Barley Vs Pearl Barley: Key Differences

Imagine asking what rice is and what brown rice is or comparing both.

This is EXACTLY what it looks like for barley vs pearl barley.

It could be clearer because pearl barley is a type of barley. They are not comparable unless you pick up a different kind of barley, like hulled barley, and equate it with pear barley.

Make sense?

So we’re going to compare pearl barley with other types of barley.

And we go over each in detail —discussing their differences.

What Is Pearl Barley?

Pearl Barley, also called pearled barley, is not a whole grain. The outer bran layer has been removed along with the hull.

Pearl barley has a mild, nutty flavor that pairs incredibly well in stews, soups, and salads.

It is also an excellent alternative to pasta or rice since it is healthier.

Aside from that, pearl barley comes in two colors. If it is pretty white, it has been heavily pearled.

However, if it has tan-colored, then it is lightly pearled.

The majority of the barley found in supermarkets is pearl barley. But it is one of the less healthy.

Barley Vs Pearl Barley [All Against Pearl]

They have about seven barley excluding pear barley. But let’s compare it with a few: 

Hulled barley Vs Pearl Barley

Hulled barley is a whole grain with only the indigestible outer husk removed.

Pearled barley, on the other hand, is not a whole grain. It has been polished, removing its outer husk and bran layer; making it not as nutritious as hulled barley.

However, they take less time to cook than whole-grain barley. Pearl barley takes 40-45 minutes to cook this way, while hulled (or whole) takes 50-60 minutes.

Hulled barley looks darker with a little bit of a sheen. In contrast, a pearl is tan or white.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pearl Barley Better For You Than Rice?

Pearl barley is an excellent alternative to rice, as it’s high in protein and fiber. It’s also a great source of magnesium and B vitamins, essential for energy production and metabolism.

Pearl barley has a much higher amount of fiber and calcium. It’s also rich in magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.

While pearl barley is a healthier choice, brown rice is a much better source of folate and vitamin E.

But the two have similar amounts of protein and fat.

What Is Pearl Barley Used In?

Pearl barley is used in various products, from bread and crackers to beer and wine. It’s one of the most versatile grains out there!

It’s also a component of the popular ingredient koji, which is used to ferment miso and sake. 

Pearl barley contains a lot of fiber and protein, which makes it a great addition to any diet plan, such as soups, stews, and salads. You can even use it in place of arborio rice in risotto. 

What Is The Healthiest Barley To Eat?

As mentioned early, there is various barley, and they are all nutritious. But not all are of equal nutritional value. 

The healthiest barley falls to hulled barley. It has more than 2X the nutrient of most barley or more because it’s a whole grain. 

Whole grain means it had ONLY the inedible outer husk removed, making it darker and sheenier than other varieties.

Hulled barley is a cholesterol-free, high-fiber, low-fat whole grain.

It contains essential vitamins and minerals in significant numbers; this includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and vitamin A.

It also incorporates niacin and folate.

On top of that, Hulled barley is pocket-friendly, filling, and tasty.

Barley has a chewy texture and pasta-like consistency when cooked due to its gluten content. Its preparation is similar to cooking rice.

The only downside is it takes the longest cooking time among other barley. 

But most home cooks prepare to soak it before preparing, as this help accelerate things. 

What Are The Best And Healthiest Ways To Eat Pearl Barley? 

Pearl barley is a healthy alternative to wheat. It has a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar levels.

But the most healthful way to eat pearl barley is to steam it or cook it in water. If you’re feeling adventurous, try baking it with cinnamon and nutmeg or tossing it with sautéed onions and peppers. 

You can also add pearl barley to soups or stews or make a pilaf with pearl barley instead of rice.

If you want more ideas for ways to use pearl barley, check out these recipes: 

  • Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables Barley
  • Vegetable Barley Soup
  • Barley Risotto
  • Beef Barley Soup
  • Barley Salad
  • Barley Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • Barley Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta
  • Chicken Barley Soup
  • Fall Spinach Barley Risotto (Orzotto con Spinaci)
  • Baked Barley with Mushrooms
  • Barley Porridge with Blueberries
  • Breakfast Barley Porridge
  • Goose Stew with Barley and Mushrooms
  • Turkey Barley Soup
  • Barley Rice
  • Vegetarian Barley Stuffed Squash
  • Homemade Lemon Barley Water
  • Kale Barley Salad with Feta and a Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Korean Barley Tea (Boricha)
  • Barley Salad with Roasted Carrots
  • Barley Salad with Summer Squash
  • Barley Risotto with Mushrooms
  • Barley Pilaf


While both barley and pearl barley are types of barley, pearl barley is the less-common type and probably one of the little nutrient-dense grains among them.

To reap the most benefits, stick to whole-grain varieties like hulled barley, barley flakes, barley flours, or barley grits.

But in the end, it boils down to personal preference. Before you make a decision, though, I’d encourage you to think about the factors we’ve covered here and weigh them against each other.

And if you want to see how barley measures up with other grains, don’t forget to check out: barley vs rice, barley vs quinoa, and barley vs bulgur.