Vegetable Barley Soup

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Veggie Barley Soup is a healthy and comforting vegan bowl that cooks up in one-pot!

Who doesn’t love a good soup in the winter (or fall)? I sure love soup because it’s easy to make and incorporates tons of healthy veggies. This old fashioned vegetable barley soup is plant-based and includes carrots, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and barley, of course!

And here’s my favorite part–it’s made in one pot! That means minimal clean-up and easy preparation. I highly recommend cooking a huge batch and eating it for lunch all week long!

What is barley?

I had a bag of barley sitting in my cabinet, so I thought “Why not whip up a vegetarian soup with barley?” If you’re wondering about barley, let’s do a deep dive into this grain.

Barley on its own is a whole grain, meaning that it has all parts of the grain– the bran, germ and endosperm– intact. Whole grains have more fiber and protein than other types of grain.

Most barley that people buy in the supermarket is actually pearl barley. This type of barley has part of the bran removed to make for a quicker cooking time. That means pearl barley is not a whole grain.

While that sounds not-so-great, pearl barley is still a highly nutritious grain. A 1/4 cup dry has:

  • 200 calories
  • 0 grams fat
  • 44 gram carbohydrates
  • 6 grams fiber (21% daily value)
  • 5 grams protein
  • 10% daily value of iron

Those nutrition stats are impressive, meaning that barley should be a staple in your pantry!

What are the health benefits of barley?

Although pearl barley is not classified as a whole-grain, it has a pretty impressive nutrient profile. Because the outer bran is removed during processing, pearl barley does not have as much fiber compared to hulled barley. Nonetheless, pearl barley still has 6 grams of fiber per cup.

The main part of the kernel (endosperm) contains beta-glucans, a soluble fiber with cholesterol-lowering properties. In other words, barley may help to control your cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health. It can also lower blood pressure and may reduce your risk of heart disease and a stroke. 

Is this soup healthy?

As far as soups go, this is about as healthy as you can get! The base of this soup is vegan and loaded with plants. It’s made with a combination of celery, carrots, garlic, crushed tomatoes, spinach and vegetable broth.

Then you add in barley and you’ve got a delicious soup. Not only is it healthy, but it’s incredibly easy as well!

Do you need to soak pearl barley before cooking? 

You do not need to soak pearl barley before cooking it. Pearl barley will become soft and tender enough during the cooking process. This is not the case for whole-grain barley, which needs to soak overnight to break down gluten. To use pearl barley, rinse it before adding it to your soup mixture, and you’re good to go! 

Ingredients to make Veggie Barley Soup

I know you’re going to love how simple these ingredients are (and of course how delicious it tastes!).

To make this soup, you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 head broccoli chopped
  • 2 cups crushed tomato canned
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cup spinach chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 cup pearled barley

How to make one-pot Veggie Barley Soup

Cooking this vegan soup is so simple. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Heat oil in a soup pot and add carrots, celery, garlic and broccoli. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, chopped spinach, salt and spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the pearled barley to the pot and simmer for additional 10-12 minutes or until the barley is tender.

That’s it! After 20 minutes, the soup is cooked! You now have a big batch of plant-based goodness to eat for lunch or dinner all week.

Ingredient Swaps & Substitutions

The best part about a veggie soup is that you can get super creative as to what veggies you include. I know that I often have veggies left over in my fridge, so making a veggie soup is the perfect way to use up all my produce for the week. With that being said, you can definitely use whatever veggies you have on hand. Some of the other substitutions I get asked about are:

  • Spinach: You can easily swap spinach with kale or collard greens if you’d prefer
  • Dried thyme & rosemary: You can use fresh thyme and rosemary if that’s what you have. I would recommend adding extra if using fresh herbs because dried herbs tends to have a more intense flavor
  • Pearl Barley: If you’re not a fan of pearl barley or battle to find it at the grocery store, you can swap it with farro, quinoa or elbow pasta

Can I use frozen veg in my soup?

The awesome part about frozen vegetables is that they work just as well as fresh veggies in a soup mix. And you can just throw them straight into the pot without thawing them first. Funny enough, thawing your frozen veg can actually negatively impact their flavor, texture and nutrient content. So go ahead and take them out of the freezer and put them directly in the stock pot. 

Does it freeze well?

Believe it or not, this soup freezes really well. The barley retains its moisture when frozen, so it still tastes good after reheating. The vegetables are already soft, so there’s no need to worry about mushy veggies.

To freeze the soup, pour it in an air tight container (or a freezer bag) and let it cool to room temperature. You never want to put a hot soup in the freezer or it will warm everything else in the freezer.

If it’s in an airtight container, you can store it in the freezer for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, take it out of the freezer and defrost it in fridge for the day.

If you don’t plan ahead and forget to defrost, you can put the container in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until it’s slightly defrosted. Then pour the contents into a soup pot and heat.

What to serve with soup?

Personally, I eat this soup for lunch with some crackers. But if you want to serve this for dinner and need to pair it with another food, try these options:

Veggie Barley Soup

One-pot vegan barley soup. Loaded with vegetables!

Servings 4
Calories 359 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 head broccoli chopped
  • 2 cups crushed tomato canned
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cup spinach chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 cup pearled barley


  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add oil. Next, add carrots, celery, garlic and broccoli. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, spinach, salt, thyme and rosemary to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the barley to the pot and continue to simmer for 10-12 minute or until barley is tender.
Nutrition Facts
Veggie Barley Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 359 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 1334mg58%
Potassium 1156mg33%
Carbohydrates 65g22%
Fiber 15g63%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 12g24%
Vitamin A 8210IU164%
Vitamin C 153mg185%
Calcium 155mg16%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  1. Belinda

    The the addition of home-made garlic bread completes this dish!


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I’m Natalie Rizzo, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian.

My mission is to help everyday athletes fuel their fitness with plants.

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