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Vegetable Bean and Barley Soup in bowl with bread and butter f
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4.78 from 71 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 (change as needed): 8
Author: Cheryl


  • 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 cups vegetable broth, Note 2
  • 1 cup pearl barley, Note 3
  • 1 cup canned white kidney beans, Note 4
  • 3 cups packed fresh baby spinach


  • 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 black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)


  • 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 sauté for 3-4 minutes.
    °Second, pulse carrots, celery and butternut squash into a small dice (it's fine if a few pieces are larger). Add to pot and sauté 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. Sprinkle on chopped fresh herbs if you like. Soup will thicken upon standing or in fridge the next day. 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. Soup freezes well in a freezer-safe container.


  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 sauté mushrooms or celery with the onions. Or add cauliflower or zucchini about 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
  2. Vegetable broth: Good brands for flavorful broth are: Brodo, Zoup, Better Than Bouillon soup 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 hulled barley but the cooking process will take 20-30 minutes longer (or more) to make the barley tender. 
  4. Beans: Use any cooked beans for this recipe. I prefer white beans like white kidney beans or cannellini, but chick peas, pinto beans and red kidney beans would be good too. 
  5. Make Ahead: Store leftovers in the fridge for a week and freezes well for a few months in zipper lock bags or an airtight container. 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. 
Serving: 0g | Calories: 191kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1237mg | Potassium: 490mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 9229IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 2mg