Pearl barley is a delicious grain that can be cooked simply in salted water. Serve it instead of rice with hearty stews. Or, add uncooked grains to mixed vegetable soups. Krupnik, a Polish chicken, vegetable and pearl barley soup is one of we love most. Simple, satisfying and freezer-friendly.
Studies have shown that barley helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels in the body long after the meal. It is also high in protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, thus having barley for breakfast as you would oats or cereal with milk, is actually a very nutritious choice. It does contain gluten so it is not suitable for coeliacs or those with gluten allergies.
How to cook pearl barley?
I’ve always loved all types of grains, but pearl barley has remained my favourite since childhood. It may be because it’s slightly nutty and earthy in flavour, or because it has a lovely sticky consistency that goes oh so well with gravy-style beef, Swedish meatballs or mushroom sauce.
To cook pearl barley, place an amount of barley and double the amount of water in a saucepan. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. See printable recipe below with serving suggestions.
How to Cook Pearl Barley
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1 cup water
- pinch salt
- Place barley in a saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to the boil. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. The water should be almost fully absorbed, drain excess if any.
- Serve with saucy meat numbers. Alternatively enjoy with hot milk and a spoonful of honey as a breakfast cereal.
- You can keep cooked barley in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat in a saucepan or microwave as needed.
Pearl barley and vegetable soup recipe inspired by Polish Krupnik
The other way to use pearl barley, and the most common, is in vegetable soup (see my version of Polish Krupnik recipe below). Hearty vegetables, nutritious barley and sweet broth make this soup the perfect, but light and nutritious winter warmer.
You can use a store-bought fresh soup mix to make the soup. Alternatively, chop up some carrots, potatoes, leek, onion, celery. Frozen fennel fronds and leafy parts of the celery stalks can also be added. They impart extra flavour and nutrients. That’s the vegan and vegetarian version.
Add some chicken on the bone. Wings or drumsticks are great for this as the meat stays juicy and succulent throughout cooking. I actually often pop frozen drumsticks into the veggies and water. It makes for a speedy dinner without the need to defrost anything.
Serve with some fresh cream or milk stirred through. Lastly, sprinkle in some fresh or frozen chopped dill.
Pearl barley and vegetable soup (Krupnik)
- 1 large brown onion
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large potatoes
- 2 celery sticks
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups water
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- 4 chicken drumsticks (6 chicken wings or 4 chicken thighs)
- 4 bay leaves
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup fresh cream or milk
- Peel onion, carrots and potatoes. Finely dice onion, cut carrots and potatoes into small cubes. Finely dice celery.
- (If using, you can also add your freezer stash vegetables "bits" add green parts of the leek, fennel fronds)
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add carrot and celery and cook for another minute, stirring.
- Add water, pearl barley, chicken, bay leaves and peppercorns. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer very gently on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring every now and again. Add some extra water to the soup and season with extra salt if you prefer a more runny consistency.
- Remove chicken from the soup and shred, the meat, including the skin. Return to the soup.
- (Remove any frozen whole vegetable "bits" if using, such as fennel fronds, etc. Discard or chop up finely and add back to the soup)
- Serve with a tablespoon or two of fresh cream or milk stirred through the soup. Sprinkle with dill.