Savory Instant Pot Barley

Savory Instant Pot Barley is a healthy breakfast that requires only a few ingredients, and will fire up your “engine” for the busy day ahead! Fresh greens, diced turkey ham, and an egg (your choice) add loads of flavor and nutrition… Whole grain, fiber-rich pearl barley cooks quickly in your Instant Pot, but you can cook it on the stove as well!

Instant Pot Barley: A Savory Breakfast - 2 bowls with breakfast barley and eggs...

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Instant Pot Barley and a Healthy Breakfast

How do you start your day? Coffee and ______________  (fill in the blank). My preference is a savory breakfast that includes both complex carbs and lean protein. This was a process for me…

I grew up with cereal, milk, toast, and juice on school days, and a “big” breakfast on Saturday morning. Our “big” breakfast typically included pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc., and eggs and/or breakfast meat (sausage, ham, bacon). I cringe now at the thought of the fats and calories, but it has never occurred to me to skip breakfast.

Eating a healthy breakfast is linked to many health benefits (I’m not talkin’ about donuts, okay?):

  • A nutritious breakfast improves concentration and performance on the job or in the classroom.
  • It provides the fuel necessary for physical activity (i.e. exercise people)!
  • There is evidence that a healthy breakfast results in better weight management, although studies don’t show conclusively any cause-effect relationship.

It is difficult to work up enthusiasm for breakfast if you’re reaching for the same old thing every day, right? I finally realized that cutting way back on sugar, and sticking to complex carbohydrates helped me stick to a reasonable “diet.” I feel better able to face the day with some type of grain, and some protein. I rarely crave sugar anymore, and when I do, that craving is satisfied with a square of dark chocolate.  😀

🍳 What Constitutes a Healthy Breakfast?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy breakfast can include:

  • Whole grains. Examples include whole-grain rolls and bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, whole-grain English muffins, and whole-grain waffles.
  • Lean protein. Examples include eggs, lean meat, legumes and nuts.
  • Low-fat dairy. Examples include milk, plain or lower sugar yogurts, and low-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese and natural cheeses.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Examples include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice drinks without added sugar, and fruit and vegetable smoothies.

So, what does a healthy breakfast look like at Andersen casa? Prior to the creation of this new recipe for Savory Instant Pot Barley, my favorite breakfast was Green Chile Savory Oatmeal With An Egg. Healthy, savory breakfasts win hands down at Andersen casa!

I love to make grab n’ go breakfasts like my South-of-the-Border Frittata Muffins and my Mediterranean Rice and Chick Pea Mini-Frittatas. They both keep well in the refrigerator, and re-heat well. They’re even tasty cold or at room temperature. Another favorite is my Mexican Black Bean Shakshuka.

You may notice a theme? I love bold flavors and healthy ingredients! None of these recipes are very time-consuming.

A close up shot of Instant Pot barley in a bowl with an egg.

🍚 About Barley

I love the texture and bite of hulled barley, but it takes well over an hour to cook on the stove. Pearl barley is available in “long,” “medium,” and short cook variets. Quick-cook barley, which is similar to quick cook oats, isn’t all that great texture-wise, but I do like medium-cook barley. However, it still requires 45-50 minutes.

Barley just seemed a bit out of the question as a breakfast grain until I had an epiphany recently. Why not try using my Instant Pot/pressure cooker? I DID. AND IT WORKED!

Barley Guide (Approximate)

The 4 main types of barley (to my knowledge). For purposes of this recipe, I use hulled or pearl. I believe hull-less will work as well, but I am not sure as to the cooking time in a pressure cooker. Hull-less barley is a cultivar (has no hull) and is a true whole grain.

Lastly, I do not recommend medium or quick cook barley in the pressure cooker. The nutrition is reduced by refinement, and I believe it would be mushy. However, I have used the medium cook barley on the stove for this recipe with good results. The brand I use requires about 45-50 minutes.

TypeNotesPressure Cook Time
hulled barleywhole grain – the “real deal”
only the inedible hull removed
dense, chewy texture
23 under pressure/slow release
pearl barleynot technically a whole grain because it is partially refined
most common (if recipe doesn’t specify it is probably pearl)
used in this recipe
18 minutes
quick release

📋 Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • pearl or hulled barley – You need to use pearl or hulled barley, or you will have barley mush.
  • onion – Use whatever kind of onion you have on hand. Shallot works too!
  • broth – I use 1/2 broth and 1/2 water for the extra flavor boost. I would stick with vegetable, chicken, or turkey broth.
  • turkey ham – You can substitute regular ham, but the turkey ham tastes great and reduces fat and calories.
  • greens – I like baby kale, but baby spinach, and arugula are great substitutes.
  • eggs – We do 1 egg per serving, and either boiled or basted. The choice is yours!

🔪 Step by Step Instructions

  • Start the barley in the Instant Pot – Add the olive oil to the pressure cooker set to manual for 18 or 23 minutes (see table above). Add the barley and onion. Saute until it smells a bit toasty. Add the liquid and salt. Lock the lid in place.
  • Prep the remaining ingredients – While the barley cooks, dice the ham (if using). Chop any fresh herbs and/or scallions.
  • Release the pressure – When the pressure cooker completes the cooking cycle, do a quick pressure release for pearl barley, or a slow release for hulled barley. Check for doneness. We like firm rather than mushy. If you’ve got a lot of liquid in the pan, you may wish to drain most or all of it. Return the pot to saute, and add the diced ham if using. Saute stirring occasionally while preparing the eggs.
  • Prepare the eggs – Prepare your eggs your favorite way. When the eggs are ready, add the greens to the pot, and stir to combine. You just want to wilt the greens.
  • To Serve: Scoop the barley mixture into shallow bowls. Top with an egg cooked to your preference. Garnish as desired with Aleppo pepper (my favorite!), fresh ground pepper, fresh herbs, scallions, etc. Enjoy!

I cooked my pearl barley 18 minutes in the pressure cooker with half water and half broth. After a quick pressure release I added some fresh baby kale, small diced turkey ham, gave it a good stir on the sauté setting to heat the ham and wilt the greens, and topped it with a boiled egg (I was trying for runny, but hey, it’s still good!). And just because I can, I finished it with Aleppo pepper (that gorgeous deep red) and my Peruvian sal de Maras.

💭 Tips and FAQ

I don’t have an Instant Pot. Can I still make this recipe? YES! Follow package instructions for amount of liquid and cooking time. As I explained earlier, hulled, pearl, and medium-cook barley have a better texture, and the cooking times vary. Add the ham (if using) late in the cooking process, and the greens at the end of cooking time.

What if the barley is under-cooked? The desired texture of cooked barley is a personal preference. Cooking times vary by type and brand. See “About Barley” above for guidelines.

What other grains can I use? Any whole grain will work. Farro is a personal favorite. Follow instructions on the package for liquid amounts and cooking times. See this pressure cooking times chart for more information.

How can I change this recipe up? If you’re still glued to a recipe, this is an easy one to practice customizing and making it your own! Substitute your favorite quick-cooking greens (arugula, baby spinach, micro greens). Vary the pre-cooked breakfast meat (crumbled bacon, prosciutto, crumbled turkey sausage), or make it vegetarian by adding  tofu, chick peas, or lentils. Lastly, cook YOUR favorite egg, not mine.

What kind of garnishes can I use? You can TOTALLY CUSTOMIZE your barley with chopped scallions, fresh herbs, gourmet salt (or pepper  😀 ), even sliced avocado.

Can I make this vegetarian? YES. Use a combination of vegetable broth and water, and omit the ham. If you’re concerned about protein (as I am), add some chick peas or other beans/legumes. You could also try cubed tofu, but I make no guarantees on that one!

What kind of greens can I use? On photo day, I used baby kale. Spinach, arugula, a blend of baby greens all work well!

The take away then? Having a tasty AND healthy breakfast is good for you! You need a variety of breakfast dishes to keep it interesting, and if you just have no time to cook, keep Greek yogurt and a healthy, low-sugar granola on hand.

That’s all for now… Here’s to healthy breakfasts!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes.

A bronze ceramic bowl of savory breakfast barley with a copper spoon and linen napkin.

Savory Instant Pot Barley

Whole grain pearl barley with diced turkey ham, greens and an egg… a great, healthy way to start your day!
5 from 11 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Course Breakfast/Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 217 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup pearl barley - (see notes)
  • ¼ cup red or sweet onion - finely chopped
  • 4 cups liquid - I use half broth and half water
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 ounces turkey ham - small dice (optional)
  • 4 ounces baby kale - or other baby greens
  • 4 eggs - cooked to your preference


  • Add the olive oil to the pressure cooker set to manual for 18 minutes.
  • Add the barley and onion. Saute until it smells a bit toasty. 
  • Add the liquid and salt.
  • Lock the lid in place.
  • While the barley cooks, dice the ham (if using).
  • When the pressure cooker completes the cooking cycle, do a quick pressure release. If you’ve got a lot of liquid in the pan, you may wish to drain most or all of it. Return the pot to saute, and add the diced ham if using. Saute stirring occasionally while preparing the eggs.
  • When the eggs are ready, add the arugula to the pot, and stir to combine. You just want to wilt the greens.
  • To Serve: Scoop the barley mixture into shallow bowls. Top with an egg cooked to your preference. Garnish as desired with Aleppo pepper (my favorite!), fresh ground pepper, fresh herbs, scallions, etc. Enjoy!


This recipe is for pearl barley Cooking times for different types of barley vary greatly. You don’t want a bowl of mush!
I use half broth and half water. The amount of liquid is critical in a pressure cooker. Also, each brand of pearl barley will absorb differently. It’s better to have a little too much, and drain it off.
You want the barley to be chewy but not crunchy. If you release pressure and it’s not quite done, simply leave the remaining liquid, and let it simmer a few minutes for adding the rest of the ingredients.
As I explained in the post, I chose to boil my eggs this time, and it is difficult (but possible) to get the whites firm and the yolks runny (as we prefer). We also love poached and basted. The choice is yours.
This dish is easily made vegetarian. Use a combination of vegetable broth and water, and omit the ham. If you’re concerned about protein (as I am), add some chick peas or other beans/legumes. You could also try cubed tofu, but I make no guarantees on that one!
Vary the greens. The main thing to remember is that you’re wilting not cooking, so they need to be very young and tender.


Calories: 217kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 10g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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  1. I’m not sure what happened but the 4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of barley ended up being WAY too much liquid for my pressure cooker.

    1. Hi Nat! I’m sorry you had trouble with the recipe. Can you provide a little more information? I mention in the post that if you have too much liquid in the pot after cooking the barley, drain it before proceeding (Step 3). What kind of barley did you use? What is the recommended amount of liquid on the package? The required liquid varies by package – brand, how old it is, type (pearl, hold, instant). That is why I specify plenty of liquid because it can be drained off before proceeding. I hope this helps. I’ll look for a reply, and see if I can help further!

  2. Please amend your article to exclude eggs from a healthy diet. THE FDA says that it’s illegal to advertise that eggs pack a nutritional wallop, or that they have a high nutritional content. … For a food to be labeled “healthy” under FDA rules, it has to be low in saturated fat (eggs fail that criteria) and have less than 90mg of cholesterol per serving (even half an egg fails that test).'s%20illegal%20to%20advertise%20that,have%20a%20high%20nutritional%20content.&text=For%20a%20food%20to%20be,an%20egg%20fails%20that%20test).

    1. No, I’ll not be amending my post, and I stand by my assertion. If the American Heart Association thinks they’re healthy, that’s good enough for me. I’ve studied this issue for years, and the pendulum has swung back in favor of eating eggs.

      Dr. Greger gets a “mixed” review from, and his website is labeled “Conspiracy-Pseudoscience.” His opinion does not impress me at all.,due%20to%20exaggerated%20health%20claims.

      Thank you for expressing your concern.

  3. I’m new to cooking barley and it comes around as a hopeful help for the diabetes I was just diagnosed with. I just bought some hulless barley and wonder what the cooking time would be in this recipe.

    1. Hi Cindy! I apologize for my slow response. The 2 terms that I am familiar with is “pearl” and “hulled.” After doing some research, “hulless” is also a whole grain. I created a bit of confusion in the post over the different types of barley. “Hulled” is whole grain and fiber rich. “Pearl” has been mechanically refined, and is stripped of some of its nutritional value, but is still considered a whole grain. Quick cook barley is similar to white rice. So confusing right? I’m trying to re-word my post to make it more clear. I believe hulless cooks requires less time than hulled, and I will respond again when I have better answers for you! In the meantime, this is a great article – Barley: Hulled or Hulless. I’ll get back to you later today. This is a great way to use barley!

    2. After doing so more research, it seems that “hulless” barley requires a little more time in the pressure cooker than the pearl barley, and less than the “hulled” that I have also used. This article suggests 30 minutes, with a fast pressure release. I prefer my grain to be somewhat firm to the bite, and if I have much liquid in the pot after it’s cooked, and the grain is the way I like it, I just drain it off. Conversely, you can lock the lid again, and give it another 5 minutes. I hope this helps. Part of it is personal preference, and part of it is confusion among home cooks and others as to the nomenclature associated with barley.

  4. Could you share what research you’re referencing that suggests that focus and concentration are improved by breaking your fast with carbs and low-fat? From everything I’ve read, it’s best to skip breakfast.

    1. I cannot point to a specific article (though I can provide some examples). I have been cooking and eating healthy, whole foods for over 4 decades. I have seen no credible evidence that skipping breakfast is “healthy.” If you really need “evidence,” here are some links:

      Most importantly, though, I’ve got personal experience. My husband of 38 years and I have 4 adult sons. Our oldest has a degree in exercise physiology with a minor (and certification) in nutrition science. He and his wife (and 2 little boys) eat a healthy breakfast of protein and carbs every day. My husband and I do as well. Our son has been a competitive body builder, and advises his clients on diet. My husband and I at 61 and 59 have never battled weight issues, we have trekked over a 17,000 ft. mountain pass in Peru among other physical accomplishments. I am still working at trying to get the other 3 to follow suit, and the difference is clear.

      Lastly, I have never seen anything to indicate that it is best to skip breakfast. From Today’s Dietician: “Alertness and concentration: “Studies have found that eating breakfast may enhance memory, improve cognitive ability, and help increase attention span,” Salge Blake says.

      Stabilized blood sugar could be the reason behind these benefits, according to Moore. “Because we’ve been fasting for eight to 12 hours, our blood sugar is low first thing in the morning, and low blood sugar results in lack of concentration, alertness, and energy,” she explains. “When a person’s blood glucose is low, they’ll feel lethargic, irritable, drowsy, restless and have difficulty thinking or recalling information,” adding that eating first thing in the morning can prevent these symptoms.”

      Thank you for your comment.

  5. Not tried barley in instant pot and wondered how it could possibly cook at same time with dried lentils. Wouldn’t I have to cook the lentils first?

    1. Hi Joanne! Thanks for stopping by. My breakfast barley doesn’t call for lentils, so I’m afraid I don’t understand your question. I will look for your response… Take care!

      1. Perhaps she is referring to your comment, “Vary the pre-cooked breakfast meat (crumbled bacon, prosciutto, crumbled turkey sausage), or make it vegetarian by adding tofu, chick peas, or lentils.” I’m also curious whether timing would allow cooking chickpeas and or lentils with the barley.

        1. Hi Janine! I should have thought back to that statement… duh. I was just looking at the recipe card.

          I have often cooked chick peas in my Instant Pot, but never together with barley. I am guessing if you do a 12 hour soak you could pull it off. Alternatively, you could add rinsed and drained chick peas after the barley is de-pressurized. I often cook a big batch of chick peas in my IP and have them in zip bags in my freezer. Adding 1-2 cups after they’re thawed is another option.

          Lentils vary widely in their pressure cooked times, but even green or brown lentils require less time than the barley at 9 minutes under pressure. I would consider cooking them separately and adding at the end.

          I hope that helps! Thanks for taking the time to write!

  6. I haven’t tried barley in an Instant Pot as yet, I’m loving all the ingenious Instant Pot recipes on your site. Thank you and keep them coming!

    1. I’m glad you’re finding some appealing Instant Pot recipes on Beyond Mere Sustenance Michelle! I hope you’ll give one (or more) a try…

  7. I’ve never considered barley for breakfast, how clever. Definitely more healthy than sugar cereals. Going to have to try this. Thanks!

    1. I used to do the “cold cereal” routines, and found it just didn’t stick with me that long. We do stick to hearty, healthy, savory breakfasts with protein 95% of the time!

  8. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and usually, I would go for a big bowl of sweet or savoury oatmeal! I love to mix things up though and I really like the idea of barley for breakfast ! I will defs try this one !

    1. I get that! It’s only in the last few years that the savory breakfast idea sounded appealing to me… now I rarely have a sweet one!

    1. Oooh! I love the idea of a thick tortilla with farmers cheese! I just got back from a month in Peru, and I loved their pita style flatbread with fresh Andean cheese…