This creamy barley porridge is a simple recipe for a healthy breakfast and is ideal if you’re looking for a warm, nourishing and great alternative to oatmeal. With only 4 ingredients, it's budget-friendly and very easy to make.
This wholesome and hearty pearl barley porridge will have you head over heels this winter season.
Perfect for any day of the week (mid-week or on the weekend) as it’s easy to make so long as you have around 30 minutes.
It's also a great prep-ahead option for meal planning or busy mornings. Simply make a batch in advance, store in the fridge, and reheat for a quick and nourishing breakfast that will warm you up from the inside out.
What is barley?
Barley is an ancient cereal grain that belongs to the grass family. It has been cultivated for decades -thousands of years in fact, and is typically used for animal and human consumption.
Barley has a chewy texture and a mild, nutty flavor, and it is a good source of nutrients such as fiber and various vitamins and minerals.
Barley porridge benefits
- High in fiber: Barley is a great source of fiber. Dietary fiber, especially when consumed through unrefined whole foods, such as whole grains can help promote digestive health. Fiber is also known to feed our gut microbes, lower total cholesterol and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Rich in nutrients: Barley contains essential nutrients, including magnesium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins, which are important for maintaining overall health.
- Low in fat: Barley is relatively low in fat compared to many other grains and foods. One cup of cooked barley contains about 0.7 grams of fat. This makes it a good choice for people who are watching their fat intake.
- Hydrating: Barley porridge can be hydrating because it is made by cooking barley in water or milk, which adds moisture to the dish.
- Additional nutrients: this porridge is super versatile and a great base to build on. Add in additional, nutrient-dense toppings such as fruits, nuts or seeds.
Ingredients & substitution notes
- Pearl Barley: This recipe calls for pearl barley- the most common type of barley found in grocery stores. You can read more about the different types of barley below.
- Milk of Choice: Choose your favorite milk for this recipe. Whether it’s a plant-based milk like unsweetened almond milk, oat milk or maybe coconut milk. Whole milk is perfectly fine too. My favorite one to use in this recipe is oat milk.
- Water: Instead of water you could use more milk, which will result in a creamier porridge.
- Sweetener of Choice. Maple syrup, agave or honey are lovely options.
See recipe card for quantities.
Quick, pearl or hulled barley?
Hulled barley has hardly been processed- only the tough, inedible outer hull is removed, while the bran and germ layers remain intact. It has quite a chewy texture.
Pearl barley, on the other hand, is a type of barley that has been processed to remove the outer hull, bran, and germ layers. It has a milder flavor, softer texture and cooks faster than hulled barley.
Quick barley is a pre-cooked form of barley making it faster to cook than both hulled barley and pearl barley.
Barley flakes are barley grains that have been flattened and steamed, similar to rolled oats.
With regards to this porridge recipe, I recommended using pearl barley.
STEP 1: Add your pearl barley to the jug of a blender or bowl or a food processor.
STEP 2: Pulse the barley until it resembles very coarse flour.
STEP 3: Add all the remaining ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring them to a simmer, over a low heat.
STEP 4: Cover with a lid and cook for 25-30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes with a whisk wooden spoon to break up any lumps. Add in a little milk or water if the consistency becomes too thick. Adjust the sweetness and serve.
- Low-very low heat. You don’t want to cook the porridge on a high or medium heat setting or it may burn.
- Stir often, preferably with a whisk or wooden spoon to get the lumps out and prevent the barley from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Adjust consistency: add a splash of liquid if you feel that barley isn’t properly cooked or if it’s too thick.
- Adjust sweetness: more maple, honey or brown sugar
- Fresh fruit: add some seasonal sliced or cubed fresh fruit like bananas, berries, figs or mango. Or for a mix of fruits try this Breakfast Fruit Salad as a topping.
- Nuts and seeds: sprinkle a few toasted nuts and seeds for added nutrients and health benefits.
- Nut Butter: such as natural peanut butter or try my Roasted Almond Butter recipe.
- Granola: add some crunchy granola, either store-bought or try this Applesauce Granola
- Coconut, shredded or flaked.
- Yogurt: add a dollop of coconut yogurt, plain Greek yogurt or a different yogurt of choice to the top.
- Caramel sauce: try this Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce as a topping!
- Berry compote or a spoon of homemade jam.
- Yogurt: flavored or plain, adds creaminess, highly recommended!
- Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or saffron.
- Chocolate: Add cocoa powder or melted chocolate to the base mix for a decadent twist.
- Vanilla extract: if you like vanilla.
- Pinch of salt: to enhance the flavors.
- Dairy-free/ vegan: use a plant-based milk in this case. I usually use oat milk!
- Nut-free: select a nut-free milk.
- Whole barley: If you prefer a much chewier and less porridge-like texture, then you can skip the blending. See recipe card notes for detailed instructions.
- Savory. Be bold and exchange your maple syrup for spices and top your breakfast porridge with veggies.
These are my favorite dishes to serve with porridge:
Meal prep friendly
Yup, absolutely. Make a big batch and heat a small bowl full every morning when you’re ready to eat.
- To store: keep leftover barley porridge in airtight container in fridge up to 4 days.
- To reheat: gently on stove or microwave
This happens because as the barley cooks, it releases starches that can create foam and bubbles in the pot and the foam can spill over the sides of the pot.
To prevent this
1. make sure to use a pot that is large enough
2. lower the heat to a gentle simmer once the barley comes to a boil
3. stir occasionally as it cooks
4. slightly loosen the lid which will allow some of the steam to escape
No it is not, barley contains gluten.
Yes, please find detailed instructions below in the recipe card notes.
Not necessarily. If you want a true "porridge like", creamy texture, then yes. If you don't mind the barley porrige being chewier and chunkier (see picture right below) then you can use the barley as is.
- ⅓ cup pearl barley
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- Add the barley to a blender and blend until the consistency resembles very course flour (see step-by-step-photos). Alternatively, you could use a food processor or grinder .⅓ cup pearl barley
- Heat the ground barley together with all of the other ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat.1 cup milk of choice, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- Cover with a lid and let simmer for 20-25 minutes on low to very low heat. Stir every so often with a whisk or wooden spoon to break up any lumps and prevent the barley from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Take the porridge off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. It will continue thickening when cooling.
- Adjust consistency. Add a splash of milk for a thinner porridge or for a thicker texture, remove the lid and let simmer a couple of minutes longer.
- Taste and adjust sweetness. Add more maple syrup for a sweeter porridge.
- Add toppings of choice and enjoy!
Tips & Notes
- 1. make sure to use a pot that is large enough
- 2. lower the heat to a gentle simmer once the barley comes to a boil
- 3. stir occasionally as it cooks
- 4. slightly loosen the lid which will allow some of the steam to escape
- Add the blended barley, water, milk and maple syrup to the IP, give it a good stir
- Seal the lid and close the pressure valve
- Pressure cook on low for 4 minutes, followed by 5 min of natural release
- Then carefully quick release, stir to break up any lumps
- If the porridge is too watery, set the IP on saute and continue cooking without the lid until it thickens.
- Not necessarily. BUT if you want a true "porridge like", creamy texture, then yes. If you don't mind the barley porrige being chewier and chunkier (see picture above) then you can use the barley as is.
- When using whole barley, you'll need more liquid: for ⅓ cup of barley, use 1 cup of milk and 1,5 cups of water and let simmer on low for 30-35 minutes.
- If the porridge is too watery, continue cooking without the lid until it thickens.