The best part of winter is soup! And stews. And heated car seats. This healthy mushroom barley soup recipe makes a big pot, so I enjoy it first for dinner and then for a few quick and healthy lunches.
As filling and hearty as this mushroom barley soup is, I usually pair it with a good source of protein to balance out my meal. Last week I enjoyed it with tuna salad. Often I’ll eat it with a couple scrambled eggs or some cheese toast with extra veggies.
What makes Mushroom Barley Soup so spectacular?
- Well taste of course! But beyond that, I love barley any which way for it’s nutritional genius.
- Barley gives us a good dose of the rare fiber beta-glucan, which sweeps cholesterol from the digestive tract and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Go heart!
- And that same viscous fiber helps to manage blood sugar levels by helping the body use insulin better. Take note friends with diabetes or prediabetes!
- And just recently I learned that barley, in particular, helps to diversify the gut microbiota. At a partially sponsored conference, Hannah D. Holscher, PhD, RD, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana spoke about research suggesting that barley, oats, walnuts, almonds and broccoli all contribute to the diversity of those microbes living and thriving in our guts. These are all terrific foods to include regularly in your diet, but Dr. Holscher’s greater point was that eating a variety of fiber types and a variety of foods with fiber (beans, lentils, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and products like granola bars or cereal with added chicory root and other fibers) is the route to a healthy microbiome. Check out How to Throw a Dinner Party for Your Gut Bacteria. Go gut microbes!
- And let’s not forget out the other health-boosting ingredients – those yummy, umami-rich mushrooms, as well as carrots, onions and celery! Veggie Power!
Want more barley and its superpowers? Try my Bean and Barley Salad.What makes mushroom barley soup so spectacular? Here are 5 reasons from blood sugar to the microbiome!Click To Tweet
I make this mushroom barley soup two ways, as you’ll see below. One way gives a richer broth, and that’s because of dried mushrooms. Otherwise, the recipes are identical.
- 11/2 tablespoons canola or extra virgin olive oil
- 4 celery stalks, chopped (include the leaves if you have them)
- 4 large carrots, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 16 ounces cremeni mushrooms, sliced (see note above)
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
- ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup pearled barley
- 10 cups vegetable broth (to keep the sodium to an almost-manageable level, I used half regular and half low sodium broth)
- Heat the oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Sauté the celery, carrots and onion about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Sauté another 2 minutes.
- Add the barley and the broth. Raise the heat to bring the contents to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook for about an hour or until the soup is thick and the barley is fully cooked. Stir periodically. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
- Refrigerate the leftovers, which heat beautifully in the microwave. You'll probably need to add more water or broth before reheating because that barley steals all the available liquid.
Are you a soup lover too? What else do you love about winter?
Cheers to a warming, tasty meal!