There’s nothing like Fall soups to help ease the transition from summer. Root Vegetable Soup With Barley – loaded with squash, sweet potato, turnip, celeriac, carrots and onions – is the perfect segue into Fall.
Nutrient-rich, low calorie and, most importantly, absolutely delicious.
My friend Jane inspired me to create this soup. She served a version of it the other night, made from a recipe she clipped out of the newspaper (no author) and it was delicious. I’m embarrassed to say both my husband and I asked for seconds, knowing there was a full dinner ahead of us.
As with many vegetarian soup recipes like this, the basics are pretty much the same. Saute onions and garlic, add the root vegetables you like, add broth (or water) and seasonings, simmer and serve. The variations come from the vegetables you choose and the seasonings you add. Check out our ‘tailor to your taste’ section below to create a root vegetable soup you’ll love.
And I mean LOVE. I ate this soup 5 days in a row and could happily keep going!
Even with a water base, the soup is so incredibly flavorful. The vegetables are surprisingly sweet in a good way. The pearl barley adds both both nutritional value (fiber, protein) and body. It thickens the soup when it sits around on the stove or in the fridge or freezer. I’m a fan of thicker soups, but if you’re not, just add more broth or water.
Needless to say, the root vegetables are also super healthy, loaded with vitamin A, K and C, antioxidants and beta-carotene. Healthy is good, but to be honest, it’s the comfort taste and texture that grab me. So good. I think I like it on day 2, 3 and 4 even better.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Vegetables: I like to use a variety of root vegetables to enhance the flavor. Pick 3-4 you like such as sweet or white potato, carrots, celeriac (celery root), white or yellow turnips, onions, parsnips, rutabaga or fennel (if you like the licorice taste). I also love adding butternut squash and spinach even though they are not root vegetables.
- Broth: Use vegetable broth or chicken broth or water in any combination. Homemade broth is even better if you have some.
- Herbs: I love fresh dill with this soup, but if you’re not a fan, try parsley, chives, chervil, thyme or sage. Even cilantro if that’s your thing. Here’s a little 101 on herbs: the bare essentials.
- Spice: Feel free to add some heat with red chili flakes.
- Texture: You can puree the soup once it’s cooked. If it’s too thick, add more broth. Or, puree half the soup and leave the rest chunky.
- Garnish options: Serve your root vegetable soup with homemade croutons (recipe included), warm crusty bread, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of good olive oil or some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
- Buy squash already peeled and cut into cubes.
- Process onions and other vegetables in your food processor instead of cutting by hand. Use a few quick pulses. You will have to do this in several batches. You may need to cut some stray pieces with a knife if they don’t get chopped as well. This shortcut can save a few minutes, but for this soup, only use the processor if you don’t mind some of the vegetables disintegrating in the soup and not left chunky.
- Use minced garlic in the jar or in frozen cubes instead of fresh garlic.
- Buy pre-washed baby spinach.
Make Ahead Root Vegetable Soup
- The soup can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for 4 days. Or frozen for up to 4 months. It gets thicker on standing or freezing, so add some additional broth or water when reheating.
Other Fall/Winter Soups you might like
- red lentil soup recipe with vegetables
- beef barley soup with vegetables
- Wedding soup recipe with zest
- Sausage and bean soup
- Vegetable bean and barley soup
- Instant pot French onion soup
Root Vegetable Soup with Barley
- 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
- 10 -12 cups peeled and diced root vegetables, 1/2 inch (e.g. sweet potato, celery root/celeriac, turnip, carrots, parsnip. Any kind of squash is great too) Note 1
- 7 cups water or vegetable broth Note 2
- 1/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed Note 3 on optional soak
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or more or less depending on broth used)
- 1/4 cup chopped dill leaves (optional)
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- Optional Garnishes: Homemade croutons (Note 4), Parmesan cheese, squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of good olive oil.
- SAUTE AROMATICS AND VEGETABLES: Heat oil or butter on medium in a large pot. Add onions and saute 5 minutes until translucent. Stir in garlic for 30 seconds. Add root vegetables and stir for another 3 minutes.
- SIMMER SOUP: Add broth (or water), barley, thyme, salt, pepper and dill (if using). Bring to boil, cover, then reduce heat to low/ Simmer for 30-40 minutes until vegetables and barley are soft and tender, but not mushy. Soup will thicken on standing or in fridge overnight.
- FINISH AND SERVE: Stir in spinach for 1 minute to let it wilt. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more thyme, salt, dill etc as you like. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty warm bread, homemade croutons (Note 4) or grated Parmesan cheese.
- Root Vegetables and quantities: To get 10-12 cups of diced vegetables, I used 1 large sweet potato (~3 cups), 2 medium-large carrots (~2 cups), 1 large celery root (~2 cups), 1 large white turnip (~2 cups) plus 2 cups cubes of butternut squash (not actually a root vegetable but great in this soup). Feel free to use any combination of these or other root veggies you like including parsnips, rutabaga and white potato.
- Broth or Water options: Use any combination of water and vegetable broth. You can even use chicken broth. I use part vegetable broth and part concentrated undiluted canned chicken broth (adding my own water) if I'm not serving to vegetarians. I find it has more depth. Needless to say, homemade vegetable or chicken broth is even better.
- Barley - soak or not? Pearl barley, the kind of barley sold in most grocery stores, has its outer husk removed, so technically there is no need to soak it. To make it cook faster, I do give it a quick rinse and soak while I'm cutting up the vegetables. Feel free to ignore.
- Homemade Croutons (for 2-4): Cut 2 slices bread into 1/2-1 inch pieces. Most breads will work. Stale is good but not essential. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan to medium. Add bread cubes in a single layer in pan. Sprinkle with salt (and garlic powder if desired). Continue to toast, stirring occasionally until nicely browned, about 4-5 minutes.
- Make Ahead: Root vegetable soup can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for 4 days. Or frozen for up to 4 months. It gets thicker on standing or freezing, so add some additional broth or water when reheating.