Just Right Vegetable Barley Soup
Just Right Vegetable Barley Soup

I'm currently shivering in a hockey rink, dreaming of a big bowl of this wonderful soup which will be "just right" for chasing away the chills. Hence the name. Just knowing that it's home, all ready and waiting for us to dig into later, is enough to make me do a happy dance because this soup is the ultimate in healthy winter comfort food--simple, without being boring, full of flavor, veggies and also the nutty chewiness of barley, which I love but am always forgetting about. Don't you wish you had a steaming bowl right about now?

With holiday treats looming everywhere, it's hard to eat healthy. Enter this vegetable barley soup, chock full of carrots, celery, turnips, cabbage, peas, mushrooms, leeks and more, balancing out some of the damage from those holiday parties and Christmas cookies that have a way of finding your mouth all too readily!!

Plus, with half the country currently under an arctic freeze, now is the perfect time to whip up a vat. And speaking of time--I'm going to keep this post short because the puck's about to drop. Only about 6 hours and counting until soup time!!

Just Right Vegetable Barley Soup

Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time:  About 1 hour


  • 8 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds leeks, dark green parts discard, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/2 inch thick into half moon shapes and washed thoroughly in a colander
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into small rounds
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into small pieces
  • 4 1/3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1/8 ounce dried porcini or shitake mushrooms, finely ground in a food processor or spice grinder
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 small purple-topped turnips, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 small green cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup frozen peas (don't thaw)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

The Recipe

1.  Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, 1/3 cup chicken broth, soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for about 10 minutes, until the veggies are softened and the liquid has evaporated.

2.  Add in the water, remaining broth, barley, garlic, mushroom powder, parsley and bay leaf and give everything a good stir. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Then lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot and let simmer for about 25 minutes.

3.  Add in the potatoes, turnip and cabbage and simmer for another 20 minutes or so, stirring every so often, until the potatoes and turnips are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bay leaf and the parsley. Stir in the peas and lemon juice and let cook for just a few minutes, until the peas are heated through. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve.

4.  Soup can be made several days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge and though I've never frozen this, I suspect it would do well that way too.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated All Time Best Soups by the editors at America's Test Kitchen. I tinkered around a lot with this. Left out the fresh thyme because they didn't have any in the store and didn't make an herb packet with the bay leaf and parsley. Also, I subbed in extra chicken broth for the 1/3 cup white wine and used shitake dried mushrooms cause I had those on hand. Feel free to play around with this one--it's very forgiving. 

Print Friendly and PDF