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Root Vegetable Soup

There’s nothing like Fall soups to help ease the transition from summer. Root vegetable soup  – loaded with squash, sweet potato, turnip, celeriac, carrots, barley and onions – is the perfect segue into Fall.

Nutrient-rich, low calorie and, most importantly, absolutely delicious.

bowl of root vegetable and barley with croutons on top, soup sitting on plate with gourds in background

My friend Jane inspired me to create this root vegetable 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.

  • Sauté 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 hearty 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, this healthy 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 potatoes or white potatoes, 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, bay leaves, 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 pepper flakes.
  • Creamy or chunky texture: For a creamy root vegetable soup, you can puree the soup once it’s cooked with an immersion blender. If it’s too thick, add a bit more broth. Or, puree half the soup and leave the rest chunky. I prefer a chunky root vegetable soup, so I just leave it as is.
  • 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.

How to make this hearty vegetable soup

carrots, butternut squash, celeriac, turnip, sweet potato, onion, garlic, spinach, oil, broth, thyme, salt, pepper
Ingredients: sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, turnip, celeriac, onion, garlic, spinach, oil, barley. vegetable broth, seasonings.
sauteed onions and garlic in a pot
Sauté onions and garlic in a large pot.
diced root vegetables in a pot
Add diced vegetables and sauté a few minutes longer.
diced root vegetables with broth and seasonings in pot
Simmer with broth, barley and seasonings until barley and vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes.
finished root vegetable soup with spinach and dill added, showing veggies on a ladle over pot
Add baby spinach and wilt it for a minute. Serve with croutons, crusty bread on the side or parmesan cheese. 
bowl of root vegetable and barley soup with gourds in background. Bowl on plate with bread
Root Vegetable Soup With Barley in pot with ladle scooping soup


  • 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 

  • 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

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4.94 from 33 votes

Root Vegetable Soup

There's nothing like Fall soups to help ease the transition from summer. Root Vegetable Soup – loaded with squash, sweet potato, turnip, celeriac, carrots, barley and onions – is the perfect segue into Fall. Nutrient-rich, low calorie and, most importantly, absolutely delicious. 
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: soups and starters
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings: 8


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
  • 10 -12 cups peeled and diced root vegetables, 1/2 inch (e.g. sweet potato, celery root/celeriac, turnip, carrots, parsnip. Butternut squash is great too) Note 1
  • 7 cups water or vegetable stock (or broth) Note 2
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed Note 3 on optional soak


  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon 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 olive oil, chopped fresh herbs.


  • SAUTE AROMATICS AND VEGETABLES: Heat oil or melt butter on medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onions and sauté 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. If too thick, add a little bit of water or broth.
  • 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 soup into bowls and serve with crusty warm bread, homemade croutons (Note 4). grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil or a couple drops of lemon juice,


Recipe Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
Nutrition values are calculated without garnishes.


Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1141mg | Potassium: 827mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1266IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 2mg
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  1. I made the soup today in my Ninja Foodie Pressure cooker. It came out great, yes even my husband wanted a second bowl. I used onions, butternut squash, carrots, celery, turnip, parsnips, sweet potato, yukon gold potato, rutabaga, and spinach at the end. also used fresh parsley. After doing all with the onions, garlic and add the veggies and broth, 12 min on high, and quick release, everything was done perfectly. Thank you so much for the recipe.

    1. Thanks so much for posting an instant pot/pressure cooker/Ninja version Pauline! So helpful to our readers. I really appreciate it. And glad it turned out so well. Looks like you used every root vegetable in the book! Feel free to rate the recipe, too, to help guide readers 🙂

  2. This looks delicious and I love soup year round lol. I was wondering if I could use pot barley as it’s what I have. I’m guessing I’d need to soak it first?
    Thank you Robyn

    1. Hi Robyn, the pot barley would probably be best soaked over night in cold water (you might be able to get away with soaking for several hours). Alternatively, you can just cook it longer until tender, but the vegetables may get too soft that way. Hope that helps.

  3. Best to soak the barley ahead of time beforevadding it to the soup. I did for a few minutes but more time was needed. My veggies were over-cooked before the barley was done. The soup tasted great and next time I will soak the barley.

    1. Hi Julie. You shouldn’t have to soak barley before adding it to the soup if you use pearl barley. But you certainly can if you want to shorten the cooking time to keep your vegetables less soft. Glad you still liked the soup.

  4. Second time making the root vegetable soup since we enjoyed it so much the first time. A favourite for us!