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.
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: 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.
- 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.
If you like this barley soup, you might also enjoy …
Here are more vegan soups & stews to explore.