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This vegetable barley soup is about to blow your mind. It’s gotten a major upgrade from the stuff I grew up eating out of a can. Also, it’s filled with heart-healthy ingredients that’ll fill your belly and your soul with goodness and comfort.

Whether it’s cold or hot in your neck of the woods, pull out that stockpot and simmer up a pot of barley soup.

nutrient-dense vegetable barley soup in a stock pot with a soup ladle.
Table of Contents
  1. Is Barley Soup healthy for you?
  2. Do you have to cook pearl barley before adding to soup?
  3. How long does it take to cook barley?
  4. What are the best vegetables to put in soup?
  5. More Plant-Based Soups to Try
  6. Vegetable Barley Soup Recipe

Is Barley Soup healthy for you?

It absolutely can be healthy… if you use nutrient-dense ingredients. My barley soup recipe is definitely healthy— it’s loaded with plant-based nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. In addition, soups like this vegetable barley soup are high in fiber and liquid, meaning that a hearty bowl will help you stay fuller for longer + not spike your blood sugar.

Honestly, my favorite thing about soup is the easy leftovers. I like to make huge batches of soup, freeze some of it and keep the rest in the fridge for a quick lunch. So when I’m craving Taco Bell (usually when I’m stressed and starving) I can pull this outta the fridge and have lunch ready in 10 minutes. That’ll usually curb the burrito craving for the day. 😉

white bowl of barley soup with a stainless steel spoon.

Do you have to cook pearl barley before adding to soup?

Pearl barley doesn’t need to be pre-cooked before adding to the soup. But you could definitely cook it in advance. One thing I like to do is make a giant batch of barley and divide it between freezer-safe containers and store until I’m ready to use it in a recipe. Pearl barley is the most common type (and easiest to find), which is why I’m using it in vegetable barley soup. I try to keep things as easy as possible when food shopping and cooking.

bowl of uncooked pearl barley.

How long does it take to cook barley?

Pearl barley does take a while to cook – upwards of 30-40 minutes sometimes. You can cut down on the cooking time by using quick cooking barley. Trader Joe’s is one store I know that sells 10-minute barley. In this recipe, we’re using the quick cooking barley. Yet you can totally use the other one if you have the time.

Ingredients needed to make a Vegetable Barley Soup.

What are the best vegetables to put in soup?

The best vegetables to put in any veggie soup recipe are the ones you like! I’ll go even further to say that I tend to throw whatever leftover veggies I have in my fridge into soup – roasted veggies, greens, a little of this or that. In addition to broth and barley, here’s a few vegetables you can toss in for a major flavor win:

  • carrots
  • green beans
  • peas
  • kale
  • chard
  • onion
  • celery
  • mushrooms
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • herbs

For this vegetable barley soup recipe, I’ve chosen an array of veggies that you’d find in a classic barley soup. Yet I also added in chopped kale (because we’re all about the leafy greens around here).

Fresh kale leaves chopped into a pot of soup.

In case you weren’t sure, feel free to substitute, add, or decrease the veggies to suit your personal preference. Above all, use what you can easily source and trust that this recipe is very forgiving! If kale isn’t your thing, try swiss chard or spinach.

Whole food vegetable barley soup.

I like adding mushrooms along with the vegetables too. They add fantastic savory flavor and texture.

More Plant-Based Soups to Try

Also, if you’re super excited about this vegetable barley soup, I have a feeling you’re going to like more of our recipes too. Check out more examples below:

4.67 from 6 votes

Vegetable Barley Soup

Mmmm…vegetable barley soup! You don't have to wait for the weather to turn cold to simmer up a pot of this tasty vegetarian classic. It's full of flavor, veggies, and love to fill your belly!
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Author: Jen Hansard
Course: Entree, Soup
Cuisine: Plant-Based, Vegan
Serves: 4


  • stove


  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • ½ cup yellow onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ cup quick-cooking pearl barley see recipe notes
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms sliced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 28oz, undrained
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper ground, to taste
  • 1 cup peas frozen
  • 2 cups kale chopped
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  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until onions start to soften.
  • Add the garlic and pearl barley. Cook, stirring constantly, to lightly toast the barley, for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms and continue sautéing. The mushrooms will start to release their liquid.
  • Add the broth or water, dried herbs, and bay leaf, and stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes.
  • Add the undrained diced tomatoes to the pot. Season well with salt and pepper. Raise heat again and continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until barley and vegetables are tender. Add the peas and simmer a few more minutes.
  • Just before serving, remove the bay leaf, stir in chopped leafy greens and allow them to wilt in the residual heat. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.


  • Regular (i.e. not quick-cooking) barley can be used. Add an extra 20 minutes of initial simmering time.
  • To make gluten-free, swap the barley with quinoa.
  • Use store-bought vegetable stock or make your own.


Calories: 262kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Sodium: 1988mg, Potassium: 916mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 13030IU, Vitamin C: 50mg, Calcium: 175mg, Iron: 3mg
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  1. I just wanna know WHERE does the 1304 gm. of sodium come from??? I can’t handle that with high blood pressure, can hardly be called healthy…

    1. Hi Sandy, the sodium content comes mostly from the vegetable broth. This can be adjusted a couple of different ways. You can look for low sodium veggie broth or you can use our How to Make Vegetable Stock article and make some homemade so that you can control what’s added in and what isn’t. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    What a great recipe! This is a great recipe to make for my lunch for the week. I have it simmering on the stove right now. I tweaked it a bit by adding a can of white beans, some fresh green beans and spinach instead of kale.

    1. I love the tweaks you made Jackie! You can never add too much goodness to a recipe like this— it’s so versatile. Enjoy your lunch this week!

  3. Such a perfect way for us to use up ingredients we already have on hand so they don’t go to waste. And anything I can make double of and stash away in the freezer is a winner!

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Marie! This is the perfect soup to do just that.

  4. I made this over the weekend as it was quite cool here in the Midwest. I had never thought about adding kale to my soup. Oh, my goodness, it held up so nicely and was such a great addition! I delivered some to a local college student to help ramp up her nutrition. My daughter said “I don’t even miss the meat, this is SO hearty!” I also used different color carrots which added additional color, flavor, and texture. This is a winner. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love the addition of different color carrots, I’m going to try that next time I make this!

  5. This looks like what I have been looking for. I might substitute beef stock for the veggie as I’m craving beef barley.

    1. That’s one of the great things about these recipes, Teresa! You can tweak them according to what you have on hand + what you are craving!

  6. 5 stars
    Thanks for adding that gluten-free tip at the bottom! Can’t wait to try this soup when it cools down a little.

  7. 5 stars
    One of my favorite parts about the fall is having soup simmering on the stovetop and filling the kitchen with delicious fall scents. Can’t wait to make this soup!

  8. 4 stars
    This looks amazing… until I saw the mushrooms. I’d def take those out and prob add in more celery and carrots. 🙂

    1. Sarah, def feel free to substitute, add, or decrease the veggies to suit your personal preference. Trust that this recipe is very forgiving! 😀