Vegetable Barley Soup
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This Vegetable Barley Soup is one of our favorite vegetable soup recipes. It’s hearty and healthy, packed with colorful veggies and barley in a rich and flavorful broth.
I made this barley soup on a whim one day for lunch and we loved it so much that I immediately decided to type up the recipe to share with you. This nourishing soup is loaded with colorful vegetables and barley in a flavorful broth. The barley adds fiber, protein, and an irresistible chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor. The barley cooks right in the soup, making this a one pot meal.
I filled this vegetable barley soup with some of our favorite vegetables, but the great thing about this recipe is that it’s flexible. You can use up whatever veggies you have in your fridge, or stick to the recipe as written. The next time you’re in the mood for a hearty, warming vegetarian meal, give this barley soup a try. Or if you prefer, try this Beef Barley Soup instead. They’re both on our list of favorite soup recipes.
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Vegetable Barley Soup Recipe Ingredients
In this vegetable barley soup recipe, simple ingredients come together to make a flavorful, nourishing soup.
- Olive Oil: For sautéing the vegetables. I like to use a generous 3 tablespoons of olive oil because it adds richness and flavor to vegetarian soups.
- Onion, Celery and Carrots: This trio of veggies, called a mirepoix, builds a base of flavor in the soup.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic adds delicious flavor.
- Pearl Barley: Be sure to look for pearled barley, not hulled barley, at the grocery store since they require different cooking times. If your package of barley says it is quick-cooking, add the barley to the pot a bit later.
- Seasonings: Italian seasoning, dried thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper give this barley soup the best flavor.
- Vegetable Broth: I recommend using a low sodium broth so that you can better control the amount of salt in the soup. You can always add salt, but you can’t remove it.
- Diced Tomatoes: I like to use petite diced tomatoes because my family prefers the smaller pieces of tomato, but regular diced tomatoes will work if that’s what you have on hand.
- Yukon Gold Potatoes: I suggest using gold potatoes rather than russet potatoes because russets tend to fall apart more in soups.
- Frozen Green Beans: Using frozen green beans is an easy way to add another vegetable. If you want to use fresh green beans, just add them to the pot a few minutes earlier.
How to Make Barley Soup
Here’s an overview of the steps to making this easy barley soup recipe. Find the full recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.
In a Dutch oven or other large pot, sauté the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until softened. Then stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Stir in the barley, Italian seasoning, dried thyme, salt and pepper.
Then stir in the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook the soup at a low simmer, with a lid on the pot, for 25 minutes.
Stir in the potatoes, cover the pot, and simmer for 20-35 more minutes, or until the barley is tender. Add the frozen green beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Discard the bay leaf before serving the soup.
How to Make Barley Soup in the Slow Cooker
Are weeknights busy so it’s hard to find the time to cook dinner? You can make this vegetable barley soup in the crock pot! Here’s how:
- Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil in a pan on the stove. Then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. I know that using the stove is an extra step, but it really improves the flavor of the soup.
- Transfer the onion, celery, carrots and garlic to the slow cooker. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir.
- Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours, or until the barley and vegetables are tender.
Instant Pot Instructions
Just like my Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup, you can make this vegetable barley soup in the Instant Pot.
- Use the Instant Pot sauté function to cook the onion, celery and carrots until slightly softened. Then stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds; turn off sauté.
- Pour in 1 cup of the broth and stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine.
- Pressure cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, followed by a 15 minute natural release. Then quick release any remaining pressure, remove the bay leaf and serve.
Storage and Reheating Tips
This soup reheats wonderfully and also freezes well. The barley will soak up some of the broth over time, so add more broth when reheating as needed.
- Refrigerator: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezer: Once cool, freeze the soup in an airtight container for up to 3 months. I like to freeze soup in individual portions to reheat for quick lunches or dinners later on. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To Reheat: Reheat the soup in a covered pot on the stove over medium heat, until simmering, or reheat individual servings in the microwave. Stir in additional broth as needed.
Vegetable Barley Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 3 carrots, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds or half rounds if large
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ pound Yukon gold potatoes, 1-2 potatoes, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
- ¾ cup frozen green beans
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Stir in the barley, Italian seasoning, dried thyme, salt and pepper.
- Add the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Bring the pot to a simmer and then reduce the heat so that the soup maintains a low simmer and cover the pot.
- Simmer the soup with the lid on for 25 minutes and then stir in the chopped potatoes. Cover the pot again and simmer the soup for 20-35 more minutes, until the barley is tender, adding the frozen green beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Remove the bay leaf before serving.
- To make in the slow cooker: Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil in a pan on the stove. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours, or until the barley and vegetables are tender.
- To make in the Instant Pot: Use the Instant Pot sauté function to cook the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until slightly softened. Then stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds; turn off sauté. Pour in 1 cup of the broth and stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Close the Instant Pot lid, move the steam release valve to the sealing position, and pressure cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, followed by a 15 minute natural release. Then quick release any remaining pressure, remove the bay leaf and serve.
- Storage instructions: Soup may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.