How to Cook Barley in a Slow Cooker

Barley is one of the oldest grains.
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It's very easy to cook pearl barley in a slow cooker. All you need to do is combine liquid, barley and your choice of seasonings and let it slow cook overnight. Slow cooker barley recipes can be made in both sweet and savory forms.


Read more: 10 Myths About Grains — Totally Busted

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Preparing Slow Cooker Barley Recipes

If you want to prepare barley in a Crock-Pot or other type of slow cooker, you first need to know whether you'd like to prepare sweet or savory barley. The average slow cooker barley breakfast is likely to be sweet, while most barley side dishes are savory.

If you want a sweet, slow cooker barley breakfast, you'll need spices, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. Prepare your barley in water or a mixture of water and milk. You only need to add milk if you prefer your barley to have a creamier texture.

Read more: 10 Breakfast Superfood Bowls You'll Want to Eat All Day

Plant-based milks, like oat milk, are particularly good choices to use in your slow cooker barley breakfast, because they add a creamy texture but don't have much saturated fat. You can also use low-fat cow's milk, which is rich in nutrients but still low in fat.


The American Heart Association says that people need to be conscious of their saturated fat intake and limit it when possible. This is because, as reported in an article published in the September 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, most Americans exceed their recommended daily limits of saturated fat consumption.

If you'd rather make a salty or savory pearl barley recipe, use a bone broth or stock instead. Savory slow cooker barley recipes tend to incorporate herbs and spices, like garlic, onion powder, rosemary and thyme. You may also want to chop up a few vegetables and add them to your dish. Just toss the vegetables and barley in the Crock-Pot, cover with broth, season and let simmer overnight.


Making Slow Cooker Barley Breakfasts

Eating pearl barley for breakfast is much healthier than consuming most cereals. This is because pearl barley is rich in fiber, a nutrient that most Americans don't consume enough of, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


If you want to consume even more fiber, cook hulled barley instead. Hulled barley is the less-processed whole-grain variant, while pearl barley is refined, like white rice.


To make a delicious slow cooker barley breakfast, you'll need:

  • 1 cup of pearl barley or hulled barley

  • 3 cups of water

  • 1 cup of low-fat milk or plant-based milk alternative

  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

  • A pinch of a natural sweetener, like lucuma, or a sugar substitute, like erythritol


Step 1: Prepare the Slow Cooker

Turn on your slow cooker to the lowest setting. Place your barley in the Crock-Pot.

Step 2: Add the Liquid

Add in the water so that the barley is almost completely covered. Add in 1 cup of milk.

Make sure that you've added enough liquid so that your barley doesn't burn. It's OK if it looks like too much liquid. The barley will triple in size, and the liquid will evaporate overnight.



If you've chosen to cook hulled barley, add in an extra cup of water.

Step 3: Season the Barley

Toss in your spices and mix. Leave your barley in the Crock-Pot overnight on the lowest setting.

Step 4: Taste Your Barley

Barley typically has a bit of bite to it, even when it's fully cooked. When you wake up the next day, see if you like your barley's texture. Slow cooker barley breakfasts typically take between six and nine hours to fully cook.


Pearl barley will always be softer than hulled barley. If you prefer your barley to be very soft, be aware that hulled barley will need need to be cooked for a longer time than pearl barley.

Step 5: Serve and Savor

Once your barley is cooked to your liking, serve and enjoy it. If you want, you can add some sliced fruits or berries and sprinkle a bit of a healthy sweetener on top.


Lucuma powder and other plant-based sweeteners are particularly healthy, because they only contain natural sugars. However, you can also add some raw honey if these sweeteners are too hard to find.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Sweeteners

Although many might add white or brown sugar to their slow cooker barley breakfasts, the FDA says that most people consume too many added sugars each day. Using fruits, natural sweeteners and plant-based sugar substitutes instead can help you reduce your added sugar consumption.




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