Maybe you are wondering what the difference is between barley and oatmeal. Let me break this down in a detailed article all about barley vs. oatmeal. Both are healthy foods and excellent choices for adding more whole-grain food to your diet.
Let me first start off by saying I love both these whole grains and they are a regular item in my pantry and in the foods I cook.
I have many recipes for oatmeal that you really need to check out and they are listed at the bottom of this post. It is a great way to start the day, inexpensive, and so delicious!
Or what about this recipe for Beef Barley Soup? The ultimate comfort food.
Differences between barley and oatmeal
- Barley is a primary crop and oats are grown as a secondary crop derived from a weed.
- The key difference is they are 2 completely different whole grains.
- Barley contains gluten and oatmeal is gluten-free.
- If you are looking for a sweeter grain, barley has been noted to be slightly sweeter.
Similarities between barley and oatmeal
- Both are mild flavored grains and for cooking, can really be used interchangeably.
- When stored properly, both grains will hold for up to 15 years! I like to store mine in sealed buckets with oxygen absorbers. More on storing grains, in this article
- Barley and oats are both great sources of dietary fiber and soluble fiber.
- They can both be eaten as breakfast foods. I will include a recipe for making barley porridge at the bottom of the post. Top this with fresh fruit and it is a great start to the day.
What is barley?
Barley is a common cereal grain that can be grown in most temperate climates. It is cereal grass, and part of the grass family. Barley was one of the first cultivated grains, as early as 10,000 years ago!
It contains gluten, so those with allergies and sensitivities need to avoid this grain.
Barley is typically hulled before human consumption, which means the outermost layer is removed.
Hulled barley is still a whole grain as it contains bran, endosperm, and germ. If you want to learn more about whole grains, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic on the health benefits of whole grains.
Most of the barley you find in the US grocery stores is pearled barley. You can also easily find it online as well.
What is the difference between hulled and pearled barley?
Both start with the whole barley grain. The difference is the way they are processed.
Hulled barley has only had the outer, indigestible, layer removed. It will be a little darker in color and is generally called barley groats.
Pearl barley, on the other hand, has the outer layer removed along with the bran as well. The grain is then polished. This process gives it a much lighter color and cuts down the cooking time.
It is the most common type of barley and is typically very inexpensive.
While most of the barley grown is used in livestock feed, there are many ways to use barley for the foods we eat.
Aside from the pearled and hulled barley that can be used in soups, salads, wraps, etc.
Have you ever heard of barley flakes? They are steamed and rolled barley groats that are used as breakfast cereal. If you have not tried it, you need to! Barley is a good source of soluble fiber.
Barley water and other alcoholic beverages are common products of barley as well. It is also used in malt extract. There is also malted barley which has long been used in beer production.
Have you ever heard of barley flour? I don't use it often myself but check out this recipe from Savor the Best for Barley Quick Bread. I have never tried barley bread before, but want to try it!
How to cook pearl barley
Barley is very simple to cook. Use a 3:1 ratio for the liquid to barley. What I mean by this is for 1 cup of barley, use 3 cups of liquid.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then add in the barley and salt if you need it.
Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the barley is tender. Fluff with a fork as needed.
If you want to cook in the Instant Pot, it is cooked with the pressure high for about 20 minutes. I allow for 5 minutes of natural release.
What is oatmeal?
Oatmeal is completely different than barley. It comes from oat groats, Oat groats are one of the most famous cereal grains, especially here in the United States. Its proper name is avena sativa.
Oats are gluten-free and incredibly healthy, making them a great way to start the day. They have also been proven to lower cholesterol and 4 grams of fiber per cup. If you are needed extra fiber in your diet, oats are always a good choice.
Oat groats can be processed in different ways- steel-cut oats, Scottish oats, old-fashioned oatmeal, and instant oatmeal.
This is a wonderful article from the Mayo Clinic about the health benefits of Oats.
Types of oats
Oat groats are the whole oat kernel. You can cook them, as I did in this Instant Pot oat groats recipe, or even grind them into oat flour. Oat flour is a whole-grain flour that is gluten-free. I used it to make these oat flour chocolate chip cookies. They have a chewy texture that is perfect for breakfast porridge.
Steel cut oats- I will include Scottish oats in this category as well. These oats groats are cut in half or smaller pieces. They are quicker to cook than the whole oat groats and are very popular.
Rolled oats- These are regular or old-fashioned oats. I have several recipes made with rolled oats and use them often in my kitchen. Check out this granola bars recipe from minimalist baker that uses regular oats.
Instant oats are the form of oatmeal I use the least. They get too mushy for my taste, but I realize they are so convenient to cook on a busy morning.
Oatmeal Recipe Ideas
I have so many oatmeal recipes on my site. Our family eats oatmeal often and we love it!
How to cook barley
- 3 cups liquid This can be water or broth.
- 1 cup pearl barley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Bring the water and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add in the barley, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let this cook for 35-40 minutes.
- Remove it from the heat and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and it is ready to serve.
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