Difference Between Pearl Barley and Hulled Barley

Barley is a cereal grass similar to wheat. According to Huffington Post, barley is just as deserving of the “superfoods” label as more trendy grains like quinoa and freekeh.


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It’s packed with healthful nutrients, protein, fiber, and best of all, barley is easy to find in stores and is inexpensive. The procedures used to convert barley into an edible food source provide two types of grains: pearl barley and hulled barley.

Pearled and hulled barley are both biologically the same species, yet despite their resemblance, they are significantly different.

Key Takeaways

  1. Pearl barley undergoes additional polishing to remove the outer husk and bran, while hulled barley retains its bran and germ layers.
  2. Hulled barley offers more fiber and nutrients due to its less processed nature.
  3. Pearl barley cooks faster and has a softer texture than hulled barley, making it more versatile.

Pearl Barley vs Hulled Barley

The difference between pearl barley and hulled barley is that pearl barley is a form of barley that has been produced to extract its outer bran layer as well as the hull. On the other hand, hulled barley has been only prepared to eliminate the harsh indigestible outer hull.

Pearl Barley vs Hulled Barley

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Pearl barley is made from the ears of barley and has lately had a resurgence in popularity because of its high nutritional content and crisp texture.

It’s usually cooked in stocks or soups, where it soaks up all the aromas from the liquid. This implies that the flavor of the grain is primarily determined by how it is prepared.

Hulled barley is whole grain barley that has had the tough, inedible husk—known as the spikelet removed but the bran left intact, maintaining all the nutritional content. Dietary fiber is abundant in hulled barley.

It also has four times the amount of thiamin and has more iron and trace elements than pearl barley. Hulled barley has a strong taste that makes it a great addition to substantial soups and stews in the country style.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPearl BarleyHulled Barley
DefinitionBarley whose outer bran layer has been removed with the hullBarley that only has the tough outer hull removed
ProcessingMore processingMinimal
TextureLess chewyChewier
ConsistencySoftNot soft
Nutritional ValueSlightly nutritiousMore nutritious
Cooking TimeShorterLonger

What is Pearl Barley?

Pearl barley is barley that has been ‘pearled’ or processed to remove its outer bran layer along with the hull. It’s the most common form of barley.

Most of the barley we find in supermarkets and groceries are pearl barley. Most recipes call for this variety of barley. Lightly pearled barely has a tan color, whereas heavily pearled barley has quite a white color.

The most prevalent type of barley is pearl barley, which is also known as pearled barley. Because the outermost husk and bran layers have been eliminated, it is less chewy and nutritional than hulled barley.

Because the grains are finer and softer, cooking time is reduced to around 40 minutes. Because it cooks faster and is less chewy than other, less-processed forms of grain, it is the most popular type of barley for human utilization.

We mainly use barley in soups, stews, and potages. Pearl barley is considered to be much healthier than other varieties of refined grains.

This is because some of the bran is still present in the barley grain, and the fiber content in barley grains is found throughout the kernel, not just in the bran layer.

In terms of caloric, protein, vitamin, and mineral content, pearl barley is comparable to wheat, while certain kinds have a greater lysine level. Soups, stews, and potages are the most common uses.

It’s the major component in orzotto, an Italian meal, and one of the key ingredients in Cholent, a Jewish food.

What is Hulled Barley?

Hulled barley (barley groats) is barley that has undergone only minimal processing to remove only the tough inedible outer hull. We can describe it as the whole grain form of barley.

It’s a challenging process to remove the outermost hull without removing the bran layers. This is why hulled barley is not very common.

Hulled barley, also described as barley groats, is a chewy, high-fiber kind of barley that is also the healthiest. If a recipe calls for barley, it’s usually referring to pearl barley, but you can use hulled barley as a substitute.

When opposed to pearl barley, hulled barley takes roughly an hour or more to cook. It is typically cooked on the stovetop, similar to rice, quinoa, or couscous.

As per Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, the Greeks used to dry and roast the hulled barley before making porridge. This creates malt, which ferments quickly and becomes somewhat alcoholic. 

Hulled barley is about as caloric as white rice, it has a lot more protein and fiber than either brown or white rice. It has about 16 grams of fiber per half-cup and the recommended daily intake of fiber is between 21 and 38 grams, depending on age and sex.

Main Differences Between Pearl Barley and Hulled Barley

  1. Pearl barley is a form of barley that has had its outer layer and hull removed, whereas hulled barley has just had its tough outer hull removed.
  2. Pearl barley is highly processed, whereas hulled barley is less processed.
  3. Pearl barley has a less chewy texture than hulled barley
  4. Pearl barley is softer than hulled barley because it excludes the outer husk and bran layers.
  5. Pearl barley has more nutrients than other processed grains, while hulled barley contains more nutrients than pearly barley.
  6. Pearl barley cooks faster than hulled barley, which takes an hour or more to cook.
Difference Between Pearl Barley and Hulled Barley
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