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Hearty, healthy, filling and flavorful Vegetable Barley Soup with to-die-for delicious tomato broth.

Vegetable Barley Soup

Hearty, and delicious Barley Soup loaded with veggies and flavorful broth, all cooked in one Instant Pot for a comforting chili night family dinner. This soup is everything you desire from a good vegetarian soup. It is healthy, hearty, filling and so flavorful that no one misses meat. The rich tomato broth is to-die for! Leftovers are perfect to re-heat. Must try! 

In winters, such loaded soups are staple in our home. Specially when whole family wants a quick and hearty dinner. This is the best thing I like about my Instant Pot. It can help you make even a dry-grain or dry-legume soup quick and without much effort. No perching on stove or continuous stirring the soup. Simply add to pot, set timer and enjoy your favorite TV Show while soup is getting ready. 

This sounds easy! Isn't it? So, let's make some Barley Soup for dinner tonight!

Oh, don't feel dishearten if you don't own an Instant Pot. (Even though I highly recommend it.) I'm including instructions to cook Barley Soup on stove top. High Five!

Barley Soup prepared in Instant Pot

COSTCO's VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP

If you aren’t familiar with vegetable barley soup, it’s Costco's top seller vegetarian soup which is hearty with perfectly cooked barley, crunch celery, corn, carrots and a delicious tomato broth.  Does it get any better? We tried this soup few years ago and fell in love. Even my meat-lover husband asked me to buy one more batch from Costco.

This inspired me to make this soup at home. Soup turned out so well that it became regular in our menu. My little secret is Italian-style broth with herbs, stewed tomatoes, and red wine vinegar. These three ingredients make broth extra special. You can never go wrong with a soup that has flavorful broth. (I'm sure you agree.)

Last week, I specially made it again to share recipe with you. 

WHAT IS IN VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP?

The main ingredients of Vegetable Barley Soup are:

1) barley,
2) butternut,
3) vegetables,
4) onion,
5) garlic,
6) tomatoes,
7) seasonings and herbs.  This combo of ingredients yield delicious and hearty barley soup.  You will notice, there are no thickeners, no artificial color or flavor. Instead of cooking barley separately.. I cook it with soup. This simple hack makes soup naturally full-body without any flour-roux or starch addition.

Vegetable Barley Soup Recipe

DO I HAVE TO USE BUTTERNUT SQUASH?

Butternut tastes delicious in this soup. I use frozen diced squash for quick fix. However, if you have had enough butternut squash for the season, swap squash with sweet potato or potato. In this case, make sure to cook soup in step-3 until potatoes are tender to liking. (Sweet Potatoes take less time to cook than potatoes. Frozen squash/potato will cook faster than fresh.) In short, adjust cooking time in step-3.

WHAT VEGETABLES ARE BEST FOR VEGETARIAN BARLEY SOUP?

I love crunchy vegetables in this soup. Corn kernels, carrot, celery are favorite trio as base vegetables. Butternut squash, greens such as spinach or kale further make this soup nutritious.

You can also add following veggies and legumes:

1. Chickpeas. If using fresh chickpeas, soak overnight and add to soup with barley. For canned, rinse and add in Step-3.
2. French Lentils
3. Vegetables such as - Turnip, Broccoli, Cabbage, Swiss Chard, Asparagus.
4. White Beans or Red Beans
5. Diced Tofu (add just before serving)

That said, by all means, Vegetable Barley Soup does not have to be "vegetarian" but loaded with veggies. You can also swap vegetable stock with low-sodium chicken stock and/or add some chicken breast or shrimp for hearty serving of protein.

TIP: Instant Pot can make vegetables mushy. To keep vegetables crunchy, cook a portion of veggies with soup, add remaining small diced veggies later. Cover the pot and leave aside for 5-6 minutes. Diced veggies will cook just right in hot broth and give crunchy bite to the soup.

BARLEY SOUP WITH KALE OR SPINACH? 
Spinach is my personal favorite but kale gives this soup hearty and delicious bite. When using kale, I like to add handful of baby kale just at the end of soup. It wilts in hot broth and has perfect bite. When using dino kale, remove the rib-lets and cut into small ribbons. This makes sure kale does not taste raw or too-chewy.

Hearty Vegetable Barley Soup Bowl

HOW DO YOU MAKE BARELY SOUP IN DUTCH OVEN

To make barley soup on Stove Stop in a dutch oven (or heavy-bottom pan); Follow steps as-is up-to step-1 in Recipe Card but use 1 cup extra liquid.  Bring to boil on high heat, then simmer covered until Barley is tender.  Add remaining ingredients as shown in Step-3 and continue cooking. Serve as suggested.

TIP: Look for cooking/boiling time for Barley on barley package. Cook soup 10 minutes longer on low-medium heat. Add more stock if soup appears to thicken too much towards end of cooking.

HOW DO YOU MAKE BARELY SOUP IN INSTANT POT

Like I mentioned, Instant Pot is one of the best way to make Barley Soup. It is quick, easy and needs almost negligible standing-time in kitchen. Only 22 minutes of cooking at High Pressure and soup is ready. Once soup is cooked, open the lid and add a portion of veggies and let Instant Pot stand for 6 minutes. (lid locked, IP off) This is one the best way to have not-mushy al-dente veggies in soup.

Vegetable Barley Soup Recipe

HOW LONG DOES VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP LAST IN THE REFRIGERATOR?

It stays good in refrigerator up-to 4 days without freezing. But honestly, if I have it in refrigerator, we end-up repeating it for dinner until it lasts. Make sure to store in seal-able, air-tight containers.

Also, this soup is perfect to make-ahead and freeze. For best result, freeze in small portions. This make thaw and reheat easier.

Note: Barley tends to drink-up liquid as it sits in cooked soup broth. If soup gets too thick, add some more vegetable stock while re-heating. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and lemon juice.

MORE HEARTY, VEGETARIAN, AND FILLING SOUP RECIPES:

Cabbage Diet Soup 
Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Minestrone Soup
Vegetarian Stuffed Pepper Soup
Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup
Laksa Soup

MORE INSTANT POT SOUP RECIPES

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Butternut Squash Soup
Black Bean Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup

Easy Barley Soup Instant Pot Method

This Barley Soup is vegetarian, hearty, loaded with flavor, and great to make with variety of vegetables. Soup is also vegan, filling and healthy. I recommend trying some for dinner this weekend.

Wish you wonderful weekend! -Savita 

Serve a side salad or bake a quick bread to serve on side:

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Vegetable Barley Soup

Vegetable Barley Soup
Total Time Prep Time Cook Time Difficulty Easy Yields 6 Servings Serves 6 Notes Total Time does NOT include Instant Pot Pressure Build and Pressure Release Time.
Smart Swap Replace/or add Mushrooms, cook when saute vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Barley  
  • 1.5 Cup Mix Vegetables  (1/2 cup corn, 2 carrots and 1 celery stalks, diced)
  • 1 Cup Butternut Squash  (diced, frozen)
  • 1/4 Bunch Kale  (3-4 sprigs, hard stems removed, sliced to thin ribbons, or use spinach)
  • 1/2 Cup Yellow Onion  (small diced)
  • 1/2 tbsp Garlic  (3-4 cloves, minced)
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil  
  • 16 Oz Tomatoes  (canned stewed tomatoes with juice)
  • 1 tsp Oregano  
  • 1 tsp Basil  
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar  (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Flakes  
  • 6 Cup Vegetable Stock  (low-sodium)
  • Salt and Black Pepper  (adjust to taste)
  • Fresh Herbs  (for garnish)

Directions

  • 1. Heat Instant Pot on Saute Setting. When pot reads "Hot". Add oil, followed by garlic, onion, half of carrot, and celery with 1/4 tsp of salt. Saute until onions are soft (3-4 minutes). Add herbs, and chili flakes. Continue saute 1 more minute. Add tomatoes (pureed if prefer), with barley, stock, and 1/2 tsp salt.
  • 2. Place lid of Instant Pot. Cook on High Pressure for 22 minutes.
  • 3. Once cooking is complete, Quick Release pressure. Immediately add diced squash, corn, remaining carrot and celery, kale/spinach (if using). Mix well. Place the lid, lock, and cook for 2 minutes on High Pressure. Or Place the lid, lock, and leave aside (off) for 6 minutes.
  • 4. Open Instant Pot. Add red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust salt. Add 1/2 tsp black pepper, and fresh herbs. Mix well. Ladle into bowls. Serve and enjoy.
Savita's Notes:

YOU CAN ALSO MAKE BARLEY SOUP in
Pressure Cooker: Pressure cooker instructions are same as Instant Pot since I cooked soup at Pressure Cooker setting of Instant Pot.
Dutch Oven Or Pot on Stove: Follow steps as-is up-to step-1 in Recipe Card but use 1 cup extra liquid. Bring to boil on high heat, then simmer covered until Barley is tender. Add remaining ingredients as shown in Step-3 and continue cooking. Serve as suggested.

TIPS FOR MAKING VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP

  • If you enjoy savory soups? Add a tbsp of sugar.
  • Instant Pot can make vegetables mushy. To keep vegetables crunchy, cook a portion of veggies with soup, add remaining small diced veggies later. Cover the pot and leave aside for 5-6 minutes. Diced veggies will cook just right in hot broth and give crunchy bite to the soup. (recipe steps detail this method.
  • Re-heating Leftovers? Barley tends to drink-up liquid as it sits in cooked soup broth. If soup gets too thick, add some more vegetable stock while re-heating. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and lemon juice.

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