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A Simple Mushroom Barley Soup Recipe

by Jeanette on January 24, 2011 · 9 Comments
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A Simple Mushroom Barley Soup

Two weeks ago, I taught the first in a series of soup classes to a group of seniors at our local community center. The Simple Lentil Soup I made was a huge hit with this group of seniors!

They were surprised by how easy it was to make this lentil soup, and loved the red lentils that cooked down so quickly. I served this hearty lentil soup with a light green salad with fresh red currants, oranges, and toasted almonds (drizzled with a fresh orange vinaigrette), along with some toasted whole grain bread, that had been lightly brushed with a mixture of olive oil, a Fines Herbes blend, salt and pepper. This group of seniors enjoyed a simple, but elegant and healthy lunch.

Here’s the fresh green salad I served with the Simple Lentil Soup.
Today is the second soup class I’ll be teaching, and based on feedback from the first class, Mushroom Barley Soup seems to be another favorite soup (they did request that I add sherry to the soup!). Mushroom Barley Soup is a really hearty, comforting winter soup, full flavored even without any meat. The soup I’ll be making will have lots of umami, since I’ll be using both cremini mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms, tomato paste and soy sauce.

Since the goal of these soup cooking classes is to encourage seniors to get back into the kitchen to cook, I approached this recipe the same way as I did for the Simple Lentil Soup. I wrote a simple recipe with a short list of basic ingredients, and then included optional add-ins for anyone a bit more adventurous, or looking for a little more depth of flavor.

A Simple Mushroom Barley Soup

Cremini mushrooms are richer in flavor than white button mushrooms, but any mushrooms will do. Although the basic recipe is delicious on its own, I would encourage you to try some of the optional add-in’s, especially the porcini mushrooms, tomato paste and soy sauce. These add another layer of flavor (more umami) and richness to this soup.

Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 package (about 10 ounces) cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup barley
10-12 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

Optional Add-Ins:

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
a few splashes of sherry

Use Cremini Mushrooms if you can find them. They have more flavor than White Button Mushrooms.
  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until vegetables are softened and mushrooms are a nice deep brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add barley, 10 cups of stock, and thyme. 
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until barley is tender, about 1 hour. Add more broth if soup is too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you’re using any of the add-ins, here are the modifications to the directions:

  • Add garlic in Step 1.
  • If using porcini mushrooms, reduce stock by 2 cups (use 8-10 cups of stock). To prepare porcini mushrooms, soak in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes until softened. Strain soaking liquid and reserve for soup. Chop rehydrated porcini mushrooms into small pieces.Add porcini mushrooms, porcini soaking liquid, oregano, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and soy sauce in Step 2.
Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Rehydrated Porcini Mushrooms (save the soaking liquid for the soup)
  • Add parsley and a few splashes of sherry in Step 3.
More Barley Soup Recipes:
Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Soup, Chick In The Kitchen
Spinach and Barley Soup, The Kitchen Illiterate
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  1. Pretend Chef says:

    These classes are so incredible with what you are doing to help seniors get back into the kitchen! How big was the turn out? Not that it really matters because as long as you reach out to one person then that makes a big impact! This soup sounds like another winner and I love that the seniors had a part in deciding the next soup! Keep it up because you are such an inspiration!

  2. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    This is a great, basic, kind of old-fashioned mushroom barley soup that the seniors probably really enjoyed!

  3. I just got back from teaching this soup class (there are 12 "students") and they loved this Mushroom Barley Soup. I was especially encouraged because several of the seniors made the Lentil Soup from the last class I taught, as well as the salad and toasted bread. The next class will be a classic black bean soup. Can't wait! I think I'm having just as much fun as they are!

  4. Thanks Lydia, yes, I'm finding that classic soups are the soup of choice among this group. I tend to get carried away with adding this and that, so it's been fun paring down recipes to the basic core, and still enjoying a delicious bowl of soup, especially with such a cold, long winter.

  5. Jeanette, this is a simple & perfect mushroom barley soup. How awesome that you are giving those seniors the gift of health through food.

  6. Thanks Marla, it's been so rewarding and encouraging for me to see that a number of the seniors made the lentil soup I taught several weeks ago. If they spread the word, I'm hopeful they'll encourage their friends to cook more.

  7. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen says:

    How wonderful that you are getting teens excited about cooking healthy soups and salads. It's something that is sorely lacking from the curriculum in schools today.

  8. Indie.Tea says:

    I love porcini mushroom broth, so flavorful. And this soup sounds divine.
    And the senior cooking classes sound wonderful – they must be so much fun and you're doing something useful.

  9. Thanks Joyti, the porcini mushrooms do add an extra depth of flavor. I am having lots of fun with these classes, and it's so rewarding to hear that a number of the seniors in the class are cooking.

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