In its basic form, mushroom barley soup is a great comfort classic. In this vegan interpretation, using a variety of mushrooms adds interest, and you also have the option of making it a mushroom-farro soup by swapping in this chewy, nutty ancient grain.
Whether you use pearled barley or farro, this isn’t a quick-cooking soup, so leave plenty of time for it to simmer when you’re not in a hurry. It’s a good soup to make on a chilly Sunday afternoon and enjoy for dinner later in the day and then for the first part of the week. This soup thickens a lot as it stands, so there will be plenty of leftovers!
While there are quick-cooking varieties of barley or farro, they may not be as readily available as the standards; they’ll cut down a little on cooking time, but not so much to make a huge difference.
About barley and farro
Barley: Inexpensive and widely available, barley is a grain to keep on your culinary radar. Learn lots more about this versatile grain in this site’s Guide to Barley.
Farro: Renowned for its uniquely nutty, earthy flavor, and satisfying chewy texture, farro is an ancient form of wheat that has made a big comeback. It’s especially beloved in Italian cuisine. Get lots of tips and info in our Guide to Farro.
Mushroom options for this soup
While this soup would be good with regular white mushroom, I recommend using a combination of cremini (aka baby bella) and one or two other varieties. Good choices include shiitakes (fresh, or rehydrated dried), oyster mushrooms, and portobellos.
Rehydrated porcini mushrooms, in a small quantity (they’re pricey) would add depth of flavor galore. If you want to go a little further afield, explore our Guide to 9 Common & Offbeat Culinary Mushroom Varieties.
Recipe adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
- 1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup raw pearl barley (or pearled or semi-pearled farro)
- 3 large celery stalks, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 32-ounce carton vegetable broth plus 2 cups water (or 8 cups water with 2 vegetable bouillon cubes)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder or 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (for color, optional)
- 12 to 16 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (use a combination of any two or three; see Notes for varieties)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and dill)
- 2 cups plain unsweetened plant-based milk, more or less as needed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
- Add the barley, celery, carrot, vegetable broth, water, and seasoning blend. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the mushrooms and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until the barley and vegetables are tender.
- Add the dill and parsley in enough plant-based milk to give the soup a slightly thick consistency. Stir in the parsley (or parsley/dill combo), and season with salt and pepper.
- If time allows, let the soup stand for an hour or so off the heat. Just before serving, heat the soup through; Add more plant-based milk as needed, and adjust the seasonings.
While this soup would be good with regular white mushroom, I recommend using a combination of cremini (aka baby bella) and one or two other varieties. Good choices include shiitakes (fresh, or rehydrated dried), oyster mushrooms, and portobellos. Rehydrated porcini mushrooms, in a small quantity (they’re pricey) add depth of flavor galore.
Here are more filling and flavorful vegan soups & stews.