Barley Allergy: What Foods to Avoid

If you have a barley allergy, you may be wondering what foods to avoid. While some people with this allergy can eat foods that contain trace amounts of barley, others must avoid it completely. Here are some common foods that may contain barley or other ingredients derived from barley: beer, bread, cereal, condiments, pasta dishes, and snacks.

barley allergy-what foods to avoid title image with a wooden spoon filled with barley grains in the background

Is barley an allergen?

Yes, barley can be an allergy-inducing grain. An allergy to barley causes an immune response in the body which releases histamine, causing allergy symptoms. Symptoms will vary from person to person, but most individuals experience itchy eyes, nose, throat, and abdominal discomfort.

Plants related to barley

barley grain infographic. Barley grain relatives are rye, triticale, and wheat.

Barley is a plant in the Triticeae grass tribe, which is part of the Poaceae grass family. These plants may also give you an allergic reaction. According to agriculture scientists, the following plants and grains are related to barley:

  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

Foods to avoid with a barley allergy

Barley is an incredibly versatile grain that can be used in many different ways in the kitchen. Many foods we eat every day contain barley or derivatives of it. Be sure to check your food labels and avoid “barley” or “malt” ingredients.


bowl of grain cereal with fruit

If you have a barley allergy, it is recommended to avoid the following cereals due to their barley ingredients:

  • Arrowhead Mills™ Puffed Barley Cereal
  • Bob’s Red Mill® 7 Grain hot cereal 
  • Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Original Cereal
  • Nature’s Path Organic® Heritage Flakes® Cereal
  • Nestle® Fitness Barley Flakes
  • Post® Grape-Nuts® Cereal
  • Quaker® Quick Pearled Barley
  • Special K® Cereal, Touch of Cinnamon

These cereals are what I have found from my research and are not an all-inclusive list. This list provides you with an idea of common cereals that contain barley. Please read all food labels for barley and barley derivative ingredients.


bar with beer taps

Barley is a key ingredient in beer and has been used for centuries to make the beverage. It provides both flavor and body to beers of all types, from light lagers to dark stouts. The following beers typically contain barley:

  • Altbier
  • American Wheat Beer
  • Bock Beer
  • Brown Ale
  • Dunkel
  • Indian Pale Ale (IPA)
  • Lager
  • Maibock
  • Marzen
  • Porter
  • Red Ale
  • Stout


liquor shelf full of bottles

Generally speaking, barley is one of the most popular grains in liquor production as it produces distinctive flavor notes along with the desired potency. Here are the types of liquors that contain barley or malt:

  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Irish whiskey
  • Malt liquor
  • Rye whiskey
  • Scotch whisky
  • Vodka (in some cases)
  • Whiskey

Barley Breads

loaf of barley or rye bread in a paper bag

Barley is used in bread because it helps make the bread soft, fluffy, and moist. It also adds a nutty flavor to the bread. The following types of bread should be avoided with a barley allergy:

  • Barley bread
  • Caraway seed and malt loaf
  • Dark rye malt bread
  • Guinness® beer bread
  • Light rye malt bread
  • Malt loaf
  • Malt scotch pie pastry
  • Millet and barley sourdough
  • Spelt and barley bread
  • White malt bread

Pasta Dishes Containing Barley

pasta dish with basil and tomatoes

Barley is an ancient grain that has been used in pasta for centuries. It’s nutritious, tasty, and easy to cook with. Unfortunately, if you are looking to steer clear from barely, you should also avoid these pasta dishes, or remove the barley from the recipe:

  • Barley risotto
  • Barley and roasted garlic soup
  • Gnocchi di orzo all’arancia (barley orange gnocchi)
  • Penne barley-stuffed mushrooms
  • Spicy sausage, lentil & barley stew

Snacks Containing Barley

a pile of granola bars containing multiple grains

Barley and malt give snacks some unique and tasty flavor profiles, here are some examples of snacks that contain barley or malt:

  • Barley-based granola bars
  • Barley flour crackers
  • Barley oat bites
  • Chocolate-covered pretzels with malted milk
  • Honey nut toffee popcorn with malt
  • Roasted barley tea snack mix
  • Whole grain rye bread with malted barley

Certain Condiments

malt sauce being poured into a spoon

The condiments that should be avoided with a barley allergy are malt vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Both of these zesty flavor enhancers contain large amounts of barley or malt.

Alternative ingredients that can be used in place of barley

corn field with partly cloudy skies

If you’re looking for a substitute for barley, there are many tasty and versatile alternatives on the market. Here are ingredients that can be used in place of barley:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice

Additional Barley Allergy Information

If you have not done so already, you need to check out Barley Allergy: What You Need to Know to learn in-depth about barley allergies.

Also, 10 Barley Allergy Symptoms You Need to Know is a great resource on the most common symptoms associated with barley allergic reactions.

By Chris

Chris is the creator of Allergy Preventions. As an allergy sufferer himself, his vision is to help others find relief from allergies. By combining his 14 years of Public Health experience, personal experience, and his thirst for knowledge, he is dedicated to providing quality recommendations to assist families with allergy symptom relief.