Barley soup made with pearl barley, vegetables, spices and herbs. Barley lends an earthy and deep flavor to this spicy vegetable soup. With wholesome vegetables, spices and aromatics this barley soup makes a great lunch or dinner option. When the weather turns chilly, you reach out for comfort foods that warms you from the inside. And what can sooth you more than a steaming bowl of zesty soup?
You don’t have to wait for fall or winter to make this delightful barley soup. Cook this at any time of the year. Vegetarian barley soup is substantial enough for a light meal and easy enough to make. Prepare this ahead and you have a ready dinner for those busy workdays.
About Barley Soup
Barley soup is a popular dish from the fall and winter collection of delicious and satiating vegetarian soups. Carrots, peas, corn and green beans are immersed in a pot of water with barley. Enriched with aromatics, chili flakes and curry powder, they create a flavor filled soup brimming with nutrients.
Vegetable broth is commonly often used to impart the extra flavor, but plain water works just fine. Once you’ve made this soup from scratch, you won’t enjoy the canned versions again.
What is barley?
Barley is a wholegrain with an earthy flavor and chewy texture. It is rich in fiber. Barley has good amounts of folates, mineral and vitamins, including selenium (an important immunity boosting and brain food).
Of the three varieties of barley, hulled is the most nutritious of the lot. However, it takes a long time to cook. Quick acting barley comes together in 10 minutes but lacks the nutrient content of hulled and pearl.
Pearl barley falls somewhere in the middle and is the preferred grain for stews, chowders and soups including this one.
I am sharing a quick and effortless soup made with everyday ingredients and common vegetables.
You don’t have to scour farmer markets or ethnic stores searching for that elusive ingredient. As for pearl barley, you’ll find it in most grocery stores.
You probably have carrot, peas and potatoes sitting in your pantry. Gather them and you can get soup ready less than 30 minutes. If you prefer to work with soaked grains, soak the barley overnight.
Cook this delicious one-pot dish on the stove top, in an instant pot or the slow cooker without affecting the texture or flavor.
How to make barley soup (stepwise photos)
Prepare the barley and vegetables
1. Add ½ cup of pearl barley to a pot and rinse well a couple of times. Drain and set aside. Soak the barley for 4-8 hours, if desired.
Finely chop ginger, garlic, coriander and parsley. Dice the carrots, green or French beans. Peel the potato and dice into 1-inch pieces.
Make the barley soup
2. Add ¾ to 1 tablespoon oil or butter to a large saucepan or soup pot and heat on high. Reduce the heat to low and add ½-inch finely chopped ginger and ½ tablespoon (2 cloves) of finely chopped garlic. Sauté for 30-60 seconds.
Add more or less of oil as per your cooking preference or cook with grass-fed ghee.
3. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes and stir in. If you are using a spicy curry powder you may skip the chilli flakes.
4. Add ½ cup of rinsed barley (& soaked if possible) to the pot.
5. Now add ½ cup of peeled and diced potato (1 potato). Pour 5 to 6 cups of water or vegetable broth.
6. Simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the barley is well cooked and tender. Unsoaked barley will take longer to cook (10-15 minutes more).
- ½ to ¾ of cup tomato puree
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon curry powder.
- ½ to ¾ cup (1 small) of carrot
- ¼ cup of green beans (4 to 5 French beans)
- ½ cup of green peas
- ¼ cup of sweet corn kernels
9. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir well to combine. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Taste and add seasoning as desired.
10. Barley soup tends to thicken while it’s cooling. So add more water or broth to thin it out. Simmer for a few minutes. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander leaves or 1 to 1½ tablespoon of finely chopped parsley.
Let the soup cool down a little before serving it warm or cold. Drizzle some lemon juice. Top with grated cheese or butter or cream if desired.
Ladle equal amounts of bowl into individual bowls. This hearty soup works as a healthy mini meal. Transform it into a lunch or dinner by serving with crusty bread or a salad.
How long can I keep curried barley soup?
The soup is great for batch cooking or meal prep as it keeps fresh for 4-5 days in the fridge. Make a big batch of this barley soup for busy weekdays or potlucks. Reheat it adding some water as the cooled barley soup thickens a lot.
Why should you soak barley?
Raw grains and legumes have phytates (phytic acid) which hinders your body’s ability to absorb essential mineral and vitamins. This also puts a stress on your digestive system.
Plants contain lectin – a protein that can damage the intestine lining and cause leaky gut condition in some people. Others could experience flatulence and stomach discomfort.
Soaking grains prevents this. It is still a common method of cooking grains in traditional cultures in Asia and Africa. When you soak barley and other grains in water for a few hours or overnight, you improve the digestive process and make it easier to digest these foods.
Bored of the same set of vegetables in your barley soup?
Soups are highly adaptable foods. You can experiment with ingredients, herbs and spices in base or mother recipes, and this soup is no different.
Swap the vegetables for the ones in season or your favorites. Stick with vegetables that retain a little crunch even after simmering in the soup pot. I prefer vegetables that complement the nutty flavor of barley and the heat from the curry.
Ingredients and substitutes
Except for barley, you probably have all the other ingredients in your pantry.
Fresh vegetables: This soup contains nutrient-rich vegetables like carrots, green beans, sweet corn and potato (despite the carbs). Add your favorite vegetables.
Pearl barley: pearl barley is the key ingredients of this soup meal. You can use the regular or the quick barley version.
Tomato puree: This provides the tang and complements the nutty flavor of barley, Use chopped tomatoes if you’ve run out of puree.
Coriander or parsley leaves and celery stalks: Fresh coriander or parsley add a fresh feel to your soup.
Aromatics: Garlic and ginger contribute to the flavor profile of this soup dish.
Curry powder and chili flakes: Add heat to the dish and give a unique twist to the classic barley soup. Use more or less of these spices based on your heat preferences.
Use pre-cut or frozen vegetables to save time.
Soak the barley as this helps with digestion and the barley cook faster.
Go easy on the chili flakes if you aren’t fan of hot spices.
Don’t use quick cooking barley when you make the soup in the slow cooker.
Variations of barley soup
- This soup is extremely versatile and lend itself to different ingredients. Sub the carrots and corn with low-carb, or seasonal vegetables. Skip the potato or sub it with sweet potato, rutabaga, taro or other tubers. Add greens to increase the nutrition quotient.
- To make it more filling, add protein like tofu, lentils, beans or cottage cheese.
- Mushroom barley is a well loved variations of the barley soup. Add shredded chicken to make a meat version.
- This soup recipe is vegan if you don’t use butter for cooking the aromatics.
- Barley isn’t gluten free. Sub it with other whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, spelt, bulgur, teff or buckwheat.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ cup pearl barley
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon oil or butter
- ½ tablespoon ginger (fine chopped, ½ inch)
- ½ tablespoon garlic (fine chopped, 2 cloves)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 potato (½ cup peeled & diced to 1 inch)
- ½ cup tomato puree (or deseeded & chopped tomatoes)
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon curry powder (adjust to taste)
- ½ to ¾ cup carrots (1 small)
- ¼ cup green beans (4 to 5 French beans)
- ½ cup green peas
- ¼ cup sweet corn kernels (optional)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves or 1½ tablespoon parsley (finely chopped)
- 5 to 6 cups water or broth (adjust as required)
- Add barley to a large pot and rinse very well a few times. Drain the water. If you want you can also soak it for 4 to 8 hours. Soaking helps barley cook faster and is great for digestion.
How to make barley soup
- Pour oil to a pot and heat it. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for 30 to 60 seconds until aromatic. Then stir in the red chilli flakes.
- Add barley, potatoes and pour water or broth. Simmer until barley is tender and soft. Soaked barley cooks under 20 minutes. Unsoaked grains take longer.
- Next time to add in curry powder, tomato puree, carrot, peas, sweet corn and French beans.
- Stir and continue to simmer until the vegetables become tender.
- Add salt and taste test. If you want you can add more curry powder for flavor. Barley soup thickens upon cooling. If it is too thick for your liking pour more broth or water and simmer a little longer.
- Stir in the fresh herbs – coriander or parsley.
- Let cool down and serve barley soup. We prefer a dash of lemon juice and crushed black pepper. You may add them if you like.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Barley soup recipe first published in April 2013. Updated and republished in July 2021. I have upgraded the previous recipe with Tomato puree and curry powder.