Skip the beef and dive into this hearty vegan Mushroom Barley Soup. Packed with flavourful mushrooms and aromatics this soup is a welcome comfort on a chilly day!
Although you can add beef to this soup the mushrooms and pearly barley add enough "meatiness" to keep even the meat-eaters coming back for more. It's packed with nutrition and is super satisfying!
Pro-Tips for making this soup
- Use dried and fresh mushrooms for a deeper flavour. Porcini mushrooms are the most flavourful but dried shitake would also work.
- Don't skimp on the mushrooms. This soup is for mushroom lovers! Chopped and sliced gives a better texture to the soup.
- Rinse the barley well. Rinsing the barley will make it less starchy in your soup. If you want your soup to be even less starchy, pre-cook the barley in boiling, salted water for 20-30 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Cooking the barley in the soup gives it a thick and creamy texture.
- Slicing and cooking half the mushrooms first and chopping and cooking the rest in the soup provides depth of flavour and texture
Here's what you will need to make this recipe. For quantities see the recipe card below.
- olive oil
- white onion
- cremini mushrooms
- dried porcini mushrooms
- tomato paste
- pearly barley
- fresh thyme
- smoked paprika
- vegetable broth
- fresh parsley
See recipe card below for full detailed instructions.
Step 1 - Cook the sliced mushrooms first in olive oil until softened. Remove and set aside. These less cooked mushrooms will add a different texture to the final soup. Add more oil to the pan and sautee the onion, carrots, celery and chopped mushrooms until soft.
Step 2 - Add the barley, garlic, tomato paste, smoked paprika, chopped thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add chopped rehydrated mushrooms plus the liquid along with the broth and bring it all to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes until barley is cooked.
Step 3 - Add the sliced mushrooms and fresh parsley. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
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- White onion - can be substituted with yellow, Spanish, sweet, red onion or leeks.
- Cremini mushrooms - use any mushrooms you like. A variety of mushrooms would be delicious. I just wanted to keep it simple with the easiest to find variety with the most flavour.
- Dried porcini mushrooms - feel free to omit the dried mushrooms. They are an added flavour bonus but if you can't find them or just aren't interested just skip. Dried shitake mushrooms or mixed wild mushrooms would work well here but double the amount as they aren't quite as flavourful.
- Pearly barley - hulled barley can be used but will have to be soaked overnight and will take longer to cook (about 45 mins to 1 hour). Any of your favourite grains can work in this soup such as wild rice, black rice, farro, quinoa or even lentils! Cooking times will vary depending on which substitute you use. I recommend cooking your chosen substitute separately, following package directions, then adding to the soup in order to make sure it's cooked properly and doesn't make the soup too starchy.
- Fresh thyme - half the amount of dried thyme can be used.
- Smoked paprika - I like the intense smokiness of Spanish smoked paprika and always have a tin of La Chinata Sweet Smoked Paprika in my spice cupboard. but feel free to use regular paprika increasing the amount to 1 tsp.
- Vegetable broth - chicken or beef broth are also delicious if you aren't vegetarian.
For meat lovers - You can easily add your favourite leftover protein to this soup. Reduce the mushrooms by half and add in 2 cups of shredded leftover chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or pork.
Gluten-Free - Barley contains gluten so if you are following a gluten free diet substitute the barley for any gluten free grain of your choice or even beans or lentils!
Add some greens - If you want to take the nutritional profile of this soup to the next level add in some of your favourite chopped leafy greens such as spinach or arugula. Stir them in at the end and let cook until wilted.
This hearty soup will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and frozen for several months. Make sure the soup has cooled completely before freezing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cooking barley in soup creates a thicker, creamier texture and requires extra liquid. If you don't want the barley to thicken the soup cook it separately by boiling it in salted water for 20-30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and add it to the soup.
Pearl barley doesn't require soaking. Just a thorough rinse. Hulled barley should be soaked overnight before adding to your soup and will require extra cooking time.
Just like any grain barley can be overcooked. When this happens it becomes very soft and disintegrates into the soup.
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Mushroom Barley Soup
- 10 g (⅓ oz) dried porcini mushrooms
- 680 g (1 ½ lbs) cremini mushrooms, cleaned
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well and drained
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 cups vegetable, chicken, or beef broth
- A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- Place dried mushrooms in a dish and cover with ½ cup boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Chop mushrooms and reserve liquid.
- Divide the cremini mushrooms in half. Thinly slice one half and chop the other half into ¼ - ½-inch pieces and place in separate bowls. This creates different textures in the finished soup.
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring, until softened. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
- Add another tbsp. olive oil to the pan along with onions, carrots, celery, and chopped mushrooms. Cook and stir until all the vegetables are soft.
- Add pearl barley, garlic, tomato paste, smoked paprika, chopped thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to coat everything in the tomato/spice mixture.
- Add chopped rehydrated mushrooms and the liquid plus broth. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add in cooked, sliced mushrooms and parsley. Stir and taste. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
- As it sits the barley will absorb the broth so it will thicken further. Feel free to add more broth to reach the consistency you like.