I was craving a hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soup for dinner last night. Something I could pull together before the kids returned home from school and that I could pack in their thermoses for lunch the next day. Mushroom-barley soup came to mind in an instant. I taught this soup in a class back in October and I still haven’t tired of it. It is filling, tasty and oh-so-good for you.
The recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s beef and barley soup, which was great, but these days we’re limiting our beef consumption and upping the veggies. To make up for the meat, I use lots of shiitake mushrooms and finish off the soup with a bit of shoyu, a naturally fermented soy sauce which is way better for you than chemically treated, flash-processed soy sauce. Of course you can use any mix of mushrooms you like, but I am crazy about shiitakes, not only because they have a lower water content and deeper flavor than button mushrooms, but also because they are tops in immune-boosting compounds. There’s no better time than flu season to boost your immunity!
This soup is a breeze to put together and easily adaptable to different intolerances. For the gluten-free folks, I substitute Lundberg’s wild rice blend for the barley and wheat-free tamari for the shoyu. It’s obviously a different soup, but just as tasty. Vegetarians and vegans can use vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken or turkey stock. If you are making your own vegetable stock, add a bunch of mushrooms to it to give the soup more depth.
This soup is a hit every time, even with Mr. Picky who last night did what he does best — pick out the stuff he doesn’t want. This time it was only the mushrooms. We’re making progress!
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean with a damp paper towel and slice thinly
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup barley (or wild rice blend) -- I use Bob's Red Mill Barley. It says "Pearled," but it's really only semi-pearled.
- 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken, turkey or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 cups stemmed, chopped kale
- 3 Tablespoons shoyu or wheat-free tamari
- Melt butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery to pot and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Place mushrooms in the pot and saute until softened, about 8 minutes.
- Add thyme and barley. Stir to coat. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until the barley is tender (if you're using the wild rice blend, you will need to simmer it for 50 minutes.)
- Add the kale and shoyu and cook until the kale is wilted, but still bright green, about 8 minutes. Pull out the thyme stems and taste for salt and pepper.
[…] Leftovers! I usually make a mushroom-barley soup and add in yesterday’s leftovers. The kids love it! Here’s another great option: […]
Soup sounds delicious…instead of kale, could I swap for bok choy?
Sure, why not!
Totally! Bok choy will probably cook in less time than the kale though, depending how you cut it.
Another excuse to eat mushrooms! YAY! Thanks for the recipe it looks great!
I hawrdly comment, but after browsing through a bunch of responses on mushroom-barley soup with kalle
recipe | Pamela Salzman & Recipes. Ido have a couple of
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Hi Pamela… I used the hulled barley and cooked this soup for a long time mad it’s still too chewy… Did u mean pearl barley? And it didn’t thicken up overnight… My hulled barley is still chewy, help!
Shoot, Pia! Chewy is fine, crunchy is not. Since I have written this recipe I have noticed that hulled and pearled can be labeled differently on different packages. I think what I used was semi-pearled — not quite whole, but not pearled either. Is it possible for you to cook it a little longer? Usually an hour should do it. I’m really sorry! I’m going to adjust the recipe.
Would it work if I used unhulled barley? What is the difference?
You can use unhulled barley, but it takes much longer to cook. I’ve also had different experiences with different brands, once taking an hour another time it took 2 hours to get tender. I would probably precook it until almost tender and then add to the soup and cook with everything else until tender. It tends to also have a much chewier texture than hulled. Hope that helps!
I made this soup today for the first time and it is so good!
I pureed some of it with my emersion hand blender to give it a thicker consistency. I will be making this again!!
Made it last night! Just a heads-up, barley thickens the soup up considerably as it sits.
so i just made a batch of this; perfect for a stormy winter night. i have a bunch left over. what do you think about freezing it?
I think it will freeze beautifully!
I have made this soup several times, and it is really
yummy! In fact, I made it this afternoon and added some cooked chickpeas which I had in the fridge.
I do not have a “Mr. Picky,” but my “Mr.” is a serious eater who LOVES your recipes!
On a recent cold winter day I made this soup and added chunks of organic beef. I made it at lunch time and let it sit on the stove until dinner. It was a great meal for the family that evening, I just heated it up and added the kale. Thanks!!
I saw this recipe and thought it would be a nice, hearty dish for my vegetarian daughter. After a long day of work, I was up for it (altho my husband usually needs to eat earlier than 7pm). I think I overcooked the kale, but it did not matter. The soup was splendid. Kudos all around. Very tasty, savory and relatively easy for working parents. Thank you! I look forward to trying the vegarian chili later this week.
BTW, somehow my ingredient print out inadvertently eliminated the shoyu from my shopping list, so my soup went w/o. What is it and what did we miss!?
Thank you, Kadie Chambers, for turning me on to Pamela Salzman! I look forward to trying many of her incredible recipes as well as an upcoming new book!?
I’m glad it was a success! You can also make this and the vegetable chili one or two days in advance so you can eat soon after you get home from work. Shoyu is a naturally fermented soy sauce, which has a really nice, rich flavor. My favorite brand is Ohsawa. I use it in this soup to add a little savoriness. You can use whatever soy sauce you have on hand, but keep in mind that some commercially-made soy sauces have additives, sugar or MSG and do not have the same benefits to your body as a fermented food.
This soup is also delicious with Farro if you don’t have barley. A definite go-to soup!
This soup was so good! Even my picky son liked the barley and broth.
Gotta love those picky sons! Hang in there. One day he’ll surprise you by eating a diced carrot in the soup. It might be next year, but it will happen!
I never thought Kale would make a good salad-I saw
your receipe and decided to try it……..
I made the kale salad last night with the dressing-
It was delicious- my husband loved it- (so did I) and it was healthy.
Glad it was a success! I always say, “don’t knock it ’til you try it!”
I love EVERYTHING that Pamela cooks and bakes. You feel good shopping for healthy ingredients and feel great eating the results of the recipes…..
I am not a big mushroom fan but this soup is great. It tastes like beef. I chose to use half the amount of mushrooms and chop them smaller so my kids were not aware I used “ewww, mushrooms” Everyone loved it.
That’s a great idea!