A simply delicious soup, that is filling, comforting and wholesome. This vegetable barley soup checks all the boxes! It is flavourful, easy to prepare, filled with nutrients, and made in one pot!
This recipe was originally published in February 2019. It has been updated for content and photos.
While soup is best enjoyed in cold weather and during the winter months, this one uses common ingredients that are available all year long.
So when that soup craving hits, be sure to add this vegetable barley soup to the menu!
Like my mushroom barley soup, this dish is vegan and vegetarian-friendly, heart-healthy, incredibly delicious, and simple to make.
For more soup ideas and inspiration, check out this delicious collection of healthy vegan soup recipes.
Here’s everything you’ll need to make our delicious vegetable barley soup.
Vegetable barley soup recipes often have tomatoes but to keep this one nightshade free, I decided to make this one without tomatoes. I’m happy to report that the result is quite incredible!
- White navy beans: You may use any beans here, but I like the smaller beans in this one. Kidney beans work well too. Just make sure to soak them overnight, no matter which beans you choose.
- Veggies: I’m using red onion this time, but yellow or white are fine too. Fresh carrots taste best, but frozen peas and corn are great for simplicity. Fresh baby spinach is added at the end for extra greens.
- Barley: Pot barley is best for retaining added nutrients, but you can read more on that below. 🙂
- Broth: I’m using my homemade bouillon powder in the low sodium option as it’s very flavourful. Use a flavourful broth for best results.
- Spices: Garlic powder and oregano, plus some extra salt and pepper if needed, to taste.
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Gather your ingredients. Then peel and quarter your onion and peel your carrots. Use a food processor to finely chop them, without pureeing.
NOTE: If you don’t have a food processor, you may chop by hand, but a food processor will save you time.
Transfer the finely chopped onion and carrots to a large pot. (photo 1)
Then add all remaining ingredients except the spinach and bring to a boil. (photo 2)
Simmer with the lid slightly askew until the beans & barley are tender, and add the spinach. (photo 3)
Turn off the heat and give everything a good stir. The heat will wilt the spinach. (photo 4)
Serve your vegetable barley soup with crusty bread, crackers, or croutons, and garnish with fresh parsley, vegan Parmesan cheese, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or a drizzle of olive oil on top.
NOTE: Skip the oil drizzle to keep this dish whole food plant-based (WFPB) approved.
Substitutions + Variations
For the spinach, you may sub with another leafy green, if preferred. Try it with black or green kale, swiss chard, or rapini.
If you don’t have barley on hand, you may use a small pasta such as ditalini or acini di pepe. Note that pasta cooks faster than barley so add it in the last 10 minutes of cooking. OR cook it separately and mix it into the soup when serving. Choose whole grain or gluten-free options, if preferred.
Make it gluten-free by using brown rice in place of barley. You may also use quinoa instead of barley, but note that quinoa cooks faster, so add it in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking.
Add more veggies: Some great additions include celery, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, and/or fresh tomatoes if you’d like.
Pot vs pearl barley?
I usually use pot barley for all barley recipes. Pot barley contains more nutrients than pearl barley because it is less refined.
Only the outermost inedible membrane is removed, resulting in a nuttier flavour that is absoutely delicious.
Pearl barley is further refined, with the membrane removed, and then the barley is polished, removing many of its nutrients. Pearl barley cooks faster, making it a great choice if you’re in a hurry.
However, I my preference overall is pot barley, especially in soup, since it will remain a little chewy, giving your bowl more body and texture.
This vegetable soup recipe makes a large batch, which is especially handy during the cold, winter months. 😉
And since this soup tastes just as great (if not better) when reheated the next day, it’s perfect for having leftovers and packing lunches.
The leftovers will keep refrigerated for 4-5 days, or you may freeze them in a freezer-safe, airtight container for up to 3 months. Just thaw in the refrigerator the night before and reheat on the stovetop.
- Soak your beans overnight. Soaking them will help them reach tenderness faster so you’re not overcooking your soup.
- If you forgot to soak your beans overnight, boil some water in a pot or kettle and cover the beans with the boiling hot water for at least 30 minutes. Then drain the beans and make the soup as directed.
More delicious vegan soup recipes
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- 1 cup navy beans or white kidney beans soaked overnight or quick soak method, see notes below
- 1 red onion
- 4 large carrots
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup pot barley
- 10 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1.5 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- salt + pepper to taste
- Peel and quarter your onion and peel your carrots. Add them to a food processor and process until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor, you may finely chop by hand. Then transfer them to a large pot.
- Add all remaining ingredients except the spinach to the same pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer with the lid on, but slightly askew for 30-40 minutes until the barley and beans are tender.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach. The spinach will wilt quickly and then serve.
The short answer is yes! Barley is a grain that’s rich in fiber and other minerals. Plus, it helps make you feel fuller for longer periods of time, which may aid in weight loss.
Not necessarily. If you don’t want to thicken your soup, you may cook the barley separately. However, I’ve accounted for the absorption with this vegetable barley soup recipe and adjusted the broth accordingly. So there’s no need to cook it separately for this dish.
Again, it’s not necessary. While soaking the barley will speed up the cooking process, there’s no need to soak it first. For this soup, we’re waiting for the beans to cook anyhow, so unless you plan to sub with canned beans, it’s no help to soak the barley.
This was delicious used quinoa instead of barley! !
Sounds great with quinoa! Thanks for sharing.
So glad to know you can give us a vegan receipe it is really a good idea, only if you dont mind may I know what is nutrisional yeast. I cant get it. THKS alot for the receipe.
Hi Christine, there’s no nutritional yeast in this recipe, but generally it’s used a flavour enhancer in vegan dishes. Especially ones that call for a bit of cheesy flavour.
Really enjoyed this soup. I used canned white beans as I didn’t have the time for soaking beans overnight and it turned out great. Loved this simple and yummy recipe.
Thanks so much for the review Ali. I’m so happy you enjoyed the soup. 🙂
directions for instant please.
Hi Char, I haven’t made this one in the Instant Pot yet but I’d try around 25 minutes at high pressure. Hope you enjoy.
I just made this new soup recipe and my 3 kids loved it!!
Thanks Kim. So glad everyone enjoyed! 🙂
I’m going to make this right now for my kids for lunch – I’ve been making almost all your soup recipes in my Instant Pot – loving that appliance ❤️💚
Hi Angie, thanks for sharing, so glad you’ve been enjoying our recipes. 🙂