Hearty mushrooms, chopped vegetables, and tender pearl barley make up this simple and satisfying mushroom barley soup. As comforting as your favorite deli's barley soup, but with even more flavor and a subtle smoky finish! Vegan and Mediterranean diet friendly.
If you're missing your favorite deli's mushroom barley soup, you'll want to give this comforting recipe a try. It's even better!
This healthy mushroom barley soup skips the beef in favor of a vegetarian meal with real body, texture, and depth of flavor.
And it uses simple ingredients: mushrooms, vegetables, and pearl barley. But a a few things make all the difference in this mushroom-lovers barley soup.
Three secrets to my easy mushroom barley soup
- Use enough mushrooms (and more than one variety). I use about 1 ½ pounds of mushrooms--baby bella mushrooms and white mushrooms, both are readily available and relatively inexpensive. You do not need to use any special dry mushrooms in this recipe, which require soaking in hot water for at least 20 minutes before adding (if you want to, you can, of course).
- Build volume and flavor by chopping and slicing the mushrooms. To give the soup texture and provide a good amount of that "meaty" mushroom flavor, prepare the mushrooms two different ways. Slice the baby bella mushrooms (I like them halved so they're more meaty); when sauteed, these provide a great bite. And chop the white mushrooms to be used as part of the base for the broth. The bit of chopped mushrooms gives the barley soup great volume, while infusing it with flavor.
- Use aromatics and warm spices to add flavor. Chopped onions, garlic, celery, and carrots are pretty standard in mushroom barley soup. But a trio of warm spices--coriander, cumin, and a hint of smoked paprika--takes it to a new level of delicious. You'll love the warm and subtle smoky flavor.
Let's walk through what's in this vegan mushroom barley soup:
- Extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Geek extra virgin olive oil)
- Mushrooms- 2 kinds of mushrooms, baby bell mushrooms and white mushrooms. The baby bell mushrooms are simply sliced and sauteed in extra virgin olive oil. The white mushrooms are chopped into small pieces, they act to add flavor and volume to the broth.
- Onions, garlic, celery, and carrots- this foursome of chopped veggies, sometimes called "soffritto" are sauteed in the olive oil to begin the flavoring process (we add the chopped white mushrooms to this mix).
- Canned crushed tomatoes- I think of this as the secret ingredient you don't see in most mushroom barley soup recipes. Only about ½ cup of crushed tomatoes here provides great color and adds extra umami to the barley soup
- Spices- A trio of warm spices including 1 teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon cumin, and ½ teaspoon smoked paprika. This combination of spices adds so much depth to the barley soup without overwhelming it. Find all three spices at our online shop.
- Pearl Barley- About 1 cup of pearl barley (I used this one from Bob's Red Mill. Affiliate link) is all you need here. Rinse it well before using.
- Fresh Parsley for garnish- this is totally optional, but a great way to finish this hearty soup with an added pop of green
How to Make Mushroom Barley Soup: Step-by-Step
(Scroll down for the print-friendly recipe)
Time needed: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Mushroom barley soup: step-by-step
- Saute sliced baby bella mushrooms
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot. Add sliced baby bella mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, tossing regularly until they mushrooms gain some good color. Season with kosher salt. Set the mushrooms aside for later.
- Saute onions, garlic, carrots, celery and chopped mushrooms
In the same pot, add a bit more extra virgin olive oil. Cook the chopped veggies and chopped mushrooms, stirring regularly, until tender and fragrant. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Add crushed tomatoes and spices
Throw in the crushed tomatoes and season with 1 teaspoon coriander and ½ teaspoon each cumin and smoked paprika.
- Add broth and barley and cook
Add 6 cups broth (you can use vegetable or beef broth if you like). Add 1 cup pearl barley (make sure it's well-rinsed). Bring to a boil for a good 5 minutes, then cover and let simmer for 45 minutes or until the barley is fully cooked to tender.
- Add in sauteed mushrooms
Remember those mushrooms you sauteed earlier? Now is the time to stir them in. Let them cook in the soup a good 5 minutes, and you're ready to serve. If you like, sprinkle fresh parsley for garnish.
Pearl Barley Vs. Hulled Barley
Barley is one of the treasured super grains used often in Mediterranean cooking. It's satisfying and loaded with nutrition--fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals.
Pearl barley is the most common form of barley. It's the variety I use in this recipe and others like barley with roasted vegetables or Soupe Jo (Persian Chicken Barley Soup). It is created by removing the inedible coating of unhulled barley and creating pearled barley grains with a smooth surface and quicker cooking time. It's still chewy, nutty, and nutritious.
If you have hulled barley, the whole grain form of barley where only the outermost hull removed, it can be used in this recipe, but budget extra time for cooking (budget another 30 minutes or until the barley is fully cooked to a tender and chewy consistency).
Can you freeze barley soup?
Leftovers of this vegan mushroom barley soup will last in the fridge for 4 days or so. Be sure the soup is completely cooled before you transfer it to tight-lid glass containers to refrigerate.
Because there is no cream in this soup, you can freeze it. Once the soup has cooled completely, transfer it to freezer-safe containers leaving enough room at the top.
Thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat over medium heat, adding a little more broth to help the consistency.
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- Extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO)
- 16 oz baby bella mushrooms, cleaned well and halved or sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 8 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- ½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
- Black pepper
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp to ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- 6 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable broth or beef broth)
- 1 cup pearl barley rinsed
- ½ cup packed chopped parsley
- In a large Dutch Oven, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add baby bell mushrooms and cook until mushrooms soften and gain some color (about 5 minutes or so). Remove from the pot and set aside for now.
- In the same pot, add a little more extra virgin olive oil. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and chopped white mushrooms. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Now, add crushed tomatoes and spices (coriander, smoked paprika, cumin). Cook for 3 minutes or so, tossing regularly.
- Add broth and pearl barley. Bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then turn heat down. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes or until the barley is tender and cooked through.
- Add the cooked bella mushrooms back to the pot and stir to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes or so until mushrooms are well warmed through.
- Finish with fresh parsley. Transfer to serving bowls and enjoy!
- Cook's Tip: Use pearl barley in this recipe because it does cook quicker. However, if you have hulled barley, you can use it as well. It will take a bit longer to cook (I'd budget at least 20 minutes longer).
- Cook's Tip: If you want an even more smoky finish, add another pinch smoked paprika.
- Leftover Storage Instructions: This barley soup will keep well in the fridge for 4 days, if stored properly. Cool completely before transferring to a tight-lid glass container to refrigerate. You can freeze leftovers for later use. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat over medium heat, adding a bit more broth to help the consistency.
- Visit our shop to browse Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices used in this recipe
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: Barley Soup, Mushroom Barley Soup, Vegetarian Barley Soup, Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup