VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP

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Let the homey flavors speak for themselves with this hearty vegetable barley soup. It’s so easy to throw together, it’s healthy, filling, low fat, and costs less than $1 per serving.

Plus, you can easily customize this terrific recipe with any leftover vegetables. I usually go for carrots, celery, onion, and frozen peas, they’re always in my fridge, but you can mix up any seasonal veggies or whatever you have on hand.

Vegetable barley soup in a white bowl with a metal spoon.

Then saute’ your veggies in olive oil with aromatic oregano and bay leaves, and let simmer on the stove for about 30 minutes until the barley softens and the flavors mingle.

It’s worth waiting, and you’ll get your 5 a day plus a portion of high-fiber whole grain in one delicious meal.

Make a big batch of this barley soup, freeze it or bring it to work for lunch. It’s even better the next day.

What ingredients you need

  • Pearled barley
  • Frozen peas
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Potato
  • Tomato paste
  • Broth
  • Olive oil
  • Thyme, bay leaves, oregano
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients to make this barley soup are arranged on a white marble table.

How to make it

  • Saute’ carrots, onion, celery in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes (soffritto)
  • Add garlic and herb and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute
  • Stir in barley, tomato paste, and the potato cubes
The first image shows diced vegetables and herbs in pot. The second one shows the addition of barley.
  • Add broth, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes
  • Stir in frozen peas
  • Cook for a further 5 minutes
The first images shows the barley soup with broth. The second images shows the addition of peas.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning
  • Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs
  • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan if you like
  • Doesn’t it look delicious? Enjoy 🙂
Vegetable barley soup in a white bowl with a spoon. Three slices of bread next to it.

RECIPE NOTES & FAQ

IS BARLEY SOUP GOOD FOR YOU?

YES. Barley is a versatile and inexpensive whole grain, it’s rich in fiber and other important folates and minerals like selenium, great for heart health. Plus, the fiber content makes you feel fuller for longer, promoting weight loss.

Last but not least, adding plenty of veggies to this recipe turns a simple barley soup into a nourishing meal packed with nutrients.

WHAT IS BARLEY?

Cooked barley is a cereal grain with a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice.
It’s a versatile whole grain for many different dishes, from stews to soups and salads. It’s inexpensive and easily available, especially if you buy it from the bulk section or pulse section.
Plus, it’s easy to cook, and it can be interchanged with rice in many recipes. However, barley is not gluten-free.

Uncooked barley in a small white bowl.

WHAT KIND OF BARLEY DO YOU USE IN SOUPS?

There are two types of barley: hulled barley and pearled barley.
Hulled barley is the healthies kind of barley, with only the outermost hull removed and very rich in fiber, while pearled barley has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull and some or all of the bran layer. For this reason, pearled barley cooks faster than hulled barley and is the most common for soups and salads.

CAN I SUBSTITUTE THE BARLEY?

Yes, if you don’t have any barley on hand, you can use whole grain rice, regular rice, spelt, bulgur or even short pasta shapes. However, make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

CAN YOU FREEZE BARLEY SOUP?

Yes, this barley soup freezes well.

Vegetable barley in a white bowl with a spoon. Bread on the background.

VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP VARIATIONS

You can easily customize this barley soup with any orphan ingredients in the vegetable fridge drawer. I usually add carrots, celery, onion, and frozen peas, but you can mix up any veggies of your choice or whatever you have on hand.

  • Vegetables: you can add summer vegetables like zucchini, green beans or fresh tomatoes, just in the last 5 minutes of cooking. In winter, you can add mushrooms, squash, cabbage, kale at the beginning, when you add the barley to the pot.
  • Beans: canned chickpeas or canned white beans are rich in protein and work great, add them alongside barley if you wish.
  • Chicken: if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, you can add chicken too. Sometimes, I add a couple of raw skinless chicken legs at the beginning, when I stir in the broth. They cook for about 30 minutes, making the broth richer and flavorsome. Then I remove the chicken flesh from the bone with a fork and discard the bones. Delicious.

Looking for more hearty soups?

If you like this vegetable barley soup, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram. I would love to hear from you! x

Vegetable barley soup in a white bowl with a metal spoon.
Print Recipe
4.94 from 16 votes

Barley soup

Let the homey flavors speak for themselves with this hearty and simply delicious barley soup. It's easy to make, cheap, packed with vegetables, filling, and you can't stop eating it!
Note: the post has been updated with new pictures and the recipe has been slightly tweaked.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian
Keyword: Barley Soup
Servings: 4
Calories: 249kcal
Author: Katia
Cost: $3.90

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (130 grams) pearled barley, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup (130 grams) frozen peas (or other beans)
  • 4 ½ cups water or vegetable broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste, or 1 diced tomato
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • 1 large celery rib, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 medium-sized potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the diced onion, carrot, celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 7 minutes.
  • Add garlic, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, and stir for about 1 minute.
  • Add the barley, cubed potatoes, tomato paste, and give a good stir.
  • Then add the vegetable broth, a good pinch of salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat and cook gently for 25-30 minutes or until the barley is tender. If you need more liquid or if you prefer a thinner soup, add an extra cup of water or broth now.
  • When the barley is cooked, add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, then remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper*. (I usually add a pinch of salt at the beginning + 1/2 tsp later. You might need more salt, depending on your vegetable broth and on your personal preferences.)*
  • Divide into bowls, drizzle with olive oil or extra virgin olive oil, and more freshly ground black pepper if you like. If you don't keep it vegan, serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese for extra flavor. Enjoy!
  • NOTE: The nutrition data provided are estimates only.

Notes

  • Seasoning: If you use a broth that tastes quite salty on its own, it’s important to adjust the seasoning at the end and not at the beginning as you never really know how strong the salt from the broth is. I would start only with a good pinch of salt, no more than that.
  • Leftover: it keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days. t’s also freezable: divide among airtight containers (leaving 1-inch space at the top), and freeze up to 1 month.
  • Broth: both vegetable or chicken broths are fine.
    I usually make my own vegetable broth cooking vegetable scraps and herbs for 10 minutes. 
    But when I’m short on time I go for hot water and vegan low salt vegetable broth cubes. NOTE: Nutritional values are estimates only.

Nutrition

Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 946mg | Potassium: 609mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 5954IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 4mg

41 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this last night & it turned out great. My husband is obsessed w/ it too. Will def be making this a lot!

    1. Fantastic! I’m very pleased you both loved it. Thanks so much for sharing, Kate. x

  2. Would you be able to cook this in a crock pot instead of a pot on the stove?

    1. hello Rachel, I’m sure it’s possible, but I can’t give you precise instructions about how to do it as I don’t use crock pots for my recipes unfortunately. x

  3. 5 stars
    I added green bean diced tomatoes and navy beans. Felt it was missing something so added 1/4 tsp pepper flakes. Left the potato out as I wanted to freeze also grated my carrots. Didn’t have tomato paste so used a squeeze of ketchup. Taste good thank you

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! : )
      Thanks so much for sharing your feedback, Karen!

  4. Sara Lynn says:

    5 stars
    Made this yesterday, very easy. My husband loved it. I like that it’s a not a heavy tomato based recipe , basic and you can add whatever you want to it. I actually didn’t put in any of the herbs as I didn’t have access to fresh and did not want to use dried. I will keep this recipe, thank you!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Sara!
      I’m very pleased to hear you guys enjoyed this recipe. : )

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