Hulled, pearl barley and pot barley are widely known and used in dishes like soups and stews, but did you know barley also comes in the form of flakes?
Similar in shape and taste to rolled oats, barley flakes make a great addition to baked goods, porridge, muesli, and soups, and have even more heart-healthy benefits than their oat counterparts.
Read on to learn about barley flakes health benefits, what to look for when buying, how to prepare them, and a list of delicious recipes to use them in!
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- What Are Barley Flakes?
- Where to Purchase
- How To Choose Whole Grain Barley Flakes
- How to Store Barley Flakes & Their Shelf Life
- Health Benefits
- How to Cook Barley Flakes?
- What Can You Make with Barley Flakes?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Barley Flakes Cereal – Top Recommendations from a Dietitian
- Other Alternative Porridge Recipes
- Final Thoughts
What Are Barley Flakes?
The process of turning whole barley kernels into flakes is quite simple. First, the hull (hard outer shell of the barley kernel) is removed, in a process called hulling. The grain is thereafter steamed, rolled flat, and dried, resulting in flakes similar to rolled oats.
Because the three grain kernel parts (bran, endosperm, and germ) remain present throughout this process, flaked barley are still considered whole grain. This enhances their fiber, nutrient, and phytonutrient contents – boosting their health benefits!
Barley flakes are similar in color to rolled oats; pale, with a light golden-brown tint.
On their own, flaked barley has a very mild, slightly sweet, nutty flavor. It definitely has a grainy taste. They will take on the flavor of whatever dish you use them in, which is part of the reason they are so versatile!
Barley flakes do not have much of an aroma. When dry, they have a mild nutty smell and when cooked, give off a subtle sweet earthy aroma.
While flaked barley is very similar to rolled oats in color and taste, their texture differs slightly. You can expect a similar softness, but slightly chewier and heartier texture with barley flakes, making them a great substitute for granola especially.
The flakes are round, flat, and slightly thicker than rolled oats and larger than quick oats.
Where to Purchase
Seeing as flaked barley are not a very popular food product as of right now, finding them can be a bit tricky. While they may not be at your regular grocery store, they can almost always be found at bulk food stores, such as a bulk food store.
Some natural health food stores also carry them like healthy planet, and if those are not options for you, they are available to purchase online from stores such as amazon.
How To Choose Whole Grain Barley Flakes
When choosing barley flakes, make sure to read the label carefully. On the list of ingredients, you’re looking for either ‘barley flakes’ or ‘barley’. That’s it! Only one ingredient. Try to avoid any added salt, sugars, or flavorings, which can hinder the nutritional benefits.
To ensure the flaked barley you are choosing are whole grain, try to avoid words like ‘naked’ or ‘pearled’ on the packaging. This may suggest the bran, germ, and endosperm have been removed, meaning it is no longer considered a whole grain.
How to Store Barley Flakes & Their Shelf Life
To maintain their freshness, rolled barley flakes should be kept in an air-tight container in a dark, cool environment. In these conditions, barley flakes can last quite a long time – from 6 months up to a year. Once cooked, the flakes should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 days.
(per 50g, about 1/2cup)
|Calories||Carbohydrates||Fiber||Protein||Nutrients (>10% DV)|
|Barley flakes||177||37g||7g||7g||Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc|
|Hulled Barley||175||37g||8.5g||6g||“ ”|
|Rolled Oats||190||34g||5g||6.5g||Thiamin, B5, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc,Calcium|
As seen in the table above, barley flakes are very nutritionally comparable to hulled barley (which is barley grain with just the inedible husk removed), having just slightly more protein and less fiber.
When comparing them to rolled oats, barley flakes come in at a lower caloric value, with slightly more fiber and protein. They also contain additional B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and B6 which oats do not, but lack the calcium present in the latter grain.
Rolled barley flakes have many health benefits due to their high fiber and nutrient content. Heart health, blood sugar control, and digestive health are some of the main benefits and are described in more detail below.
When it comes to cardiovascular health, high blood cholesterol levels are one of the main concerns.
Consuming barley flakes may help to lower cholesterol levels, due to a substance called beta glucan. Beta glucan is naturally present in whole grain oats and barley and is a soluble fiber, meaning it creates a gel-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract ().
Beta glucan works by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the blood stream, and stimulating a bodily process called reverse cholesterol transport, which removes excess cholesterol (2).
These lipid-lowering effects have been observed after consumption of just 3g beta glucan/day, equating to roughly 70g (¾ cup) of uncooked rolled barley flakes (3).
Blood Sugar Control
Consuming barley flakes may also contribute to better blood sugar control.
This is considered a low glycemic index food, mainly because of its high fiber content.
The glycemic index scale determines the intensity of blood sugar spikes after having eaten a specific food. Foods with a lower glycemic index value will raise blood sugar at a slower rate and with less intensity, than higher glycemic index foods.
Eating foods that have a low glycemic index can help increase satiety and improve glucose management at the next meal, making it specifically beneficial for individuals living with diabetes who are looking to regulate their blood sugar levels (4).
As for digestive health, barley flakes have many benefits. Its high fiber content aids in increasing the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancers and promote abundant and stable good bacteria in your gut (4,5).
A decrease in bloating and abdominal pain has also been observed as a result of the insoluble fiber present in rolled barley flakes. Insoluble fiber is typically known for its constipation-preventing qualities, whereby the undigestible substance adds bulk to stool and helps move it along the large intestine.
This action ultimately decreases the amount of time available for bacteria to ferment undigested food in the colon, which helps to decrease gas production and prevent bloating (6).
How to Cook Barley Flakes?
Barley flakes are fairly easy to cook! In fact, they are similar to cooking oat flakes.
There are several ways, but the most common are boiling them in water or milk to make porridge or hot cereal, adding hot water over them, baking them in the oven for granola, simmering them in broth for soups and stews, or simply adding them to the raw batter for baked goods.
Basic Cooking Instructions
For Nordic Breakfast Porridge:
- bring milk/water and barley flakes to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Adjust the cups of water based on texture preference. Less water would provide a slightly chewier texture.
- cover, lower heat to a gentle simmer, and cook for around 15 minutes until flakes are tender and the porridge is creamy
- stir in sugar (for a sweeter flavor) and butter and a teaspoon of salt (for a savory barley porridge), and transfer to bowl
- top with crushed raspberries, chopped granny smith apple, roasted pistachios, chia seeds, milk, and cinnamon
What Can You Make with Barley Flakes?
- Overnight ‘oats’
- Add to soups, stews, and baked goods
- Grind into flour to replace wheat flour
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Cook Barley Flakes in The Microwave?
You can definitely cook barley flakes in the microwave! Mix ¼ cup rolled barley flakes with ½ cup water. Stir, then microwave on high for 3 to 5 minutes, in 1-minute intervals. Let stand for 2 minutes before consuming.
Are Barley Flakes the Same as Barley?
Barley flakes are not the same as barley. Even though barley flakes are made from barley, both forms of grain differ in the way that they are processed. Barley has just the outer husk removed, whereas barley flakes are also steamed, rolled, and dried to create that flattened shape. They are both still considered whole grains.
Is there a Difference Between Rolled Barley and Barley Flakes?
There is no difference between rolled barley and barley flakes. Unlike oats, where there are multiple forms of the flaked grain (quick, rolled, whole, etc.) rolled and flaked barley can be used interchangeably seeing as they refer to the same product.
Can You Eat Barley Flakes Raw?
Yes, you can eat barley flakes raw! There is no danger when it comes to eating them raw. A good way to do this is to make overnight ‘oats’ where the flakes are mixed with milk and a few other ingredients, then left in the fridge overnight to become thick and creamy.
Are Barley Flakes Gluten Free?
No, barley flakes are not gluten free. Rolled barley flakes and every other form of barley grain contains gluten and are thus not gluten free.
Barley Flakes Cereal – Top Recommendations from a Dietitian
Jovvily Barley Flakes
YupikOrganic Barley Flakes
Shiloh Farms Barley Flakes
Purchasing barley flakes from these brands (or stores) will ensure that there are no added sugars, salt, or flavorings. They are also all whole grain, seeing as none of the bran, germ, or endosperm have been removed.
Looking for other brands? Check out Bob’s Red Mill version too.
Other Alternative Porridge Recipes
With its many health benefits, versatile nature, and wonderful taste, flaked barley is worth adding to your pantry.
Replacingyour everyday oats with this grain is an easy way to introduce and get accustomed to them into your diet, after which you can explore new recipes and get creative!
There is really no losing when it comes to barley flakes, so try them out for yourself and they may soon enough become a staple!
This article was written by Jessica Pinney, Nutrition Student, and Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE.