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Vegetable Barley Soup

You will not miss the meat in this hearty, healthy vegetable barley soup with fiber and protein-rich beans. I make a big batch and serve it as a meal-in-a-bowl for lunch all week. The best…

Vegetable Bean and Barley Soup

I use onions, carrots, celery, butternut squash and spinach, but feel free to throw in whatever you have lying around in your fridge. There’s no need to worry about the exact amounts of vegetables in the recipe.

Normally I would make this hearty vegetable soup with beef as in our Beef Barley Vegetable Soup, but I was determined to make a vegetarian version for Jenna (the other kook) who spends all her time worrying about the nutrition of her toddler rather than herself. 

The end result is a healthy soup with lots of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. And thick, comforting and full of flavor.

I love eating it with warm bread slathered with butter. For me, that makes it a complete and satisfying meal on its own. A perfect Fall or Winter soup recipe. 

 

Tailor To Your Taste

The vegetable barley soup is totally adaptable to your preferences and what you have on hand. Here are several variations and substitutions you can use. 

Vegetables

    •  In addition to (or to replace) the carrots, butternut squash and spinach, other good options are parsnips, celeriac, green beans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.
    • You can also saute mushrooms or celery with the onions.
    • Or try adding cauliflower or zucchini about 10 minutes before the end of cooking.

Seasonings

    • Try other seasonings you might prefer such as oregano, bay leaves or celery salt.

Barley

    • Pearl barley or pearled barley is the most commonly sold barley in stores. It has the outer husk and bran layer stripped away, so it’s not quite as healthy as hull barley
    • You can use either type of barley in the recipe. Hull barley will need at least 1 hour of cooking time. Pearly barley will need about 45 minutes. 
    • Note that barley is not gluten free. 

Beans

    • Use any cooked beans for this recipe
    • I like white kidney beans or cannellini, but chick peas, pinto beans and red kidney beans would be good too. 

Broth

    • Good brands for vegetarian broth, based on taste tastes, are: Brodo, Zoup, Better Than Bouillon sous base (mixed with water) and Swanson’s Organic Vegetable Broth
    • If you’re not a vegetarian, you can use chicken broth or bouillon cubes instead.
    • You can also substitute 4 cups of broth with a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes if you like.

Shortcuts

  • Buy fresh pre-peeled and cut butternut squash.
  • Use frozen 1-teaspoon cubes of garlic and/or basil.
  • Use the food processor for chopping the vegetables (as per recipe). Of course you can chop by hand if you don’t have a processor.

Make Ahead 

  • This vegetable barley soup can be kept in the fridge for a week and freezes well for a few months. I freeze it in smaller portions in zipper lock bags or containers. 
  • The soup thickens quite a bit on standing as the barley absorbs the liquid, so add more broth or water if you want to thin it out a bit when you’re reheating it in the microwave or on the stove.

Other healthy vegetable soup recipes you might like

How to make vegetable barley soup

carrots celery onion squash tomato paste barley beans spinach seasonings
Ingredients: carrots, celery, garlic, onion, squash, tomato paste, barley, beans, spinach, seasonings and broth
cubed vegetables in processor bowl
Chop vegetables by hand or in a food processor (shortcut)
chopped vegetables sauteing in pot
Saute vegetables and garlic. 
broth barley beans and sauteed vegetables in pot
Add tomato paste, broth, barley. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes until tender.
vegetable barley soup in pot
Stir in spinach to wilt. Serve. Soup will thicken on standing or in fridge.

spoonful of vegetable barley soup

bowl of vegetable barley soup beside bread p

 

Vegetable Bean and Barley Soup in bowl with bread and butter f
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4.78 from 31 votes

Vegetable Barley Soup

You will not miss the meat in this hearty, healthy vegetable barley soup with fiber and protein-rich beans. I make a big batch and serve it as a meal-in-a-bowl for lunch all week. The best...
Prep Time7 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 7 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 -3 cloves garlic
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, Note 1
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 2 cup butternut squash, peeled
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 8 cup vegetable broth, Note 2
  • 1 cup pearl barley, Note 3
  • 1 cup canned white kidney beans, Note 4
  • 3 cup packed fresh baby spinach

Seasonings

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions

  • PREPARE VEGETABLES AND SAUTE: Cut onions, carrots, celery and butternut squash into 2 inch pieces. Vegetables will be processed in two batches in food processor. (Alternatively, all vegetables can be chopped by hand.) First, process garlic until finely chopped, then add onions and pulse into small pieces. In large pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and garlic to pot and saute. Second, pulse carrots, celery and butternut squash into a small dice (it's fine if a few pieces are larger). Add to pot and saute another 5 minutes.
  • COOK SOUP: Stir in tomato paste. Add broth, barley, beans and all seasonings. Stir. Bring to boil. Cover, then lower heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes until barley is tender and fluffy.
  • FINISH AND SERVE: Add baby spinach (I tear it up as I add it to pot). Stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasonings. Soup will thicken upon standing or in fridge. If too thick, add additional broth or water. Ladle into bowls and serve with warm crusty bread and butter or garlic croutons if desired. Keeps in fridge for a week. Freezes well.
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Notes

  1. Vegetables: In addition to (or to replace) the carrots, butternut squash and spinach in the recipe, other good options are parsnips, celeriac, green beans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes. You can also saute mushrooms or celery with the onions. Or add cauliflower or zucchini about 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
  2. Broth: Good brands for vegetarian broth are: Brodo, Zoup, Better Than Bouillon sous base (mixed with water) and Swanson's Organic Vegetable Broth. If you're not a vegetarian, you can use chicken broth or bouillon cubes instead. You can also substitute 4 cups of broth with a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes if you like.
  3. Barley: Instead of pearl barley, you can use hull barley but you will need to cook the soup about 15-20 minutes longer to make the barley tender. 
  4. Beans: Use any cooked beans for this recipe. I like white kidney beans or cannellini, but chick peas, pinto beans and red kidney beans would be good too. 
  5. Make Ahead: This soup can be kept in the fridge for a week and freezes well for a few months in zipper lock bags or containers. It thickens quite a bit on standing as the barley absorbs the liquid, so add more broth or water if you want to thin it out a bit when you're reheating it in the microwave or on the stove.
 
Nutrition values are estimates and will depend on vegetables and beans used. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Vegetable Barley Soup
Amount Per Serving (0 g)
Calories 191 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 1237mg54%
Potassium 490mg14%
Carbohydrates 36g12%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 9229IU185%
Vitamin C 15mg18%
Calcium 62mg6%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We'd love you to rate it above under 'rate this recipe' or in the comment section below. Thanks!
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This vegetable barley soup, originally published in 2018, has been updated with new information and edits. 

 

14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was one of the best soup I ever had. I had a leftover beef broth in the fridge so I used it for four cups of the broth, the other half was vegetable broth. I served it with baguette, pâté and cheese, it really made for a beautiful dinner.

  2. Soup looks great, but help me understand, what is the point of having nutrition info if you do not have the portion size to go with it???

    1. As the recipe is for 8, the portion would be 1/8 of the soup. I would say approximately 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups per serving. The amount will depend if you add extra vegetables or broth. I hope that helps.

  3. 5 stars
    We made this tonight with chicken bouillon. It was so hearty and delicious! Definitely will be a repeat recipe. It was so easy with the pre-cubes butternut squash. Thank you! xxxo

      1. 5 stars
        I made two batches of this soup tonight one for my family and one to take to a friend who is recovering from lung cancer surgery – the recipe was eased to follow and the only change I made was substituting frozen spinach for fresh – it was so delicious – thank you so much for this recipe!!

  4. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!! Made it for the first time and will definitely make again. One of the best veggie stews I’ve made and I cook a lot!

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