This recipe for vegetable barley soup amplifies just how delicious a simple vegetable soup can be. It’s loaded with seasonal vegetables, making it clean, nutritious AND super tasty. Chewy, nutty pearl barley makes every bite so much more interesting! The great thing about this recipe is that you could use it as a base for making your very own version, depending vegetables are in season and which vegetables you have on hand. Making it also a great way to use up any extra vegetables you have on hand.
Barley Soup — an age old traditional comfort food
Traditionally barley soup is something you would find in Scotland (called Scotch broth) made with lamb, barley and vegetables like onions, carrots and other root vegetables. In Canada, we also have our version, which would contain beef, onions, celery, carrots, and sometimes even peas. Pure, old fashioned comfort food that’s been passed along through the generations. My version is a vegetarian/vegan barley soup and instead of meat to give it it’s flavour, it relies on umami-rich vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes to give it that extra something that keeps you coming back for more!
Main ingredients for this vegetable soup with barley
One of my favourite grains! It has a nutty flavour and chewy texture that is the highlight of this simple vegetable soup. It’s not to be confused with HULLED barley which is the whole grain form of barley. It has only the outermost hull removed and takes much longer to cook. Pearl barley, on the other hand, has been polished to remove some or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull, which results in a relatively quick cooking grain, that doesn’t need to be soaked ahead of time. That’s what’s going in this soup.
A good mix of vegetables is what gives this easy to make barley soup depth of flavor. I like to add the aromatics (onion and garlic) and any vegetables that I want to cook for a longer time, right at the start of the recipe. For more delicate, short cooking vegetables, I add them once the barley is halfway through cooking. And for the greens, dependant on how hearty they are, they should be added near the end of the cooking time.
Using different types of vegetables for a barley soup
Root vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, winter squash/pumpkin, rutabaga, turnip, golden beets, etc will need longer to cook, so if swapping one for another, add them at the beginning. I also add celery stalks (or celery root) and leeks, onions or garlic at the beginning as they infuse the soup with flavour.
Vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, snow peas and even green beans, cook relatively quick in comparison to root vegetables, so can be added halfway through or even later, depending on preferred consistency. As for red pepper, it can be added early on or later, depending on how cooked you want it to be.
Greens like spinach only take a minute to wilt, Swiss chard leaves 2-3 minutes, and hearty kale, cup to 5 minutes. Alternatively, a handful of freshly chopped parsley stirred in at the end, gives the soup some added freshness, colour and flavour.
I hope you all LOVE this vegetable soup with barley! It’s:
Cosy and warming
Rich in fibre and good-for-you nutrients
& oh so delicious
If you love this barley soup recipe, you might also like one of these recipes:
- Simple Chicken Potato Soup
- Minestrone Soup with Rice and White Beans
- Tuscan White Bean Soup (Ribollita) with Kale
Or check out my soup recipe archive for more inspiration!
Vegetable Barley Soup
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small yellow onions, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 medium potato, peeled and diced (85 g)
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced (150 g)
- 1 small pointed red pepper, diced
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, to taste
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 x 400 g cans organic diced tomatoes
- 1 litre vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more), to taste
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup pearl barley (150 g)
- handful green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds (100-125 g)
- half a zucchini, diced
- 2 handfuls spinach or kale, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, potatoes, red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (1 minute).
Add the diced tomatoes, broth, water, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the barley, partially cover the pot with a lid, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the green beans and zucchini, season well with freshly ground pepper, plus more salt, to taste and continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 more minutes.
Add the chopped greens and simmer until wilted (1 minute for spinach, 5 minutes for kale, which should be added a little earlier).
Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes, as desired. Divide into bowls, serve and enjoy!
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