What can I use as a substitute for 1/2 cup of barley in a 2 quart soup?

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    Couscous. Rice. Half-cooked chickpeas or kidney beans. Small pasta. What properties of barley do you wish to replicate, and what have you on hand? Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 4:16
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    I'd agree with @JamesMcLeod - it depends on what properties you want. Most souls with barley involve some sort of hearty grain, so anything of similar size could work, from James McLeod's suggestions to things like buckwheat or even quinoa. If the soup cooks long enough for the barley to break down and thicken the soup, you might consider something like lentils.
    – Athanasius
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 4:35
  • 45 minute boil, no other grains are present. As best as I can tell, the barley is for texture. (Would it thicken with such a short boil?) Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 6:05
  • Oat groats are a good replacement both for texture and for nutritional value. You'll get slightly more thickening, though. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 21:24

2 Answers 2


Barley's there to bulk out the soup, and add a bit of flavor and texture. It doesn't thicken or have any other special function, so you don't need to add anything to replace it.

If you want to add something with a roughly similar size with some texture then short grain rice like risotto or paella rice will do, however I prefer Orzo, which is a type of very small pasta. You can also smash up some short pasta like penne, farfalle, or shells and put them in. Just remember that rice and pasta cooks much faster than barley, so add it at the end of cooking and get it off the heat as soon as it is al dente so it doesn't overcook and get mushy. Add a handful of frozen peas to it to get the temperature down quick.

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    The good thing about barley is that it doesn't easily dissolve and add unwanted thickening, like rice and pasta tend to... Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 12:27

Becky Epstein, author of Substituting Ingredients, The A to Z Kitchen Reference, 4th Edition, suggests farro, spelt, or wheat berries.

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