Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup
Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup

You’ll fall for our Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup! Soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms, and spinach add a modern twist to this classic recipe.

Barley is one of those grains that your grandmother probably always had in her pantry. And like many other treasures tucked away on those shelves, barley is now chic and a star ingredient on many trendy restaurant menus.

In this modernized recipe, we add barley to a pot of vegetarian soup along with dried and fresh mushrooms and season it with a surprising combination of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.

Mushrooms and barley are an ancient pairing popular in dishes around the world, wherever mushroom pickers have lived. For centuries, Eastern European chefs made versions of this soup whenever the weather turned cold—a simmering pot was on the menu most of winter.

I like to use a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms in my soup. Dried mushrooms, especially porcini, add a lot of intense flavor to the pot, while the fresh mushrooms are earthy but mild in comparison.

For the fresh mushrooms, I like to use a combination of button, shiitake, and large or baby portobello mushrooms, chopping the large ones and slicing the small ones so you get a variety of textures.

Use pearl barley for this recipe; “Pearl” means the grains have been partially worked to remove the husk and bran and then polished. It cooks faster. Hulled barley, as the name suggests, has been hulled, but the bran is intact, so it takes longer to cook.

Just a word of warning: the grain will continue to expand as it sits in the broth. So if you cook the soup a day ahead and let it chill overnight (which is a good idea as the flavors will mellow), you may need to add more water if the mixture seems too thick.

I make this soup with plain water so I can make the spices myself. I stir in generous spoonfuls of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar—these ingredients, which impart an aromatic umami kick, weren’t available in Eastern European home cooking centuries ago, but why not take advantage of our modern pantries?!

With so many things going into the pot, this soup has plenty of satisfying bites to munch on and enough power to serve as a main dish. This recipe makes a large batch, plenty for dinner tonight and meals for the days to come.

Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup

preparation time
30 minutes

cooking time
75 minutes

total time
105 minutes

up to 8 servings


  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms or other dried mushrooms

  • 2 cups hot tap water

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh Mushrooms (button, shiitake, large or baby portobello, or a mix)

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 clove garlicchopped

  • 1 big Onionrolled

  • 2 ribs celeryrolled

  • 2 carrotsrolled

  • 1 teaspoon Salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3/4 Cup pearl barley

  • 1 Middle Yukon Gold Potatocut into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 8th cups waterand more if needed

  • 2 tablespoon soy sauceplus more to taste

  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegarplus more to taste

  • 1 bay Sheet

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 Cup chopped fresh dill

  • 3 ounces baby spinach (2 cups packed), hard stems removed


  1. Soaking the dried mushrooms:

    In a bowl, combine the porcini or other dried mushrooms and the 2 cups of hot water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

    Using a slotted spoon, scoop the mushrooms out of the bowl and place them on a cutting board. Roughly chop them. Strain the soaking liquid through a strainer lined with paper towel to catch any grit and reserve.

  2. Prepare the fresh mushrooms:

    Pat any dirt off the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Remove the stems from all but the mushrooms. Roughly chop the large mushrooms and thinly slice the small mushrooms. Put aside.

  3. Cook Vegetables:

    In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 minutes.

    Add the mushrooms, stir well and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and barley and cook, stirring, 1 more minute.

  4. Add liquids:

    Stir in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, water, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, half the parsley, and half the dill.

    Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Partially cover and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the barley and potatoes are tender. If the mixture seems too thick, add more water, 1/2 cup at a time.

  5. Finish the soup:

    Add the spinach and stir well. Cover the pot and let the spinach wilt for 2 minutes. Stir the soup and taste to taste. Add more salt, soy sauce, or balsamic vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and dill. Pour into bowls.

    Leftovers stay refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.

nutritional information (per serving)
142 calories
6g Fat
21g carbohydrates
4g protein
Previous articleGrilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Next articleTuscan Chicken Pasta Skillet
Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!