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.
My clients tell me one of the reasons they need a personal chef is because they go to the grocery store or farmer’s market and stock up on gorgeous produce with great intentions of eating healthfully all week.
However, life happens and by the end of the week, they end up with uneaten produce that’s not all that gorgeous anymore.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the same thing happens to us and I cook for a living! So, one Saturday night after a busy week, this veggie-packed Vegetable Barley Soup was born and it has been one of my go-to solutions when the veggies pile up and need to get used.
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!
Is barley good for you?
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.
How to Make Vegetable Barley Soup:
- 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 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.
- Add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Hitting the dried Italian seasoning with some fat and heat is going to allow it to “bloom” and you won’t have that dried herb taste.
- 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!
- Serve it up! 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.
- Save time by using frozen chopped vegetable blends.
Frequently Asked Questions:
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.
More soul-hugging healthful vegetable soups:
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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.