Wholesome down to the last spoonful! Italian-inspired Vegetable Barley Soup is packed with vegetables and fiber-rich barley in a tomatoey broth for a combination that's both healthful and soul-satisfying! Best of all, it makes a big batch if you want to freeze some for later or to share with a friend.
Why This Recipe is a Keeper!
The soup-making process alone is therapeutic but slurping a steaming bowl of goodness like this Vegetable Barley Soup is like giving your soul a warm hug!
This easy Vegetable Barley Soup is:
- Low in Calories: Each serving is less than 200 calories. Vegetable Barley Soup is loaded with fiber so it fills you up!
- Versatile: You can vary the vegetables to almost anything you have!
- Easy: Okay, there is some chopping involved, but if they're not perfect chef knife cuts, I won't judge. Save time by using frozen chopped vegetables that are ready to go!
- Freezer-Friendly: Freeze in containers for two to three months for whenever you need some wholesome soup comfort!
How to Make Vegetable Barley Soup:
Here’s everything you’ll need to make this vegetable barley soup recipe along with how to prep the ingredients. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.
- Barley: Use hulled or pearl barley. Hulled barley is considered a whole-grain so it will take much longer to cook. Pearl barley is not considered a whole-grain but it cooks faster. Keep in mind barley is not gluten-free so use short-grain brown rice, quinoa or even beans in place of barley.
- The Vegetables: This soup is very versatile!
- Use red or orange bell peppers in place of yellow bell pepper.
- Use frozen chopped vegetable blends in place of fresh vegetables.
- Use kale in place of cabbage.
- Mushrooms, anyone?
- Italian Seasoning: Italian seasoning usually consists of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram with other herbs and spices such as garlic powder are sometimes added. A good store blend works fine here or you can blend your own.
- Tomato Juice: Can also use a vegetable broth such as V-8 for added nutrition.
- Vegetable Broth: I use Kitchen Accomplice. If you're fine with the soup not being vegetarian or vegan, you can also use chicken or beef broth.
- Gather and prep all the ingredients.
- Cook the barley by bringing a saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook until the barley is tender but still al dente. You can also cook the barley in the soup but be sure to rinse it first. Remember too, if you're using hulled barley instead of pearl barley, it will take much longer to cook. I prefer to cook it separately then add it later because of the thickening issue.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium and cook the onion until softened. Add the carrot and celery and cook that until it's softened. Add the bell pepper, zucchini and yellow squash and cook stirring frequently until it begins to soften.
- Add the garlic and Italian seasoning.
- Add the liquid ingredients and the cabbage. Bring that up to a simmer and let that cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are nice and tender.
- Add the barley and heat through. Adjust seasoning, add parsley and you've got Vegetable Barley Soup that's perfect for a chilly fall, winter or spring night!
- MAKE AHEAD: Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. Cool completely then refrigerate. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- Serve up this delicious healthy comfort food! Serve along with some crusty bread or foccacia, and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
Chef Tips and Tricks:
- Add pinches of salt along the way to the vegetables to build flavor and to help soften the vegetables a little faster. Just be careful to not oversalt as the broth and tomato juice tend to be on the salty side.
- I prefer to cook the barley separately and add it to the soup at the end. To save a step, you may wish to cook the barley right in the soup. However, the barley will absorb some of the liquid and the starch will thicken the soup, so you may want to have some extra broth on hand. Also, be sure to rinse the barley before adding it directly to the soup uncooked. If using hulled barley instead of pearl, it will take much longer to cook.
- Hitting the dried Italian seasoning (and all dried herbs even bay leaf) with some fat and heat is going to allow it to "bloom" and you won't have that dried herb taste.
- Save time by using frozen chopped vegetable blends.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Very. Hulled barley is considered a whole-grain while pearl barley is not because the fiber-rich outer hull has been removed. Barley has fiber, protein, thiamine, niacin, iron and many more nutrients! Here's more information on nutrition in barley from Healthline.com. However, it is not gluten-free so you'll want to use short-grain brown rice, quinoa or even beans in place of barley in this soup.
Absolutely! So very often, soups and stews are better the next day because the flavors have a chance to marry. This soup should be fine in the refrigerator for three to four days.
Yes! This soup will freeze fine! Just cool it down completely, place it in airtight containers and freeze for up to three months. You can thaw in the refrigerator or in the microwave.
Use red or orange bell pepper in place of yellow, frozen chopped vegetables in place of fresh, kale in place of cabbage, farro in place of barley, add mushrooms, beans and use gluten-free options such as short-grain brown rice or quinoa.
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Vegetable Barley Soup
- 1 cup pearled barley
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion - finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery - finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots - finely chopped
- 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper - chopped
- 1 small zucchini - diced
- 1 small yellow squash - diced
- 4 cloves garlic - chopped
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 bag (10-ounce) angel hair coleslaw - or approximately 3 cups finely shredded cabbage
- 6 cups vegetable broth - chicken or beef broth (or more if needed)
- 2 cups tomato juice - or vegetable juice such as V-8
- 1 can (14.5-ounce) petite diced tomatoes - undrained
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the water, add the barley and boil until the barley is tender but still al dente, approximately 15-20 minutes. Drain through a sieve and set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot.
- Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often 5-6 minutes or until onion begins to soften.
- Add the celery and carrots and cook another 5-6 minutes. Add bell pepper, zucchini and yellow squash and cook 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook 30 seconds.
- Add coleslaw mix, broth, tomato or vegetable juice and tomatoes.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover slightly and simmer until vegetables are tender approximately 25-30 minutes. Add the cooked barley, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning as desired.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
I made this soup today; the V8 was genius. It was good but I ended up adding a little sugar for the acid of the tomatoes, some smoked paprika, cumin and a dash of Worcestershire which made it perfect for me.
Hi, Bart, Thanks so much and glad you enjoyed!! This is definitely a recipe you can tweak to your own tastes and yes, sometimes tomatoes need a bit of sugar. Thanks again!
Loved this recipe with a few adjustments. I cooked the barley with the soup and it did require about 2 more cups of broth. I also added a can of crushed tomatoes and put about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to balance the tartness of the tomatoes. I did not put the zucchini or squash in the soup because I thought it would end up too mushy. At the end of the cooking time I put in about 1 cup each of frozen peas and corn. This recipe will definitely be a keeper.
Thanks so very much, Kathy! Glad you enjoyed and the veggies can definitely be varied. Thanks again!
I love soup. I make big batches and freeze individual portions. Vegetable soups are cheap, easy to make and nutritious. And did I mention cheap?
This one was very good. I threw in some Parmesan rind, a small piece of chili pepper and for lack of Italian seasoning I only added some fresh basil Turned out great, thanks.
Thanks so much, Ingrid and glad you enjoyed!! I'm so in the mood for a pot of soup but we are having a second summer here. I love to make and love to eat. Thanks again!
You need to watch the sodium--canned products and prepared broths have way, way too much sodium which are unhealthy and cover up the natural taste of food. Best to use salt-free versions of tomatoes, broth, etc. and adjust the levels yourself.
Thank you for your input. I think a lot of people already know that and can make the call based on what their health requirements are.
Shredded cabbage seems like an odd ingredient to add to barley soup. What does it add to the dish? Could I omit it?
Hi, Cali, Thanks so much for your question. Being Polish, we do a lot with cabbage and I love it in soups and especially in tomato-based soups. If you don't care for cabbage, you certainly could omit it. Thanks again and hope you enjoy!
When do you add the Italian seasoning?
Thanks, Vera! You would add it with the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. I've corrected the recipe and appreciate your finding that! Dried herbs should always be added earlier in the cooking process. Fresh herbs, unless it's something like rosemary which can be a little strong (and needs to cook a bit) get added later or right before serving. Thanks again and hope you enjoy!
Going to make this tomorrow. Do you think it would be ok to put it in a crockpot on low all day?
Hi, Michelle, Thanks for your question. I've never made this soup in a slow-cooker but think it should work okay. My only concern is the barley. Would you have time to get it cooked through on the stovetop and then just add it later to heat it through?
Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says
Mmmmmm, this looks so tasty carol. I love both barley soups and lentil soups. I find them to be so satisfying - especially on a cool winter evening.
Annie @ Annie's Noms says
I love homemade soup so much, this looks so comforting and delicious!
Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
What a wonderfully wholesome and delicious soup! I love all the ingredients in here!
Megan Keno says
Seems like a nice comforting dish! And the colors are amazing!
I'm just starting to dip my toes into the cooking world and have a lot to learn. You mentioned in this post that you made the soup out of necessity because you had a bunch of vegetables you needed to use before they went bad (that weren't necessarily perky fresh). Does the freshness of the vegetables greatly affect the flavors/outcome of the soup? Like, if you had made this soup the same day you bought those veggies, would it taste the same? Or is it better to wait a few days before using those ingredients in a soup? Just wondering if there is a marked difference in flavor/overall taste depending on the freshness of ingredients.
Thanks for your help!
Hi, Brittney! Thanks for your comment. I think soup is an excellent way to use vegetables that are no longer perky fresh. However, there's no reason to hold off with the veggies if you want to make this soup. I just happened to have a bunch that needed to be used one way or another and soup was my solution. Unless something is noticeably past it's prime, then it's probably time for the compost bucket.
That makes sense. Thank you!