Looking for a cozy, nourishing plant-based soup? Follow these steps at home to make this warm, hearty bowl of vegetable mushroom-barley soup. Using a variety of fresh mushrooms, it packs plenty of flavour and gut-friendly ingredients to help support digestion. It’s freezer-friendly too!

As a plant-based gut health dietitian, I want to create simple plant-based recipes that offer nutrition benefits AND flavour. Because there is no point if healthy eating doesn’t taste good! And this vegan soup recipe proves that you don’t have to give up on simple comforts just because you’re eating plant-based.

hand holding green bowl of mushroom barley soup with gold spoon

Because I started my practice working with a lot of folks with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, I’ve been creating gluten free, vegan recipes for a long time – Eat More Plants Cookbook is full of them – but I realize that a lot of folks have started to associate good for your gut with gluten free, and it’s time that changes. You’re going to start seeing more recipes here that feature gut-friendly (and gluten-containing!) whole grains such as barley, farro and wheat berries because as long as you aren’t gluten intolerant, your gut actually NEEDS the incredible fibre and gut boosting benefits of these staple grains!

So I am VERY excited to share this mushroom barley soup with you. It’s giving comforting, vegan beef barley soup kind of vibes which was one of my favourite soups growing up! It’s simple, nutritious and a family friendly dinner that everyone can enjoy. It’s way easier than you think to make vegan soups from scratch, like my vegan turmeric and ginger soup with cauliflower and my nourishing vegan green soup.

mushroom barley soup ingredients including carrot, celery, onion

Mushroom Barley Soup Ingredients

This comforting and nutritious mushroom barley soup is made from just 13 simple ingredients and only takes 20 minutes of hands-on time (most of it chopping veggies!) and the rest of the cooking time is just simmering the barley until it softens. It’s a vegan soup recipe that you can make happen even when you don’t feel like cooking that much.

  • Mushrooms: use whatever mushrooms you have on hand, such as button, crimini (brown button), portobello, shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Using different varieties of mushrooms boosts flavour and texture.
  • Aromatic veggies: onion, carrot, garlic, celery These inexpensive staples last for a long time in the fridge, and add not just flavour but a ton of nutrition too! Onions and garlic are high in fermentable FODMAPS, which helps boost your microbiome health.
  • Barley: Barley is an inexpensive whole grain with a ton of nutritional benefits. Use pearl or pot barley OR if you want to speed up cooking time, you can find par-boiled barley at whole foods and trader joes that cooks up in just 10 minutes. If using parboiled barley, you might want to use 1-2 cups less water than the recipe calls for to start, adding extra water only if the soup is starting to look too thick.
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce: made from a vinegar, molasses + tamarind base, Worcestershire sauce adds a savoury tang that builds depth in the soup. Don’t have it on hand? Try 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon molasses and a bit of extra salt and onion powder to taste.
  • Herbs and Spices: bay leaves, thyme, cumin and onion powder
  • Vegetarian Beef Better than Bouillion: this gives the soup a really rich, beef barley vibe. If you haven’t tried it, you’ve got to!! (no this isn’t sponsored!) If you don’t have it on hand, I would recommend low sodium vegetable or mushroom broth, enriched with 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari to boost the umami notes.

Pearl vs Pot (hulled) barley

In the grocery store, you’ll see both pot (or hulled) and pearl barley so you might be wondering whether they are interchangeable in a recipe and they are! Pot barley is the least refined, having only the outermost husk (which is inedible) removed by a process called ‘pearling’. Pearl barley has also been polished, or pearled, but for a bit longer, so more of the bran has been removed.

Technically, pot barley has more fibre…but don’t write off pearl barley as unhealthy! It still contains plenty of soluble fibre (which isn’t found in the bran) making it a heart and gut-friendly ingredient. Beta-glucan, a soluble fibre found in both types of barley, helps to lower cholesterol and also helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.

FAQ: Is barley healthy?

Barley is one of my favourite whole grains…and yep, it’s packed with nutrition benefits, like the soluble beta glucan fibre it contains. But it also has a decent amount of plant-based protein as well as minerals: 1/4 cup of dry pearled barley has about 5 grams of protein, 6 grams of total fiber as well as 1 gram each of iron and zinc, plus plenty of magnesium, selenium and potassium.

FAQ: Can I put uncooked barley in soup?

Heck yes you can…you just need to up the water, as the barley will absorb liquid. Think about it this way: if you were making a cup of dry barley, you’d cook that in 2-3 cups water. So if putting uncooked barley into a soup that doesn’t call for it, just add 2 extra cups of water to start. Add more if the soup gets too thick before the barley is tender.

FAQ: Should barley be rinsed before cooking

I have to admit to being a lazy cook…if I don’t have to rinse, or peel, I won’t. When it comes to barley, let your eyes be your guide. If the bag of barley looks dusty, I’d give it a quick rinse in a fine mesh sieve. If not, feel free to skip it!

How to make a flavourful mushroom barley soup

  • Skip the vegetable stock – I find that most storebought vegetable stocks aren’t actually that flavourful and some have an off taste. I use Better than Bouillon in most of my recipes now, after buying it to make someone else’s recipe and it’s a game changer. Plus they have a vegetarian ‘beef’ that is really perfect for this soup. It’s way more flavourful than stock.
  • Use a variety of mushrooms – if they’re available and affordable to you, using a variety of mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster, king oyster and crimini mushrooms will add a lot of flavour in comparison to white button mushrooms. Another option: get a packet of dried porcini or mixed Italian mushrooms, rehydrate and add them to the soup for more concentrated flavour
  • Brown mushrooms well – browning the mushrooms well creates a lot more flavour. Try not to stir the mushrooms too much for the first five minutes to let browning occur.
  • Season the vegetables before adding the water – want a flavourful soup? This dairy free soup recipe proves you don’t need to doctor everything with a bit of cream. Instead, enhance the flavour at each stage and season the vegetables once they’re cooked down. Adding a bit of salt and pepper at this stage won’t make the soup too salty, but it will make the vegetables more flavourful when you bite into them
green pot of mushroom, onion and carrots

Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup Tips, Substitutions + Storage

  • Storage This soup will keep well, covered, in the fridge for four days. Want to store it longer? Place in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month. Then, thaw in the fridge overnight and warm on medium until fully steaming before serving. You’ll need to add a bit more water to thin the soup after storage as the barley continues to soak up liquid!
  • Make it faster: you can find parboiled barley at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, which will cook much faster. Use 1 cup less water for cooking. Once the barley is tender, you can always adjust the thickness of the soup with a bit more water if you want.
  • Want to make this gluten free? Ensure you use a gluten free worcestershire sauce and bouillon and try using millet for the grain. It’s got a softer texture than quinoa so while not an exact dupe for barley, it will give you a cozier texture.

Looking for more healthy vegan soups? Try these!

mushroom barley soup in green bowls with spoon

Hearty Mushroom & Barley Soup (Vegan)

Looking for a cozy, nourishing plant-based soup? Follow these steps at home to make this warm, hearty bowl of vegetable mushroom-barley soup. Using a variety of fresh mushrooms, it packs plenty of flavour and gut-friendly ingredients to help support digestion. It's freezer-friendly too!
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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced (use a variety such as cremini, oyster, baby bella)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 7 cups water, or low sodium vegetable stock if you don't have bouillon concentrate
  • 5 teaspoons Better than Bouillon Vegetarian Beef Concentrate
  • 1 cup dried pearl or pot barley, pearl cooks faster
  • 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce, see note for substitution
  • teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions 

  • Heat avocado oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring once.
  • Add carrot, onion and celery, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown and carrot is beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.
  • Add garlic, stirring constantly for one minute.
  • Next, add water, bouillon concentrate, barley, worcestershire sauce, thyme, onion powder, cumin and bay leaves and bring to a boil for five minutes on high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium and partially cover with a lid, keeping at a bubbling simmer, until barley is tender not mushy, about 30 minutes if using pearl barley and up to 50 minutes if using pot barley.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Notes

Soup will keep, covered, in fridge for four days or in the freezer for a month. Let thaw overnight in fridge and then bring up to a full steaming simmer on medium heat before serving.