Barley vs Farro: Unveiling the Key Differences

Barley vs. Farro: Exploring the Key Differences

Grains are an essential part of many cuisines around the world, offering a wide range of flavors and textures. While rice and quinoa are popular choices, there are other grains that can add excitement and variety to your meals. Two such grains are barley and farro. In this article, we will look at the key differences between barley and farro and explore their characteristics, cooking methods, and flavor profiles.

Barley: A Versatile Grain

Barley is a widely recognized grain in the United States, known for its versatility and nutritional benefits. This grain can be used in a variety of culinary applications, such as baking bread, adding it to soups, incorporating it into salads or grain bowls, and even incorporating it into cereal. Unlike wheat, barley does not need to be milled before consumption, making it readily available in its whole form.

Types of Barley

When shopping for barley, you will typically find two options: hulled barley and pearl barley. Hulled barley is considered a whole grain because it retains the bran and germ, which contribute to its fiber content and texture. Pearl barley, on the other hand, has both the hull and bran removed, resulting in a softer texture similar to white rice. Both hulled and pearl barley have their own unique uses in the kitchen.

Cooking Barley

Cooking barley is similar to cooking rice or quinoa. For pearl barley, you can add 1 cup of barley to a pot with 3 cups of water or broth and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 25 minutes, checking for doneness. Once cooked, fluff the barley with a fork and it’s ready to serve.

Farro: An Ancient Whole Grain

Farro, also known as emmer or einkorn, is an ancient whole grain that has gained popularity in recent years for its versatility, flavor, and texture. Unlike modern wheat, which has been extensively hybridized, farro has maintained its original structure for several hundred years. When you buy farro in North America, it is usually pearled, meaning the hull and bran have been removed for easier cooking.

Cooking Farro

Farro can be substituted for barley in most recipes. To cook pearled farro, combine 1 cup farro, 3 cups water, and ½ teaspoon sea salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer with the lid on. The cooking time will vary depending on the type of farro: approximately 15-20 minutes for pearled farro, 25-30 minutes for semi-pearled farro, and 35-40 minutes for whole wheat farro. When cooked, drain excess water and fluff with a fork before serving.

Key differences between barley and farro

While barley and farro share similarities in terms of their chewy texture and nutty flavor, there are a few key differences worth noting. First, farro is slightly larger and more elongated than barley. In addition, farro contains slightly more protein than barley, making it a favorable choice for those looking to increase their protein intake. However, both grains offer a wide range of nutrients and are packed with fiber, making them nutritious additions to any meal.

Flavor profiles of barley and farro

When it comes to taste, both barley and farro have a chewy texture and nutty flavor. However, farro has a subtle cinnamon flavor that makes it an excellent choice for sweeter preparations such as baking or sweet porridges. Barley, on the other hand, offers a more straightforward nutty flavor. The distinct flavor profiles of these grains can add depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes.

Enhancing the Flavor of Barley and Farro

Several techniques can be used to enhance the flavor of barley and farro during the cooking process. Replacing plain water with chicken, beef, or vegetable broth can add additional flavor to the grains. Fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or sage can also be added for a fragrant flavor. Another option is to sauté garlic and onions in the pot before adding the grains and stock to enhance the overall flavor profile.

Making porridge with barley or farro

If you are looking for a different culinary experience, both barley and farro can be used to make delicious and hearty porridge. To make barley or farro porridge, start by rinsing 1 cup of grains under cold water to remove any impurities. Then place the rinsed grains in a saucepan with 4 cups of water or milk, a pinch of salt, and any desired sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40-45 minutes, or until the grains are tender and the porridge has a creamy consistency. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When cooked, serve warm and top with your favorite toppings, such as fresh fruit, nuts, or a drizzle of honey.


In summary, barley and farro are versatile grains that offer unique flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits. While barley is widely known and readily available in the United States, farro is an ancient whole grain that has gained popularity in recent years. Both grains can be used interchangeably in most recipes and offer a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Farro has a slight cinnamon flavor that makes it suitable for sweeter preparations, while barley offers a more straightforward nutty flavor. By exploring the differences between barley and farro, you can expand your culinary horizons and enjoy the diverse world of grains. So why not add barley or farro to your next recipe and experience the delicious flavors they have to offer?


What is the main difference between barley and farro?

The main difference between barley and farro is their botanical origin. Barley is a grain belonging to the genus Hordeum, while farro refers to three ancient wheat varieties: emmer, einkorn, and spelt.

Are barley and farro gluten-free?

No, both barley and farro contain gluten. They are not suitable for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Can barley and farro be substituted in recipes?

Yes, barley and farro can be used interchangeably in many recipes. They have similar cooking methods and offer comparable texture and flavor profiles, making them versatile substitutes.

Which grain is higher in protein, barley or farro?

Farro generally has a slightly higher protein content than barley. This makes farro a favorable choice for individuals looking to increase their protein intake.

Can barley and farro be used in sweet dishes?

Yes, both barley and farro can be used in sweet dishes. Farro, in particular, has a subtle cinnamon flavor that makes it a great addition to sweet porridges, desserts, and baked goods.

Are barley and farro nutritious?

Yes, both barley and farro are nutritious grains. They are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also offer a number of health benefits, including promoting digestive health and supporting heart health.