How to Cook Barley in an Instant Pot

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Here’s everything you need to know about making Instant Pot barley using both presoak and no-soak methods. You’ll have a nutty, tender grain for a side dish, grain bowl, or taco filling in minutes!

A small, white ribbed ramekin filled with prepared barley that has been garnished with finely chopped parsley. The ramekin is sitting on a gray concrete background, with a white linen cloth on the left and an antique silver spoon on the right. In the background is additional barley and parsley.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

These fool-proof methods for cooking barley take the guesswork out of making tender and flavorful grains for your favorite side dishes and grain bowls. Plus we’ve included instructions for the soak and no-soak methods. 

We’ve been testing and perfecting ways to cook all kinds of grains in the Instant Pot for years, and we love that barley offers a slightly nutty, chewier alternative to rice and quinoa. If you’re looking for a healthy, super easy side dish, you’ll love this recipe too. 

Be sure to check out our how-to guides to making other grains in the Instant Pot:

a side view photograph of a small, ribbed, white bowl of dried barley grains, an silver teaspoon filled with salt, and a glass measuring cup filled with 2 cups of water. The items are sitting on a textured gray concrete background.

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED

You only need three ingredients to make simple cooked barley in an Instant Pot:

  • Barley. These recipes are developed using pearled barley. We used Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Water. You can substitute the water with juice, broth, or another flavorful liquid if you like!
  • Salt. This is essential for seasoning the grains while they cook. 
An overhead shot looking down into an Instant Pot pressure cooker sitting on a gray concrete surface. The cooking pot is filled with water and dried barley, just prior to cooking.

How to Make Barley in an Instant Pot

This easy recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

There are two ways to make perfectly cooked barley in an Instant Pot: the presoak method and the no-soak method. Here’s how to nail each:

Pre-Soak Method

If you have the time to pre-soak your grains, this method yields a smoother, less crunchy texture. Simply cover a cup of barley with water in a large bowl or pot for up to 24 hours. The grains will soften up and the water will turn cloudy. Be sure to discard the soaking water and rinse the grains before cooking them in the Instant Pot.  

After soaking, place the barley in the Instant Pot with 1 ¼ cups of water. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes and finish with a quick pressure release. 

An overhead shot of an Instant Pot looking into the pressure cooking pot. The pot is filled with cooked barley that has been fluffed with a wooden spoon, which is leaning against the upper right of the pot.

No-Soak Method

The no-soak method to making Instant Pot barley is great when you’re short on time or didn’t plan ahead! 

All you need to do is combine the barley with 2 cups of water and salt in the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. When the cook time ends, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. Remove the lid and enjoy! 

A horizontal shot showing a wooden spoon coming in from the left side of the frame. The spoon is holding a serving of cooked barley and is suspended over an Instant Pot.

Frequently Asked Questions about Making Instant Pot Barley

How should I serve barley? 

Barley is a tasty substitution for any of your favorite grains. It’s delicious instead of rice, quinoa or farro as a side dish to meat or vegetables. It’s also a great base for burrito bowls or a filling for tacos. You can even toss it into a salad for extra heft. 
It also makes a healthy breakfast. To turn your barley sweet, swap the water for apple juice and add cinnamon. You can serve it with a dollop of yogurt or a drizzle of cream. Yum! 

Can I flavor barley while it’s cooking?

Yes! This grain is a fantastic blank canvas to add your favorite flavorings. You can swap out some or all of the water with broth to infuse the grains with flavor as they cook. Or add any dried spices, sauteed veggies (like onions and peppers), or fresh herbs. 

How should I store cooked barley?

Keep leftover cooked barley in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. It’s great cold on a salad, or you can reheat it in the microwave. 

Can I freeze cooked barley?

Yes, barley freezes well. Store individual servings in containers or airtight bags in the freezer for up to six months. Thaw the grains overnight in the fridge, then enjoy hot or cold. 

A vertical photograph of a small, white ribbed ramekin filled with prepared barley that has been garnished with finely chopped parsley. The ramekin is sitting on a gray concrete background, with a white linen cloth on the left and an antique silver fork on the right. In the background is additional barley and parsley as well as a white salt and pepper shaker.

MORE Instant Pot Grain Recipes

Try these easy and delicious recipes featuring grains made in an Instant Pot:

A vertical photo showing a small, white ribbed ramekin filled with prepared barley that has been garnished with finely chopped parsley. The ramekin has a fork extending to the right edge of the frame. In the background, an Instant Pot is visible out of focus, with white salt and pepper shakers, green parsley, and a white bowl of additional barley.

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A close-up of a fork filled with a bite of prepared barley suspended over a small, white ribbed ramekin filled with prepared barley. The ramekin is sitting on a gray concrete background, with a white linen cloth on the left.

How to Make Barley in an Instant Pot

Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Additional: 10 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: grains
Use one of these two methods (soak and no-soak) to make perfectly tender barley for breakfasts, grain bowls, burritos, and side dishes in your Instant Pot.
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup pearled barley rinsed well and drained

Soak Method

  • 1 1/2 cups water for soaking
  • 1 1/4 cups water for cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt optional

No-Soak Method

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt optional

Instructions

Soak Method

  • In a large bowl, add barley and 1 1/2 cups water and soak for 6 to 12 hours. (Do not soak for more than 24 hours.)
  • Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the soaked barley, then transfer the soaked barley to the inner cooking pot. Add 1 1/4 cups water and salt (if using) and ensure the barley is in an even layer.
  • Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and a 10 minute cook time. When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.
  • Gently fluff the barley, then serve.

No-Soak Method

  • In the pressure cooking pot, add the barley, 2 cups water, and salt (if using), and gently stir to ensure the barley is in an even layer.
  • Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and a 22 minute cook time. When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.
  • Gently fluff the barley, then serve.

Notes

I have found that I prefer the presoaked grains when making a breakfast porridge. Presoaking the grains definitely leads to a smoother texture and less of a “bite” since the bran in the middle was a little softer. 
I generally use the no-soak method when I’m making a side-dish, since it has a little more texture in each grain. 

Nutrition

Calories: 117kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 0.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.05g | Sodium: 5mg | Potassium: 93mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 7IU | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

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