Barley vs Bulgur: Which Grain Packs a Bigger Nutritional Punch?

Barley and bulgur are two popular grains that have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. They are both considered to be healthy whole grains that provide a range of nutrients and health benefits. In this article, we will compare barley and bulgur in terms of their nutritional value, health benefits, culinary uses, flavor and texture, and cooking tips to help you determine which grain is the healthiest choice for you.

Nutritional Comparison

Barley and bulgur are both considered to be healthy whole grains that are rich in a range of nutrients. However, there are some differences between the two grains when it comes to their nutritional value. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional values of barley and bulgur per 100 grams:


  • Calories: 354
  • Protein: 12.5 grams
  • Fat: 2.3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 73.5 grams
  • Fiber: 17.3 grams
  • Iron: 2.5 milligrams
  • Zinc: 2.2 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 158 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 264 milligrams


  • Calories: 342
  • Protein: 12.3 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 76.3 grams
  • Fiber: 18.3 grams
  • Iron: 1.3 milligrams
  • Zinc: 1.4 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 76 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 332 milligrams

As you can see, both grains are relatively high in calories and carbohydrates, but they are also both rich in fiber, which is important for maintaining digestive health and preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Barley has slightly more protein and fiber than bulgur, as well as higher levels of iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Health Benefits

Both barley and bulgur offer a range of health benefits due to their nutrient content. Here are some of the potential health benefits associated with consuming these grains:

  1. Lower risk of heart disease: Whole grains like barley and bulgur are rich in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. Better blood sugar control: The fiber content in barley and bulgur can also help regulate blood sugar levels, which is important for preventing and managing diabetes.
  3. Reduced inflammation: Both grains contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
  4. Improved digestive health: The fiber content in barley and bulgur can help promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, as well as support the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
  5. Increased satiety: The fiber and protein content in barley and bulgur can help keep you feeling full and satisfied, which may help with weight management.

Culinary Uses

Barley and bulgur are both versatile grains that can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to baked goods and breakfast bowls. Here are some examples of how to use these grains in your cooking:

  • Salads: Barley and bulgur are both great grains to use in salads, as they add texture and flavor to the dish. Try using barley or bulgur in place of quinoa or couscous in your favorite salad recipe.
  • Soups and stews: Both grains can be added to soups and stews to add texture and bulk. Barley is often used in hearty soups like beef barley soup, while bulgur is commonly used in Middle Eastern soups like lentil soup.
  • Pilafs: Both barley and bulgur can be used in pilafs, which are dishes made by sautéing grains in oil and then simmering them with broth and vegetables. Barley pilaf is often served as a side dish with meat or fish, while bulgur pilaf is a common accompaniment to Middle Eastern dishes like shawarma or kebab.
  • Baked goods: Barley and bulgur can be used in baked goods like bread, muffins, and pancakes. Barley flour can be used in place of wheat flour to add a nutty flavor and boost the nutritional value of baked goods, while bulgur can be used to make a variety of savory or sweet baked goods like bulgur and spinach pie or bulgur and apricot muffins.
  • Breakfast bowls: Both grains can be used in breakfast bowls like oatmeal or granola. Cooked barley or bulgur can be combined with milk, yogurt, and fruit to create a hearty and satisfying breakfast.

Flavor and Texture

Barley and bulgur have slightly different flavor and texture profiles. Barley has a nutty and chewy texture, while bulgur is softer and more tender. Barley also has a slightly sweet flavor, while bulgur has a mild nutty flavor. These differences can affect the taste and appearance of dishes made with these grains.

Barley is often used in hearty dishes like stews and soups, where its chewy texture adds a satisfying bite. It can also be used in salads and pilafs, where its nutty flavor pairs well with vegetables and herbs.

Bulgur, on the other hand, is commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh, where its tender texture allows it to absorb the flavors of the other ingredients. It can also be used in pilafs and soups, or as a substitute for rice in dishes like stuffed peppers or dolmas.

Cooking Tips

Here are some tips and tricks for cooking with barley and bulgur:

  1. Rinse before cooking: Both barley and bulgur should be rinsed thoroughly before cooking to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. Cook in broth: To add flavor to your grains, cook them in broth instead of water. You can also add herbs and spices to the broth for added flavor.
  3. Toast before cooking: To enhance the nutty flavor of barley or bulgur, you can toast them in a dry pan for a few minutes before adding the liquid.
  4. Use a ratio of 2:1: To cook barley or bulgur, use a ratio of 2 cups of liquid (broth or water) to 1 cup of grain. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the grain, then reduce the heat and simmer until the grain is tender.
  5. Store in an airtight container: Cooked barley or bulgur can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


In conclusion, both barley and bulgur are healthy whole grains that offer a range of nutritional benefits. While barley has slightly more protein and micronutrients, bulgur is lower in calories and fat. When it comes to culinary uses, barley is often used in hearty dishes like stews and soups, while bulgur is commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh and pilafs. Regardless of which grain you choose, both are great options to incorporate into a healthy and balanced diet.

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