Skip to main content

Simple and Delicious Mushroom Barley Soup

Even though Abby Slutsky owns a bakery business, she likes to find a balance between nutritional foods, interesting side dishes, and sweets.

This satisfying mushroom barley soup is one of my favorite vegetarian meals.

This satisfying mushroom barley soup is one of my favorite vegetarian meals.

My Grandmother's Recipe

This mushroom barley soup recipe brings back fond memories of my grandmother. She used to love making recipes that used mushrooms because they were economical and had a meaty, robust flavor. I remember this soup and an appetizer she used to make that had sauteed mushrooms and onions on toast. It is funny that I recall all her mushroom dishes because my mother hates mushrooms.

When my grandmother passed away, I only had this soup if we went to a Jewish deli because my mother never made it. However, when I was older, I was lucky enough to find my grandmother’s well-worn recipe on a battered index card. With the exception of substituting arrowroot for cornstarch, her original recipe is untouched.

When I initially made this easy mushroom barley soup, I used vegetable broth. However, my two boys also love this recipe with chicken broth and short ribs. At the bottom of the recipe, I have included modifications for the short rib version. No matter how you prepare it, this satisfying soup is one that you will enjoy repeatedly.

You can also freeze this mushroom barley soup for two months. I like to freeze it in individual portions because it defrosts faster than a large container. Additionally, when I use it for lunch, I may be the only one in the house, so it is convenient to have a single portion.

Important Note About Gluten

Although I use gluten-free arrowroot instead of cornstarch as a thickener, this recipe is not gluten free. Barley contains gluten, so do not serve this soup to friends or family members with gluten restrictions.

Pro Tips

  • Soaking the barley: Do not skip this important step. It serves three purposes: it will break down the gluten and sugar in the barley, and the barley will cook more quickly than unsoaked barley. Lastly, I think soaked barley has a softer texture when cooked.
  • Rinsing the barley: When I rinse barley, I put it in a sieve and then run water over it. Use a spoon to gently stir it to make sure it is evenly rinsed.
  • Cornstarch vs. arrowroot: You can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot, if you must, but I prefer using arrowroot because it contains calcium and has slightly more fiber than cornstarch. Additionally, arrowroot is gluten free. I find Kate's Naturals Organic Arrowroot , which I cannot always find at the market, to be one of the most economical brands for the package size. It smoothly thickens soups and stews and never seems to clump. It comes in a sealable bag, but once I open it, I put it in a tightly-sealed container and store it in a cool, dark area to help it stay effective. (According to StillTasty, Arrowroot will last for years if you store it correctly.) If you have not previously tried it, arrowroot may be your new go-to thickener for soups.
  • How to use fewer pots: Since I am not a fan of cleaning extra pots, I sweat (cook over very low heat, so they do not brown) the vegetables in the soup pot instead of a pan.
  • Make-ahead tip: If desired, you can make the barley, the day before and refrigerate it. (Or, if you have barley as a side dish, use up the leftovers by making this soup.)
  • How to thin: This mushroom barley soup gets very thick when it is refrigerated. Add additional water or vegetable broth to thin it, if desired.
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Delishably

Chop the sliced mushrooms before adding them to the broth.

Chop the sliced mushrooms before adding them to the broth.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

2 hours 10 min

2 hours 20 min

4 to 5 servings


  • 3 quarts canned vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped in half moons
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped finely
  • 1 (16-ounces) package fresh, sliced white mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
  • 3/4 teaspoon or more pepper, or to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon or more salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided, use 2 cups for soaking


  1. Rinse the barley and soak it in 2 cups of water so that it is fully submerged. Cook the barley after it has soaked for 1 hour.
  2. Melt the butter and oil together in a soup pot. Place the onion, carrots, and celery over a low flame until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Avoid browning the vegetable. Use a spatula to stir the mixture occasionally.When the onion looks translucent, add the garlic and arrowroot. Stir the arrowroot into the vegetables, but if there is insufficient liquid for the arrowroot to dissolve, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vegetable broth to the mixture, and stir it again.
  3. Add the remaining vegetable broth to the mixture. Then add the mushrooms and the remaining ingredients except for the barley. Let the mixture cook over a low flame for about 2 hours. After the soup has simmered for 1 hour, prepare the barley.
  4. To make the barley, drain the water it is soaking in, and put 2 1/2 cups of water in a medium pot. Add the soaked barley, and boil the water.
  5. Once the water is boiling, reduce the flame to low and cover the pot. The barley should take about 30 minutes to cook, but check it periodically. Taste it to make sure it is the soft, chewy texture that you want before removing it from the flame. (If you use hulled instead of pearled barley, your cooking time will be about 10 minutes longer.) If the water is not fully absorbed, let the barley sit in the pot a few minutes to absorb it.
  6. Remove the barley from any excess water, and add it to the soup. Simmer the soup another 10 or 15 minutes.

Short Rib Variation

My children love this soup with short ribs. I use two or three large short ribs, and add an extra cup of broth to the soup. I cook the soup 30 minutes longer or until the meat is easy to cut from the bone. If you are making this version, skim the beef fat from the top of the soup periodically.

Do not be tempted to use cubed stew meat instead of short ribs. Cooking the soup with bones has additional nutrients and imparts a better flavor than using stew meat. If desired, you can substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth.


  • The 9 best cornstarch substitutes for health
    People can use cornstarch in cooking to thicken and stabilize foods. Substitutes include wheat flour, rice flour, xanthan gum, and arrowroot flour. Learn more about cornstarch substitutes here.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky

Related Articles