A Bowlful of Barley

December 4, 2007 | 38 Comments

Pearl barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is an ancient grain that originated in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, where it was used for bread, animal feed, and beer. It was the staple grain across many parts of Europe, Africa and China before being displaced by wheat, corn and rice.

Barley ranks fourth in quantity produced and in area of cultivation of cereal crops in the world.

It has always been prized for its nutritional benefits and medicinal properties. (Nutritional analysis HERE)

Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Barley grains are available in two forms. Hulled barley is the most nutritious, since it retains the bran. Only the outer hulls are polished off. Pearl barley also called hull-less barley has the outer bran layer removed as well. Though it is less nutritious, it is more popular, since it is less chewy than hulled barley and takes about 30% less time to cook.

These are two of our experiments with pearl (hull-less) barley.


Add 8 cups of water to 1 cup barley (washed a couple of times), pressure cook it until soft (for 15 minutes after pressure is released). Or cook for an hour or more on the stovetop. Cool, and drain the liquid (we ended up with 4 cups of liquid).

Add an equal amount of water to the barley water. We had 4 cups of barley water, and added 4 cups of water.

Add about 3 tablespoons lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup sugar or sweetener of choice (we used light agave nectar).

(Note: American lemons are quite distinct from Indian ‘lemons’, which are actually limes. Lemons are yellow-skinned, sweeter and closer to the Indian sweet lime or mosambi in flavour)

Strain, stir, chill, stir again, and serve.


Cooked, barley grains are a bit stickier than rice grains, making them perfect for creamy dishes like risotto or “thayirchadam“, which is a south Indian dish with rice and spiced yogurt. (In Tamil, thayir = yogurt, chadam = rice.)

Add 1.5 cups plain yogurt and 1/2 cup milk while the barley grains are still warm. If the yogurt is sour, increase the proportion of milk to yogurt. Add salt to taste, 3 or 4 chopped green serrano or bird chillies, 1 tsp grated ginger, 6 finely chopped curry leaves.

Heat 1 tsp vegetable oil and add 1 tsp brown mustard seeds and 1 broken dry red chilli. When the mustard seeds pop, add it to the barley-yogurt mixture. Chill the mixture. It should thicken further to the consistency of thick porridge. Add more yogurt//milk if necessary.

Just before serving, add 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro. We also added 1/4 cup each grated carrot and finely chopped kiwi fruit. Other optional additions: pomegranate, pineapple, grapes.

We served ours alongside figs and red grapes.

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  1. Madhu says:

    Barley and lemon drink is so refreshing, I make similar but add pepper powder. Very neat thing to used barley rice to make yogurt rice. Looks so comforting :)

  2. Always heard of lemon-barley water, but never had it. You make it look amazingly good!

  3. raksanand says:

    lemon barley sounds interesting and tempting to have a glass right now..Adding lemon zest is a wonderful idea :)

  4. Kaykat says:

    That lemon barley water rocks! Can’t wait to try it out. Ahh … so this is what you were talking about when I posted about the barley risotto last week! :)

    That is a rockin’ picture!

  5. Simona says:

    Two very interesting recipes. I am particularly intrigued by the lemon barley water. It may be partly thanks to the picture but it feels quite refreshing. I do use barley on occasions to make risotto and like it. And I like the title ‘hostess’. I should write about this word in my blog one day: it has an interesting history.

  6. Siri says:

    Both barley water and yogurt with barley sound soo refreshing! :D :horn:

    ~ Siri

  7. Priya says:

    The picture of the barley water reminds me of lime juice in summer :) and the thayirsadam looks sooo yummmy ! …and I got some chestnuts at the grocery store today :dance: Need to buy a cast iron pan now, any suggestions, I plan to buy just one pan, so which size would be the best utilized ?

    12-inch skillet – b.

  8. Miri says:

    Love the orange background – looks amazingly rich!

    Oh yes, the barley too :tongue:

    Actually, too many repressed memories of having tons of barley water when I was sick and off any solids for a year and allowed only “clear liquids”, came flooding back to be able to enjoy this post- same with coconut water – I am done with them! -Sorry, it’s not you, its me. :D

  9. Nags says:

    Barley water was a daily thing at home back when I was in school. Never knew it was this nutritious, though.. Love the first pic!

  10. RedChillies says:

    Oh wow, very interesting recipes. Loved the “BARLEY WITH SPICED YOGURT ” recipe. A neat way to use barley in everyday cooking.

  11. satya says:

    Very interesting way to use the leftover grains.Always felt bad for throwing them in the dust bin.Excellent idea.Thank you very much for sharing.

  12. Raaga says:

    only heard of lemon barley water… courtesy Kissan squashes :) now I have another :)

  13. Jyothsna says:

    Always thought barley water was used only to treat water retention. Thanks for the info.

  14. Aparna says:

    Barley concoctions are very well known as diuretics. It is a popular grandma’s remedy and it works!
    I didn’t know it could be cooked this way. Thanks.

  15. indosungod says:

    Barley drink, something I’d love to try.
    The Read On, was bit annoying, I like it the way you have it now, one click read.

  16. sandeepa says:

    never ever liked barley as a kid, the fear is so much that have not tried since then

  17. Laavanya says:

    How did the lemon barley water taste? I had to drink it (w/o lemon) late in my pregnancy to help with swollen feet… and I distinctly remember hating it :nono: The one i made didn’t even look this pretty.
    I do add barley to soups but this thayir saadham idea is swell.

    i always liked it. – b.

  18. rina says:

    I know my Grand mother Always encouraged us to drink the Barley water. Thanks for your tary lemon version.

  19. kribha says:

    I’m seeing a lot of barley in the blogsphere nowadays. Wondering why my mom never made this. Everything looks delicious as usual.

  20. Suganya says:

    I always do barley thayir sadam. sometimes with oats too. With a pickle they make good dinner, less guilty too.

  21. shivapriya says:

    My mom adds butter milk, salt, curry leaves to the barely water. It tastes really good. If you still have barely water in ur fridge give this a try.

  22. Rajitha says:

    the thair chadam is a great idea..but guys..a shiver went down my spine whe i saw the barley juice…just to say that i have really horrid memories attached :bruised:

  23. Cynthia says:

    Growing up I never liked barely, I’m still not sure that I do. The Thayirchadam sounds interesting. Mommy would usually make barely soup or porridge.

  24. Purnima says:

    Barely water, most of us are familiar with..Thairchadam wt Barley is new concept for me! Today’s brkfast was barley-brown rice dosa(again a new recipe for me, adapted from IFR -kids love it) shall be trying barley-lemonade & yoghurt with barley soon! Lovely post!

  25. Purnima says:

    B–> tried both today..the yoghurt barley was too good! W/o fruit combo though and so was the barley water with lemon! Tks for posting! Best Rgds.

  26. Were they good? What did they taste like? Very intersting post.

    tasted wonderful, though the texture ogf barley is ‘slimier’ than that of rice. – b.

  27. This is really making me curious about barley. I am a rice researcher so I am more biased towards rice. Wish we have barley here in the Philippines.

  28. Kalyn says:

    What a great post. I love barley, but I’ve only had it in more traditional dishes like soup. I’ve read about making a type of “risotto” with barley which I want to try.

  29. Bri says:

    This thayirchadam recipe looks delicious. I’ve only had barley occasionally, but I should experiment more with it. I love that you included the literal translation of thayirchadam since I words, cultures and food are so integral to each other. What an inspiring post. Thanks!

  30. [...] and Lemony, Lemon Barley Water from [...]

  31. [...] Coffee of The Spice Cafe from here Mango [...]

  32. [...] and Bee’s blog.  I’m very glad I did that,  because I found an excellent recipe for Barley Thayirchadam.  It’s pretty much the regular South Indian yogurt rice, but prepared with barley instead.  [...]

  33. Madhuram says:

    I tried this yesterday for dinner and it was very tasty. Thank you very much for the recipe Jai and Bee.

  34. [...] Check out Bee and Jai’s Bowlful of Barley [...]

  35. Taranigni says:

    I just made the thayirchadam and it was delicious!! thanks for thre recipe!!!

  36. Meena says:

    Hi Bee,
    Came across your blog a few weeks ago and since then have been a regular visitor. Great pics and so is the writing style. My first introduction to Barley water was during my pregnancy when i had to deal with swollen feet. I used to wonder what to do with all the cooked barley. Someone told it that it could be eaten with sugar and it tasted YUK!!. Each time i cooked barley i ended up throwing away the cooked grains. Your Thaiyrsadam is a neat idea.

  37. Vinolia says:

    lovely ways to eat this cereal. Barley seems to have so many medicinal virtues, I was searching for a drink using barley (for my daughter, actually),thankfully I landed up here :)
    lovely presentation, colourful and appetizing as usual; combining it with thayir saadham is interesting too; thank you for these recipes!

  38. Vidhya says:


    I am 31 weeks pregnant and i have Gestational diabetes. I thought to have barley in my diet. I prepared your refreshing drink and yogurt rice. It was nice. But i want to know how many carbohydrates are in 1 glass(240 ml or 8 oz) of barley juice. And is there any limitation in having this juice per day especially during pregnant. Please throw some light on this…


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