove all of the bran layers. This is why it differs from pearl barley, where all the bran layers are removed. Let’s discover how to cook barley in an instant pot and other alternatives.

How to Cook Pot Barley?

How to Cook Pot Barley

Instant Pots or pressure cookers are a fast and easy way of cooking your pot barley. This recipe shows you how to do it step by step.


  • Pot barley – 1 cup (will make 3 cups when cooked)
  • Lukewarm water for soaking – 4 cups
  • Water/stock/broth for cooking – 3 cups
  • Salt – a pinch to taste


  1. In a bowl, tip in your cup of pot barley and add the four cups of lukewarm water, then cover. Allow the barley to soak for a minimum of 4 hours. Overnight is perfect.
  1. In your Instant pot or pressure cooker, put the three cups of water, stock, or broth for cooking. If you want to cook more barley, simply add more liquid at a ratio of 1 part barley to 3 parts liquid. 
  1. Drain your barley from the soaking water and tip it into your Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Add a dash of salt unless you want to use it for a sweet dish. Ensure to submerge all the grains before sealing the lid.
  1. Cook the barley on high for around 20 minutes. Vent the steam and try the barley to ensure it is tender and not hard. It should still be very slightly chewy.
  1. If you prefer, you can also cook it for much longer on low heat. This will make the grains more tender.
  1. Strain the barley with a slotted spoon and fluff it up with a fork to prevent it from becoming sticky. Now you’re ready to serve it in a dish of your choice.

Cooked barley can be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking, for up to five days. Ensure you select an airtight container with a tightly fitting lid. If the barley smells bad, has mold, or is mushy, throw it away. 

If you prefer, you can freeze your cooked barley in a freezer bag or another suitable container for up to one month.

This video will show you how simple it is to cook pot barley in an Instant Pot:

Two Different Ways of Cooking Barley

Using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker isn’t the only way to cook pot barley. You can simmer it on the stovetop or even cook it in the oven. Here are a couple of methods to help you.

Stovetop Barley

If you don’t own an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker, don’t worry! You can still cook delicious, nutritious pot barley on the stove using a regular pan.

As in the previous recipe, you will require the same ingredients.


  • Pot Barley – 1 cup
  • Lukewarm water for soaking – 4 cups
  • Water, stock, or broth for cooking – 3 cups
  • Salt – a pinch to taste

Note: You don’t have to pre-soak the barley, but cooking times will be longer, and you will need additional cooking liquid.


  1. In a dish, place your cup of Pot Barley and add the 4 cups of lukewarm water. Cover and allow to sit for a minimum of four hours or preferably overnight.
  1. Pick out any debris that is floating on the surface of the water. Drain your barley after it has finished soaking. Ensure you also give it a thorough rinse.
  1. Tip your soaked (or unsoaked) barley into a heavy-based pan with a lid. Add the three cups of the cooking water, stock, or broth and ensure all the barley is covered. If it isn’t, add a little more until it is. Add a dash of salt.
  1. Place your pan on the stove and bring rapidly to the boil stirring all the time. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a medium-low setting, cover, and allow to simmer for one hour. 
  1. Stir the barley about once every five to ten minutes to ensure there is still sufficient liquid and that it isn’t sticking. If the heat is too high, turn it down a little more and add more liquid as required.
  1. Check to see if the barley is done by straining a few grains off and tasting them. They should be tender, soft, and slightly chewy, not hard or mushy.
  1. Drain the barley carefully using a strainer or a slotted spoon.
  1. Cover the pot and allow the barley to rest for ten minutes.
  1. Fluff the barley thoroughly with a fork to prevent it from sticking together. Serve as desired.

You can store the barley in the refrigerator in an airtight container within two hours of cooking. It will keep for approximately five days. Or freeze cooked barley in freezer bags or another suitable container for one month. 

Oven-Baked Barley

You can even cook barley in the oven as part of a stew or for adding to other dishes.


  • Pot barley – 1 cup
  • Water, stock, or broth – 2 to 3 cups
  • Butter – 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Salt – a pinch or to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  1. Rinse the barley thoroughly and remove any debris. You can soak the barley in four cups of water overnight if you want it to be extra tender, but this is optional.
  1. Put the barley into an ovenproof dish. This can be ceramic, glass, or a skillet that is suitable for oven use.
  1. Place the water, stock, or broth into a separate pan and bring to a boil, then add the butter, more or less depending on your personal taste.
  1. Pour the hot, buttery liquid over the barley, ensuring it is completely covered.
  1. Add a pinch of salt.
  1. You could also add vegetables such as mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic, carrots, or peppers. Adding herbs de provence can also increase the flavor, or you may prefer some fresh sprigs of rosemary or thyme.
  1. Put the lid or aluminum foil over the dish and place it in the center of the oven.
  1. Cook for one hour.
  1. Check to see that the barley is now soft and tender and has absorbed almost all of the liquid.
  1. Once you are happy with the texture, turn off the heat and allow the barley to sit for about 10 minutes, remaining covered. Fluff it up with a fork and serve in the way you desire.

See the other recipes above for storage instructions.

What is the Ratio of Water to Barley?

When you’re cooking pot barley, the standard ratio is one part barley to three parts water. This will vary slightly depending on a few factors such as:

  • Did you pre-soak your barley? Then 1:3 is fine. If not, you may need to use more water.
  • Are you cooking on the stovetop? Depending on how well the lid fits your pan and the heat you choose, you may find water evaporates too fast, so you may need to add more liquid.
  • Don’t have a pan with a lid? You can still cook barley on the stove, but more water will evaporate, so you will definitely need to add more.
  • Oven-baked barley may not need as much water. Reduce the ratio to one part barley to two parts water, but ensure the barley is covered.

Do You Have to Soak Pot Barley Before Cooking?

If you’re going to cook barley on the stovetop in a regular pan, you don’t have to soak it first, although it is beneficial to do so. If you’re going to use an Instant Pot or another type of pressure cooker, then you will need to soak it for a minimum of 4 hours before cooking; otherwise, the grains may still be quite chewy.

For oven-baked barley, you don’t need to soak the barley first, although it is perfectly fine if you do!

How Long Does it Take to Cook Instant Barley?

How Long Does it Take to Cook Instant Barley

There is a variety called “Quick Barley,” which cooks in 10 to 12 minutes. It is a pearl barley and requires no pre-soaking. 

To use simply:

  • Rinse 1 cup of Instant Barley
  • Put it into a pan with a tightly fitting lid
  • Add two cups of water and a dash of salt
  • Bring to the boil while stirring, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until tender
  • Leave it to stand for a further five minutes
  • Fluff up with a fork and serve as desired

How Long Does it Take to Cook Pearl Barley in a Pressure Cooker?

Pearl barley is more processed than pot barley, and it needs a little less cooking time. Hulled barley is less processed than either pot barley or pearl barley, and although it contains more great nutrients and fiber, it takes longer to cook and will always have a tougher texture.

To cook pearl barley in a pressure cooker, follow the steps shown in How To Cook Pot Barley above but reduce the cooking time by five minutes. So the total cooking time should be 15 minutes. 

If you want to cook it on the stovetop, it will take around 30 to 35 minutes until tender. 


There are various ways of cooking pot barley, and the method you choose may depend on the amount of time or equipment you have. 

As a rule of thumb, one cup of barley, once cooked, will become three cups of barley.

Pre-soaking hulled or pot barley is a good idea because it breaks down the grain a little more before cooking and helps it soak up more liquid, making it nice and tender. Pearl barley doesn’t usually require soaking.

We hope you found this article informative. If you’d like to find out more about similar topics, take a closer look at our website. 

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