Vegetarian mushroom barley soup is the perfect cold-weather stew. It's filled with hearty flavors, a bunch of veggies, and it's even better as leftovers!
Mushroom barley soup is just the recipe you need on those extra chilly winter days. If you're looking for a meatless/vegetarian alternative to beef stew, this soup is a great option!
It has rich, hearty flavors and a balance of chewy textures from mushrooms and barley. This soup is perfect with salad and grilled cheese or on its own as a hearty main!
- Hearty: Potatoes add extra depth to this hearty mushroom stew, while barley adds texture and makes the soup main-dish worthy.
- Rich flavor: The deep brown broth reminds me a lot of beef broth because it has complex flavors from white wine, soy sauce, and the natural umami flavors of baby bella mushrooms.
- Simple ingredients: Mushroom barley stew is easy to make using pantry staples and a handful of fresh ingredients. It may look like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are inexpensive or pantry staples.
- Great as leftovers: The longer the soup simmers, the richer the broth becomes. This is one of those soups that is better the next day!
- Mushrooms: Baby bella (also known as crimini) mushrooms are my go-to because they are easy to find at grocery stores and have more flavor than white/button mushrooms. I like to slice half of the mushrooms and dice the rest for a variety of texture in the soup.
- Pearl barley is a slightly chewy whole grain that contributes fiber, vitamins, and minerals as well as a nutty flavor. Pearl barley cooks more quickly than hulled barley.
- Potato: Just one large russet potato creates a hearty base. Yukon gold works if that's what you have on hand. I leave the skin on for extra depth and nutrition but you can peel the potatoes if you prefer.
- Vegetable bouillon: I use Better than Bouillon for a very hearty and flavorful vegetable base. An equal amount of vegetable broth works if that's what you keep on hand.
- Onion, carrots, celery and garlic create the savory base of the soup. I recommend sweet yellow onion. Adjust garlic to taste.
- White wine adds depth of flavor to the broth. Choose a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc. You don't have to use an expensive or fancy wine, but don't use wine that's been open for a week and just needs to be used up.
How to make
Cooking equipment: I use my 7-quart Dutch oven for soups and stews. Any 6 to 8-quart stock pot or Dutch oven works for this recipe.
Heat the Dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat. Once hot, add the sliced and diced mushrooms. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring as needed. The goal is golden, softened mushrooms.
Once golden, drizzle with soy sauce. Add in the onions, celery, and carrot. Continue cooking until the onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
Add in the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste. Stir to combine, cooking 1-2 minutes. At this point, the mushrooms should be soft and deep brown as seen above.
Deglaze the pot with white wine. Stir to remove any stuck-on bits from the pot.
Stir in the vegetable bouillon, then add the cubed potatoes, barley, parsley, black pepper, and water (or vegetable broth, if not using vegetable bouillon).
Bring to a boil over medium-high to high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cover and simmer until the barley is chewy but tender and the potatoes are softened. Enjoy!
Tips for success
- Types of barley: Pearl barley is the most common kind of barley. It cooks more quickly than hulled barley. I recommend making this recipe with pearl barley. If only hulled barley is available, cook the soup as written but add an extra 15-20 minutes cook time.
- Protein: To make this soup a main, simply add a can or two of chickpeas or white beans for extra plant-based protein. You can also saute your favorite brand of veggie sausage to add for extra flavor and protein.
- Mushroom cooking tip: Because the mushrooms contribute so much flavor to mushroom barley soup, I recommend cooking them until they are rich and golden brown. Do not sprinkle the mushrooms with salt until the end of cooking as this releases moisture that slows the browning process.
- Wine: When cooking with wine, most of the alcohol content simmers away, leaving just the rich wine flavor behind. If you prefer to skip the wine, just add an equal amount of vegetable broth. I use wine often in vegetarian soups (like this tortellini soup) because it adds depth that meat usually contributes.
- Serving tips: Top with crackers and shredded Parmesan or asiago cheese. I love serving soup with homemade yeast rolls or drop biscuits. For a filling meal, serve this barley soup with grilled cheese or veggie Reuben. It also goes well with a side kale salad.
- Leftovers: Keep leftovers refrigerated in a closed container for 4-5 days.
- Reheating: Add an extra splash of broth or water as needed before reheating. Reheat individual servings in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or reheat the entire soup on the stove over medium heat until warmed through.
- Freezing: Barley soup freezes well. Let cool to room temperature before transferring to freezer-safe containers. You can freeze the entire batch or freeze it in individual servings for a quick grab-and-go soup. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
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Vegetarian Mushroom Barley Soup
- 16 ounces baby bella mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 small sweet yellow onion finely diced
- 2 stalks celery sliced
- 2 large carrots peeled and roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine see note #2
- 1 tablespoon vegetable bouilon see note #3
- 1 large russet potato cubed into 1" pieces
- ½ cup dry pearl barley
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 4 cups water *or veg broth if not using bouillon
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- serving: grated Parmesan, parsley, salt & pepper to taste
- Clean the mushrooms thoroughly. Slice half of the mushrooms and roughly chop the other half of the mushrooms.
- Heat a 6 to 8 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil. Once hot, add the sliced and diced mushrooms. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring as needed, until the mushrooms are softened and golden.
- Drizzle with soy sauce. Add in the onions, celery, and carrot. Continue cooking until the onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste. Stir to combine, cooking 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is aromatic.
- Deglaze the pot with the white wine. Stir to remove any stuck on bits from the pot.
- Stir in the vegetable bouillon, then add the cubed potato, barley, parsley, water, and black pepper.
- Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high to high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Cover partially with a lid (there should be a small sliver left uncovered). Simmer until the potatoes are tender and barley is cooked through, about 35-40 minutes.
- Taste for salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan (or vegan parmesan) and parsley. Enjoy!
- Mushrooms: White mushrooms can also be used.
- Wine: Choose a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc. You don't have to use an expensive or fancy wine, but don't use an open bottle of old wine that just needs to be used up. *Wine can be replaced with an equal amount of vegetable broth- adjust seasonings as needed.
- Bouillon: I use vegetable bouillon because I find it more flavorful than veg broth/stock. If you prefer to use broth, just omit the bouillon and replace water with an equal amount of broth.
- Leftovers: Keep leftovers refrigerated in a closed container for 4-5 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or reheat the entire soup on the stove over medium heat. You may need to add an extra splash of vegetable broth when reheating.
- Freezing instructions: Let cool to room temperature before transferring to freezer-safe containers. You can freeze the entire batch or freeze it in individual servings. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
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Author's note: This recipe was originally shared December 2019. It was updated in November 2022 with a streamlined recipe and new photos. The recipe remains mostly the same, with a few small adjustments for quality.
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