Barley Vs Oats: Key Differences

Barley and oats look very much alike. If they are placed alongside each other after harvest, you can barely tell them apart.

There isn’t a lot of clarity on these two gains. Most people call oats barley and barley oats.

And there is no better way to settle this than putting both grains into a debate.

The barley vs oats is said to clear the air by digging out what makes them different.

Oat is a secondary crop, while barley is a primary crop. It means barley is used to make main meals. Aside from that, barley appears more nutritious than oats.

But before going any further, let’s first look at what they are and their relationship with each other. 

What Is Barley? 

Barley is a cereal grain that looks like rice and tastes like wheat with a chewy texture and mild, nutty flavor.

It is one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world, belonging to the grass family Poaceae.

The scientific name is Hordeum vulgare, an annual plant with alternate leaves and erect stems.

Barley is primarily used to make bread, beer, health products, and animal feed, but it’s also an essential ingredient in soup.

In addition, there are different barley types: barley grits, pearl barley, hulled barley, and barley flakes. And each of these barley is processed differently.

What Is Oats?

What Is Oats

Oats are whole grain that contains fiber and protein. They’re also a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Oats taste bland with some earthy undertones —they have a mild flavor that isn’t too sweet or savory. If you’ve ever tried oatmeal cookies or oat bran cereal, you know what I mean!

Oats are also available in many forms, depending on how they are processed.

You have oat groats, Scottish oats, steel cuts, rolled oats, and quick or instant oats.

On top of that, they are one of the most versatile foods.

It is excellent as part of breakfast cereal or a snack; it can be used in many dishes, including breakfast porridge and baked goods like muffins and quick pieces of bread.

They can also be used as an ingredient in smoothies or yogurt bowls.

Similarities Between Barley And Oats

  • Both barley and oats are cereal grains.
  • They belong to the grass family.
  • They are edible grains.
  • They produce flour.
  • They are neck and neck, rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals.

Barley Vs Oats: What Are Key Differences?

Which is the best grain? Barley or rice?

Both have pros and cons, but when it comes to cooking, which one is better?

We‘ll soon discover that below. For now, here is what makes barley different from oats:

  • A scientist would call barley Avena Sativa and oats Hordeum Vulgare.
  • Barley is considered a snack or part of an entire meal, whereas oats are a complete diet.
  • Barley produces spikes, and oats have small flowers.
  • While barley contains a gluten protein due to the presence of protein, oats are gluten-free grain.
  • Barley is a primary cereal crop, whereas oats are secondary.
  • Barley grows best in cool and humid climates, whereas oats grow well under any climate.
  • Barley’s nutritional value is dietary fiber, proteins, and minerals. Meanwhile, oats are more affluent in manganese and copper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Substitute For Oats?

If, for some reason, you can’t eat your oats, maybe because of allergies or scarcity, here are some other foods that can help without completely missing out on oat’s nutritional punch:

  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Chia Seeds
  • Millet

Who Should Not Eat Barley?

Yes, barley carries almost all the nutrients you need in doses in a single serving. Sadly, it’s not for everyone’s consumption.

For instance, people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may benefit by avoiding eating barley because it can cause cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation when consumed regularly.

Also, people with asthma should not eat barley as it can aggravate their symptoms due to its high fiber content.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid eating barley or whether other alternatives might work better for you.

Besides these concerns, barley also affects blood sugar levels (which can trigger a crash).

Hence, you may want to exercise caution while eating it if you have diabetes and are taking any insulin or medications for lowering blood sugar.

What Are The Best Substitutes For Barley?

A lot of people ask this question because barley is highly nutritious. So what can take its place whenever you’re running out?

Well, we’re glad there are numerous options out there!

Wheat is another good option. However, try quinoa if you need a substitute for something more flavorful or hearty.

Quinoa is very high in protein and fiber and doesn’t have any gluten—so it’s great for people with Celiac disease or wheat allergies.

Other alternative includes:

However, if you want to avoid grains altogether, you can use amaranth instead of barley.

Amaranth is a seed from a plant called spineless spinach (which is related to beets).

It has many vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium, making it an excellent nutrition source when eaten whole or cooked into porridge (similar to oatmeal).

Can I Replace Barley With Oats?

Yes, you can replace barley with oats, but it takes some planning and extra effort.

Oats are undoubtedly a good source of fiber and protein and are gluten-free, so they’re an easy substitution for barley in some recipes.

Even they are more versatile than barley, so you let your ideas flow with the grain.

However, if you’re looking to replace barley with oats as a regular part of your diet, you’ll want to keep some things in mind before making the swap. Oats are higher in calories than barley by roughly.

You may need to cut back on other parts of your diet to maintain a healthy weight.

And since they are much higher in fat, their shelf life isn’t long. Therefore, you should always buy them in smaller quantities.

Also, if you want extra fiber in your diet, replacing barley with oats will take longer because grains have different nutritional profiles.


Oats have long been the staple, but barley is making a comeback.

Between their two grain, which do you think is better?

As you can see above, Oat-barley competition is fierce as both sources try to edge ahead of the other in terms of nutrition and value.

But from a nutritional standpoint, barley supersedes. It is a healthier option for several reasons, even though oats are rich in minerals and filling.

However, Oats are more versatile as they are used in various recipes.

A personal preference would conclude.