What is Barley Flour?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 May 2019
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Barley flour is a fine powder made by grinding whole barley grain. Along with many other flours, it can be used to replace part of the wheat flour in a recipe for a different flavor and texture. It can also be used in other cooking applications, such as acting as a thickener in soups and sauces. Many natural foods stores carry this type of flour, and it can also be made at home.

A very hardy annual grain, barley has been grown all over the world as a food crop for thousands of years. Since it is more cold resistant than grains such as wheat, it was often grown in regions like Northern Europe. Hordeum vulgaris, as barley is formally known, is also very drought tolerant, making it an excellent choice of crop in regions with unreliable rainfall. A number of grain products are made from barley.

When barley is freshly harvested, it has a fibrous outer layer that must be removed to make hulled barley. Pearled barley is made by polishing the grain even further, yielding a smooth and rounded product, and barley flakes are made by flattening hulled barley. To make flour, the grain is ground in a mill.


There are two ways to make barley flour. Most commercial flour is made through a malting process in which whole barley is allowed to sprout and then rapidly dry. Malting changes the chemical structure of the grain slightly, and it is also the first step in brewing. It is also possible to find unmalted flour, or the flour at home by people who have a grain mill. Pearled or hulled barley can both be used, although malted barley flour has a higher nutritional value since it includes the rich hull of the grain.

Like other flours, barley flour can go rancid. It can be stored in a cool dry cupboard for one to two months, or in a freezer for three to four. When kept in the freezer, cooks can measure out the amount that they need to warm to room temperature, and put the rest back in the freezer. In yeast breads, the nutty flavor of barley can replace up to 25% of the regular flour, and in quick breads and other baked goods, it can be used to replace up to half of the flour called for by the recipe. It has a weaker gluten than wheat flour, so baked goods may have an unusual texture if too much is used.


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Post 18

@ joyjuly Post 5: make your own product using only flour you know you can tolerate.

Post 17

Iust came across some bread with those ingredients and I also got very sick.

Post 16

@anon62915: Check to see if you malabsorb fructose. I can't handle barley malt flour because of that and have similar reactions.

Post 15

I just found a flour that is pure unbleached white flour - never knew it existed. Will be baking with it today. Was quite expensive in the store and much cheaper on the Hodgson Mill website.

Post 14

to anon19344: I have met someone who is allergic to MSGs. She feels like she is having a heart attack as well! Her doctor told her to stay away from MSGs because eating them could lead to an actual heart attack for her.

I am also allergic to corn. I have had health problems for years and the doctors could never figure out why. Then, I started doing my own research.

I have dermatographism, which is pretty much a fancy word for extremely sensitive skin. In my research I have found that people with severe allergies can develop dermatographism. That was what lead me to an allergy doctor, where I was tested and diagnosed.

Anyway, I was recently diagnosed so I am still trying to figure out what exactly I can eat. If anyone has any good recipes, send them my way!


Post 13

I am allergic to wheat and have found 100 percent barley bread a lifesaver since wheat flour is in everything. I am also allergic to corn and rice so the no-gluten route is not doable either.

What I would like is a recipe for either barley bread/oat bread/or a mix of flours to make my own bread. anyone?

Post 12

I am interested in the production of 50 tons/day of barley flour and methods of dehulling and milling.

Post 10

I have developed a crazy reaction to what I have deduced is malt barley flour or maltodextrin. It is almost like a drug -- an unpleasant drug -- just feel out of it, tense, anxious. Three trips to ER (for a while I though maybe heart attack but no sign)and I started to check what I ate. Docs could not care less. Anyone else??

Post 9

I am allergic to it as well. If I eat something that has it or durum flour, everything that is in my system comes out in less than an hour later. Most unpleasant reaction!

Post 8

Can barley flour along with other ingredients be used to make biscuits/cookies?

Post 7

Does it cause gas and upset your stomach?

Post 6

I am allergic to it too! There is MSG in it. I've found that Oat Nut by orowheat is okay as are some whole wheat breads. I make my own now, because I know what is in it.

Post 5

Deadly allergic to malted barley flour. Can find neither bread nor bread flour without it. What does everyone else do?

Post 4

Maybe your clothes are tight because you're eating so much biscotti!


Post 3

i do not think that most people are aware of how allergic people can be to barley malted flour- it is in most everything now- i found out after eating at panera bread company, every time i ate there i would have terrible stomach pains and be in the bathroom all night- started reading labels after eating certain foods and sure enough everything had the barley malted flour in it- even some of the white flour- it is an additive and it might answer some questions for people who get ill after eating certain foods---thank you

Post 2

I have been eating these biscotti like cookies that blow me up so bad my clothes get friend told me it could be the barley flour which is the 2nd ingredient.......Is she right?

Post 1

What I want to know is what Barley flour is used for. Is it used for cooking and baking, not how it's made.

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