This hearty and satisfying Barley Vegetable Soup is full of lean, healthy protein, low glycemic grains, and nutrient-dense veggies. It tastes even better the next day, so make it on the weekend to enjoy for lunch or dinner all week.
I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited about soup season.
There’s nothing like cuddling up on a chilly day with a good book and a hot bowl of homemade soup, and this barley vegetable soup is the perfect nutritious and delicious soup to kick off the season.
It’s made with ground chicken (or ground turkey), creamy butternut squash, chewy barley, sweet split peas, and an incredible medley of aromatic veggies, including leeks, celery, bell peppers, and carrots.
What I love most about this barley vegetable soup is that it keeps you feeling full and satisfied. You can pack it up and take it to work for lunch, and it will hold you over until dinner, and you can enjoy it for dinner too!
Imagine coming in after a long day at work, and a cozy and comforting pot of soup is waiting for you!
Why You’ll Love This Barley Vegetable Soup Recipe
- This hearty vegetable barley soup is bright, warm, comforting, and perfect for the fall and winter.
- It’s made with budget-friendly ingredients and is easy to double and freeze half for later.
- The ingredients are super flexible and interchangeable with options you probably already have in your fridge and pantry.
- You can make this vegetable barley soup with or without meat.
- It’s meal prep and freezer-friendly. So you can keep it in the freezer for those days when you need something quick and healthy quick.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Extra Virgine Olive oil – To coat the cookware and prevent sticking.
- Ground chicken – Ground chicken adds delicious flavor and protein to the soup without excess fat. You can also use ground turkey if you like.
- Chicken broth + water – This is your liquid element. I like adding water to offset the chicken broth and create a mild, soothing soup broth. To intensify the broth’s flavor, use less water and more broth or all broth.
- Barley – This ancient whole grain is fiber-packed and super filling. Be sure to rinse it beforehand. It may not seem like you’re adding much, but barley expands over 3x in volume when cooked. You can use pot or pearl barley.
- Yellow & green split peas – Peas add flavor and release starch as they cook, which helps thicken the soup a bit.
- Leeks – Leek tastes like a sweeter, less pungent onion. It adds excellent flavors and aromas.
- Celery & carrots – Intensify the savory flavors and add fiber and nutrients to the soup.
- Bell peppers – I like making this soup with yellow and red bell pepper, but you can also use orange and green bell pepper here.
- Butternut squash – Adds a sweet and creamy element to the soup and helps create a flavorful broth.
- Seasonings – Garlic powder and salt & black pepper elevate the natural flavors of the meat, barley, and veggies.
- Parsley – To finish the soup with a fresh, herbaceous flavor.
How To Make Vegetable Barley Soup
- Brown the ground meat: Add olive oil to a large soup pot, and heat over medium heat. Add the ground meat of your choice (I make this recipe with chicken), and cook until no longer pink and beginning to brown.
- Cook the peas and barley: Add the chicken stock, water, green and yellow split peas, and barley to the pot. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the peas soften (20-25 minutes).
- Saute the vegetables: Meanwhile, saute the leeks in olive oil in a separate large pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the leeks start to caramelize (4 to 6 minutes). Next, add the celery, bell peppers, carrots, and butternut squash to the pan, and saute until the veggies become fragrant and begin to soften.
- Combine and simmer: Add the sauteed vegetable mixture to the soup pot, and season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the vegetables (15-20 minutes). Add a handful of parsley, and turn off the heat.
Deglaze – Use a splash of wine to deglaze the pan. I recommend doing this after browning the meat. Be sure to scrape up all of the crispy, meaty pits.
Intensify flavor – This homemade vegetable barley soup won’t smack you in the face with flavor. Instead, it’s mild and soothing. To amp up the flavors, check the comments for tips from readers on how to kick it up a notch.
Garnish – Serve your barley vegetable soup garnished with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is also an excellent way to finish this soup with maximum flavor.
Turn up the heat – To give your soup a spicy kick, add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.
Use cooked meat – If you don’t care for ground chicken or turkey, make this soup with chopped or shredded leftover rotisserie chicken or excess meat from the holiday turkey. Feel free to transform this into beef and barley soup by adding leftover stew or roast beef.
- Add herbs – To amplify the flavor of this barley vegetable soup recipe, you can add dried herbs like thyme, bay leaves, oregano, and Italian seasoning. You can also add additional chopped fresh herbs for a pop of fresh flavor at the end, like basil, dill, or tarragon.
- Strengthen the umami – If your soup still feels like it’s missing something, try adding soy sauce or coconut aminos to elevate the mouthwatering umami tastes.
- Add extra vegetables – Feel free to personalize this soup with your favorite fall vegetables like diced sweet potato, acorn squash, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, green beans, mushrooms, and celeriac. Dice harder root veggies extra small, so they cook at the same rate as the softer veggies. You can also add leafy greens such as kale or spinach.
- Vegan/vegetarian – To make a completely plant-based version, swap chicken stock for vegetable stock or broth and omit the ground chicken. As a substitution, you can add more split peas, replace the ground meat with your favorite meatless crumbles, or add beans like black beans, red beans, lima beans, chickpeas, or cannellini beans.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: This soup tastes even better the next day. Let cool and keep the leftover vegetable barley soup in a covered container for 3-4 days.
Freezing: Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, add it to a freezer-safe zip-top bag or container, and keep frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is barley gluten-free?
No, barley is not gluten-free, but quinoa or brown rice works as a great gluten-free alternative with similar flavor and texture.
What can I use instead of barley in this soup?
To make a gluten-free version, you can use quinoa, soaked wild rice, pasta, or lentils. Follow the packaging instructions, and use your best judgment when timing when to add them to your soup.
Should I cook barley before adding it to the soup?
No, there is no need to pre-cook the barley.
More Healthy Soup Recipes You’ll Love
- Hearty Chicken and White Bean Soup
- Spicy Red Lentil Soup
- Hearty Ground Turkey Soup
- Quinoa Vegetable Soup
- Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk
Barley Vegetable Soup
This vegetable soup with barley is full of healthy protein, low glycemic grains, and healthy fresh vegetables. Make it on the weekend and enjoy it all week for lunch or dinner. Also good for freezing.
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
- 1 L / 4 cups chicken broth
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 cup pot barley, rinsed
- 1/3 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
- 1/3 cup green split peas, rinsed
- 1 leek, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 2 carrots grated
- 2 cups chopped butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- handful of parsley, chopped
- In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground chicken and cook breaking into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, add the chicken stock, water, green and yellow split peas and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes until the split peas start to soften.
- In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add the leeks and cook stirring constantly for about 4 to 6 minutes until the leeks start to caramelize. Add the celery, yellow and red bell peppers, carrots and butternut squash and cook stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes, until the veggies start to soften.
- Transfer the veggies into the soup. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and let it cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Add the parsley and turn off the heat.
This soup has a mild flavor. If you prefer soups with more vibrant flavors, check out the comments for suggestions on how to kick it up a notch.
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Nutrition InformationYield 7 Serving Size 1/7 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 376Total Fat 15.5gSaturated Fat 3.2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11.3gCholesterol 60.1mgSodium 287.9mgCarbohydrates 38.8gFiber 9.4gSugar 6.9gProtein 22.5g
Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.
Friday 11th of October 2019
This soup was just fantastic!! I do have to admit that I did take liberties with it, as I always do to some extent when making soup recipes, but wow, did it turn out wonderfully delicious! I used all broth and no water, plus I added bay leaves, thyme and smoked paprika. My husband and I don't care for ground meat, so we used chopped cooked chicken breast. I also added celeriac, as we love it, and onion and fresh garlic. This was very delicious indeed! Next time I make it I might add dill weed, as I am very partial to it. I made a double batch, and we ate it all week long - very happily too. Thank you so very much for sharing this recipe!!
Monday 14th of October 2019
Hi Annette! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. All the additions to the soup sound great! I am happy you enjoyed it :)
Monday 22nd of February 2016
I loved all of the veggies in this but it came out surprisingly flavorless.
Friday 23rd of September 2022
I added probably 2-3 tsp of kosher salt to mine. I also subbed chicken broth for water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes and about a tbs of fresh thyme. I find soups need a healthy amount of salt to taste flavorful.
Tuesday 27th of February 2018
I agree that the recipe as is lacked flavor when I tried this recipe. I added a teaspoon of dried thyme which made a big difference. Also, I only added 3 1/2 cups of water to the original 4 cups of broth for a total of 7 1/2 cups of liquid.
Photos are great. Thanks for the inspiration.