Triple Mushroom Barley Soup: Hot, Hearty, Healthful Fare

Looking for an easy flavourful yet wholesome soup for the winter doldrums? This triple-mushroom recipe is the perfect antidote to snow, cold, rain, wind, or whatever weather is making you crave a sturdy soup.  Even if you live in more temperate climes, this soup should cure any longing for mushrooms in a full-flavoured yet exceedingly nutritious meal.

I had been looking to use up a gift of a handful of dried porcini from Poland and had some organic cremini on hand, making me think mushroom soup would be in order.  This recipe recently appeared on Smitten Kitchen, from which I adapted it slightly (it originally was in the New York Times).  As Smitten Kitchen was the first food blog I followed, I thought this recipe would be appropriate for my first visit from a food blog-buddy I had never met before  – in person, that is – Jackie of I Am A Feeder.

Jackie’s site never fails to entertain or educate me. I find it very unusual to discover consistently humourous food blogs.  There are those blogs, which have to use “LOL”, “LMAO”, or such to let me know they are supposed to be funny; hers is not one of them.  I first came across Jackie’s site it while waiting for a flight at YVR (the Vancouver airport, where there is free WiFi!) last May, and it made me chuckle out loud (“COL”?), in the U.S.-departures lounge.  Since then, we have been following each other’s sites.  While we missed getting together in the UK during our visit last October, Jackie made it out to our little island in the Pacific.

I went into Vancouver first to meet Jackie, and the two of us visited some Vancouver food and culinary hot-spots and not-so-hot-spots, as Jackie mentioned on her site.  It was fun to get to know each other in town and back on the island, via very different experiences.  I thought it would be good to introduce Jackie to slow-cooker Italian beef sandwiches, a distinctive Chicago specialty, to prepare for her upcoming visit there.  But the mushroom soup seemed to be a good starter for the meal, if not a traditional one.

I had just about everything on hand for the soup.  We popped out to the local market for some more mushrooms and barley, spelt, or faro (“far-what?” was the clerk’s response, when I asked), but fortunately the shop across the road had “pot” barley – I wonder if they stock this variety for its cheeky reference to British Columbia’s major economic driver).

As it is not quite spring in B.C., it is time for a gratuitous floral interlude, amidst all this brown soup:

For the review and recipe…

Jackie helped out, with her impressive knife-wielding skills.  She thought my 25-year-old Henckel knives were sharp, but I think it is time to have them sharpened, as I have not done so for nearly two years.

With no knife sharpening on the island, one has to wait for the annual visit of a tinkerers’ truck from a neighbouring island in May.  An American-born former-M.D. and her German-born husband are itinerant knife-sharpeners and do basic mechanical repairs.  They visit in the spring for the annual Bob Dylan birthday party on our island and set up shop from their truck. It is part of the charm of island living:  one cannot have knives sharpened whenever one wants, but, when May rolls around, someone proficient in surgery and her German husband will do a respectable job with your knives – and just in time for the Bob Dylan potluck and musical celebration.

The beauty of Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen (or, the mother of Marian Burros, originally) is that it is versatile. The grains can be either faro, spelt, or barley, and I found that apple cider vinegar was a good substitute for sherry vinegar – among my many vinegars, I found I had none of the sherry variety.  As I had a bit more than ½ cup of the dried porcini, I used them all, even though a bit more than the amounts in the original version. This recipe is easy to prepare, and I cannot think of a better mushroom soup I have had.

This can be a vegetarian soup, by substituting all vegetarian or mushroom broth for the beef stock (or chicken).  Beef stock, however, would make an even more profound soup. I happened to have organic mushroom and organic chicken stock but no beef, unfortunately; the soup turned out to be flavourful, complex, and satisfying, nevertheless.

This soup is a very earthy profoundly mushroom experience.  With dried porcini, fresh cremini, and mushroom stock, it is a mushroom triple threat:  singing, acting, and dancing for your pleasure. The texture of the cremini complemented the thick rich broth, which had a deep flavour.  It is almost more of a stew than a soup, with its hearty but not heavy texture.  While the chewy barley makes it a classic wintry soup, tiny bits of carrot sprinkled throughout give it a bit of colour and verve.  All in all, a fine soup for a food-blogging visit or any other occasion.

Triple Mushroom-Barley Soup, adapted from Marian Burros’s mother, in the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 7 cups


  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, e.g., porcini (the original recipe had 1/3)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms (white, cremini, shiitake or whatever mixture you like; I used organic cremini)
  • 1/2 cup barley or faro or spelt, rinsed
  • 6 cups low sodium or salt-free broth or stock, preferably organic (I used 2/3 mushroom stock and 1/3 chicken but beef or vegetable would work, substitute as needed for vegans)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (the original had sherry vinegar)


  1. Cover dried mushrooms with one cup of boiling water; put aside for 20 minutes or so, while you prepare the soup.
  2. Clean (with a soft brush), trim, and slice mushrooms.  Chop the mushrooms to your desired texture, though they should be recognizable as mushrooms – not finely minced.
  3. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed deep pot.
  4. Sauté onions and carrots over medium heat until onions begin to color, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  6. Add fresh mushrooms, and cook until they begin to release liquid, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Raise heat and add barley; sauté until it begins to colour
  8. Add broth, sherry, and tomato paste.
  9. Drain the reconstituted porcini and chop them finely; strain the mushroom-soaking liquid to remove any grit and add liquid into pot with the reconstituted mushrooms.
  10. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
  11. Stir in cider vinegar, adjust seasonings, and serve.

20 responses to “Triple Mushroom Barley Soup: Hot, Hearty, Healthful Fare

  1. I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, too, and made a mental note to try it. Now I’m really convinced that we must have it soon! Your photos are outstanding, especially considering that the soup is not very colorful. I love your photo of the tulips to remind us that, although it still may be winter, spring is just around the corner! 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Kath. I am pleased you liked the photos, which were definitely a bit of a challenge – and the tulips foreshadow the fields soon to be in bloom in the Skagit Valley, north of you and south of me….


  2. My husband would go crazy for this soup. He is a mushroom obsessed freak. Please don’t tell him I said so. Did you just coin, “COL” or am I way behind the times? I was a bit worried that my blog included some LOL’s, but my memory says, NO so I will rely on that. How fun to meet your blog friend. Honestly, the soup looks scrumptious, but the flowers…Oh. MY.

    • Hi, Geni. Yes, make the soup for your husband, and he’ll be happy. Thanks for the compliments!

      I made up “COL” – I think – but it’s just make personal issue about “emoticons” and short-hand for telling people what kind of emotion they should be feeling…just an antiquated notion of mine (akin to telling a joke, nobody laughing, and then stating it was a joke). I know it’s standard form these days, yet I won’t get on board.

      Thanks again,


  3. How fun to have a blogger meet-up! I’ve peeked in on Jackie’s blog a couple times, & she is very funny. While I’m not a big mushroom fan, I always forget how much I really like barley. I should make some sort of barley soup before winter’s officially over!

    • Thanks, Rachel. You’re right about how entertaining it is to get together with other food bloggers – definitely worth doing. As you like beef, a barley soup with beef stock and whichever vegetables you like (I know you’re not a big fan of many) would be a good wintry lunch or dinner. It will help you get through the SoDak frozen landscapes until spring finally arrives.


  4. Now this sounds like a stick to your ribs type soup. Love porcini in anything, but with the nutty barley too, just about perfect. I’ve never heard of a Bob Dylan potluck but all I can say is we are really missing out on something here in SF.

    • Hi, Louann. Yes, this straddles the no-person’s-land that is between soup and stew – definitely on the hearty side of semi-liquid meals. I think it’s too funny that we have a Bob Dylan birthday potluck and SF does not! But, then again, we don’t have any parades/flea markets featuring leather, chains, and other bondage-related goods (or is the Folsom Street Fair still going?).



  5. Looks fabulous. I love barley and sometimes add it to just my chicken soup but never muchroom. Will have to try next time. So you haven’t sharpened your knife in 2 years. Wow i sharpen mine every month or so. You should just get one for your self and do it at home. It is really easy. But it has to be a stone or real knife sharpeners. None of those things that you put your knofe between two plastic blades that will destoy your knife.

    • Thanks for your advice on knives, Ewa. I really do need to do some sharpening in between the annual tinkerers’ visits. I do hone the knives, but sharpening is another matter altogether.


  6. This soup looks delicous. I don’t cook with barley nearly as often as I should. This is a good choice for the final winter days we have to finish up here in Kentucky.

  7. Anyone who thinks ‘healthy’ translates into mediocre, would be proven wrong here.
    This looks and sounds like a very hearty and delicious soup Dan!

  8. I hadn’t gotten around to commenting on this because of crazy travelling, but this soup was DELICIOUS to the max. I’m only sorry that I was still slightly suffering from food poisoning, or else I would’ve had more!

    Thanks again for all of your hospitality, Dan, I’ll be back soon but hopefully not before you’ve visited me in London and I can return the favour!

    Jax x

    • Hi, Jax. I appreciate your testimonial to vouch for the soup’s goodness.

      You’re welcome, and I hope we’ll meet up wherever – sooner than later!



  9. I’m intrigued by your island life — sounds lovely! The soup sounds wonderful. I have a bag of barley I’ve been looking for a reason to use and this is perfect. Definitely a triple mushroom threat.

    • Thanks, Kelly. Island life has many unique features – good and bad, like everything else. However, quiet and clean natural beauty do make up for some of the downsides, by far.

      Do let me know how the soup works out for you.


  10. This looks so delicious! I found my way here through pinterest and a recipe for a hot fudge chocolate cake, but this looks just as good. And so does so many other of your recipes! Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s