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Best Nutritious Barley Substitutes For Your Creations

by Khadija Tahir
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Best Nutritious Barley Substitute for Your Creations

Hello Friend! Looking for barley substitutes? Who doesn’t love a nice, warm, hearty bowl of soup on a cold winter day such as today? I know I do. And if you’re a big soup lover such as myself, barley soup comes to mind fairly quickly.

But what if you get the craving for some comfort in the form of a big bowl of vegetable or beef barley soup and you just don’t have any barley on hand? Or what if you need to find a worthy gluten-free substitute?

Or maybe you’re still sticking to your New Year’s resolutions and are looking to top your salad with a nutritious grain other than barley. Check your pantry for these pearl barley substitutes!

The best pearl barley substitute is farro – with the most similar nutrition profile, size, taste, and texture. The best pearl barley substitutes for salads and pilafs are farro, quinoa, couscous, and bulgur wheat. For soups and stews, the best alternatives are brown rice, millet, sorghum, and corn. For oatmeal or porridge use oats, buckwheat, or teff.

All pearl barley substitutes discussed are gluten-free besides couscous and bulgur wheat.

There are plenty of pearl barley substitutes that will provide you with great nutrition and satiety.

You can use any of these barley substitutes in place of any recipe that calls for pearl barley.

Farro Barley Substitutes

Best Nutritious Barley Substitute for Your Creations

Let’s start things off strong. Farro is the best pearl barley substitute. Why do you ask? Well, you can observe the similarities right off the bat. They look very similar, although farro is slightly larger and has a more oblong shape compared to barley. Farro will provide you with the same slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture that barley will.

They are also both very nutritious, with almost an identical nutrition profile.

¼ cup of dry farro contains 190 calories, 38 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 6 g protein, while ¼ cup of pearl barley contains 200 calories, 44 g carbs, 6 g fiber, and 5 g protein. You can use them interchangeably in almost any recipe. Well, sounds good, right?


Quinoa is an excellent pearl barley substitute (and overall all-star grain; although it is technically a seed) for so many reasons.

Differing from other grains (besides two others that we will discuss further), quinoa contains all of the human body’s 9 essential amino acids.

And substituting quinoa for pearl barley in your recipes can provide more of it while still providing you with the grainy similarities of pearl barley. ¼ cup of dry quinoa contains 170 calories, 32 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 6 g protein.

Quinoa is a pseudo-grain. That’s right! Quinoa refers to those edible seeds of the quinoa plant rich in nutrients, especially in highly enriching protein.

Quinoa makes a gluten-free alternative to pearl barley. It has a mild taste with a slightly nutty flavor and a firm texture. Being an incredible source of protein, quinoa becomes a vital alternative to pearl barley. I have also written an article on The Best Beans and Barley Good For You.

CouscousBarley Substitutes

Best Nutritious Barley Substitute for Your Creations

Time to get the facts right about couscous. It is neither a grain nor a seed. So what is it doing under a list of substitutes for cereal? It has its reasons.

Couscous is a paste made from ground durum wheat semolina, formulated into tiny granules. It has a subtle nutty flavor that is barely noticeable. The granular texture and mild flavor of couscous make it a good alternative to pearl barley.

Couscous is one of two mentioned pearl barley substitutes that is not gluten-free.

It is a traditional North African pasta that is made from coarsely ground durum wheat. Couscous is notably high in protein and selenium, which is an antioxidant. You can also read more about The Best Barley Flour | Amazing Information.

Bulgur WheatBarley Substitutes

It contains wheat and is therefore not a gluten-free pearl barley substitute. Bulgur wheat is a great ingredient commonly used in the Middle Eastern salad tabbouleh.

It has a chewy and mildly nutty taste to it, making it a great pearl barley substitute.¼ cup dry bulgur wheat contains 160 calories, 35 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 4 g protein.

You can easily replace pearl barley with bulgur wheat almost on an equal ratio in soups, stocks, or porridges. The popular word is that bulgur wheat works as an amazing binding agent as well. You can get more from this.

Brown RiceBarley Substitutes

Best Nutritious Barley Substitute for Your Creations

Brown rice is a very healthy, easily available, and affordable substitute for pearl barley. It has a chewy texture and nutty flavor akin to pearl barley, making it a good substitute.

You might already know what makes brown rice healthy – its bran, germ, and endosperm are kept intact, making it nutritious. It does, however, have carbs and calories.

Nevertheless, with a low glycemic index and similarity in flavor profiles, brown rice is one of the best substitutes for pearl barley.

MilletBarley Substitutes

Millet is a cereal grain with a sweet flavor that is sometimes deemed to be that of corn. It is one of the cheapest grains available and thus an effective, easy substitute for pearl barley.

What makes millet different from pearl barley is its texture. Pearl barley has a chewy texture, but millet has a soft texture very similar to mashed potatoes. So if you dislike the chewy part of pearl barley, millet should be your choice as a substitute.

AmaranthBarley Substitutes

Yet another pseudocereal is amaranth. A tan-colored gluten-free seed is deemed to be a grain rich in fiber, protein, and micronutrients. It has a very sweet, nutty flavor with a crunchy texture.

It is not always the best option to substitute for pearl barley. But, considering the nutritional value and distinctive flavor, amaranth would work fine as a replacement for pearl barley in soups or dishes. Another on The Best Burgers and Barley Amazing For You.

Corn Barley Substitute

I am pretty sure there can be only very few who dislike corn. It has an amazingly sweet flavor with a juicy inside and a firm covering. Not to mention that it is an indispensable part of several recipes.

Corn kernels have a creamy texture and a delightful flavor. It is one of the most consumed cereals worldwide due to its harmless starch content and other health benefits.

Whole corn kernels are almost the same size as that pearl barley. So you have little to worry about the flavor or texture. Go for corn kernels instead of pearl barley, and you won’t be disappointed.

BuckwheatBarley Substitutes

We have another pseudocereal on the list, which is buckwheat. It is devoid of wheat and is commonly a grain-like seed from eastern Europe used as a cereal.

Buckwheat has an earthy, bitter flavor and a chewy texture. It comprises fewer calories and carbohydrates than pearl barley making it one of the considerable alternatives for pearl barley. 

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That was a lot of grain talk! I know what I’m having for lunch. In short, there are tons of different types of barley substitutes out there.

What’s great about grains is that you can use most of them interchangeably with one another in most recipes.

Hopefully, you have learned what to do should you ever go to make a recipe that calls for pearl barley, but you’re missing the pearl barley!

Is Pearl Grain Great For You?

Undoubtedly! Loaded with lots of fiber, nutrients, minerals, and cell reinforcement and mitigating properties – pearl grain (alongside other entire grains) is perhaps the best food.

Is Pearl Grain Equivalent to Customary Grain?

Not exactly. While grain is viewed in general grain, pearl grain isn’t. This is because pearl grain has lost its external husk and its wheat layer in handling, and it has been cleaned. This makes it somewhat less nutritious than ordinary grain.
It has a lighter, more matte appearance contrasted with customary grain.

Is Pearl Grain great For Diabetics?

Indeed. Pearl grain’s high fiber content makes it an extraordinary choice for diabetics. Its other nourishing properties make it extremely good for diabetics to consume.

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