This one-pot vegetable barley soup recipe is easy to make in 40 minutes for a weeknight dinner, can be made in advance and enjoyed throughout the week or frozen for longer storage.

Spoon in a bowl of vegetable barley soup with sweet potato and spinach.

The flavorful broth, fresh veggies and chewy texture make for a healthy soup that’s wonderfully hearty and comforting. Serve this easy soup with your favorite crusty bread for a delicious homemade meal for the whole family.

Recipe Highlights

  • Vegan.
  • Can be made gluten-free by substituting a different grain.
  • Low in fat.
  • High in fiber.
  • Simple ingredients.
  • Freezer-friendly
  • Ready in 40 minutes.
  • 1-pot easy recipe.
  • Rich flavor.

Ingredient Notes

All the ingredients for a vegan vegetable barley soup recipe each labelled with text.
  • Oil: I prefer olive oil but you can substitute any cooking oil or use a bit of water or vegetable broth for an oil-free recipe.
  • Onion: White or yellow onion can be used.
  • Carrot and Celery: If you’re missing one of the other, that’s ok. Bell pepper can be substituted for the carrot or celery.
  • Sweet Potato: Substitute potato or butternut squash.
  • Barley: This recipe uses for pearled barley, or pearl barley, for a quicker cooking time. You can use pot barley with no further adjustments to the recipe. You can use hulled barley but the soup will require a longer cooking time.
  • Vegetable Broth: You can use any homemade or packaged vegetable stock, broth or bouillon cubes. Note that the sodium content of broth varies greatly so you’ll need to season the recipe to taste depending on the broth used.
  • Spinach: You can use spinach or substitute finely chopped kale.
  • Herbs & Spices: The recipe calls for paprika, thyme and oregano. These are flexible. Try using smoked paprika, substitute Italian seasoning for the thyme and oregano or adding additional dried herbs like rosemary or basil.

This list is not complete. Please see the recipe card at the end of the post for the complete ingredient list with measurements and detailed instructions.

Variations & Additions

  • Barley Bean Soup: Add 1 can of chickpeas, white beans or kidney beans towards the end of cooking.
  • Add up to 1 bell pepper when you add the carrot and celery.
  • Add up to 1 cup small cauliflower florets or green beans when you add the sweet potato.
  • Up to 1 cup green peas can be added towards the end of cooking.
  • Gluten-Free Option: Substitute brown rice for barley.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Celery, onion and carrot cooking in a large pot.

Step 1: Heat the oil in a large pot then add the diced celery, carrot and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook 5-7 minutes until softened and fragrant.

Celery, onion, carrot, garlic and spices cooking in a large pot.

Step 2: Add the garlic, tomato paste, paprika, thyme and oregano, stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Sweet potato, barley, celery, onion and carrot cooking in a large pot.

Step 3: Add the sweet potato and barley and stir to coat.

Tomato vegetable barley soup cooking in a large pot.

Step 4: Add the diced tomato, vegetable broth and bay leaves and simmer the soup, uncovered for 20 minutes until the sweet potato and barley are tender.

Tomato barley vegetable soup with spinach cooking in a large pot.

Step 5: Add the spinach and stir briefly to mix it in. Taste and season if needed then enjoy your soup!

Barley soup is just delicious served as is or can be topped with fresh parsley, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Even better with bread for dipping!

Scooping tomato vegetable barley soup from a pot into a serving bowl.

Recipe FAQs

Is vegetable barley soup gluten-free?

No. Barley is not gluten-free. To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute brown rice for the barley.

Can you freeze barley vegetable soup?

Yes. To freeze vegetable barley soup, let it cool then transfer to heavy duty freezer bags or any freezer-safe containers. Freeze up to 2 months. Thaw frozen soup overnight in the fridge then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring in extra broth if needed to thin.

How do you store leftover veggie barley soup?

Let the soup cool then transfer to a sealed container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a pot on the stovetop or in individual portions in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave.

What type of barley should I use for barley soup?

Pearl barley, or pearled barley, is suggested for this recipe and is the most common type of barley found in the grocery store.

Pearl barley goes through a pearling machine to remove the outer husk and bran layer for a quicker cooking time. Pot barley is similar though hasn’t been pearled for as long. You can use pearl barley or pot barley interchangeably in this recipe.

Hulled barley, or barley groats, is considered a whole grain and only has the indigestible outer husk removed. It’s darker in colour and requires a longer cooking time. Hulled barley is not recommend in this recipe without adjustment to the cooking times and liquid quantities.

Bowl of vegetable barley soup with spinach, sweet potato, carrot and onion.

Cooking Tips

  • This soup thickens up a lot as it sits, as the barley will absorb more liquid. Extra vegetable broth and seasonings can be added when reheating if making ahead of time.
  • If you’re making vegetable substitutions, try to keep the total amount of veggies about the same. Add any root or longer-cooking veggies with the sweet potato. Add quick-cooking vegetables towards the end of cooking or at the end.

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Hearty Vegetable Barley Soup

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Soup
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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A homemade vegetable barley soup recipe with a rich flavor, chewy texture and plenty of healthy veggies for a warm, comforting meal.


  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (175 g, 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 carrots, diced (195 g, 1 ½ cups)
  • 23 ribs celery, diced (195 g, 1 ¾ cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or grated (18 g)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (30 g)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, optional
  • 12 bay leaves, optional
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (290 g, about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup pearl barley (about 205 g)
  • 1 (796 ml) can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups or handfuls fresh spinach or finely chopped kale (50 g)
  • salt and pepper


  1. Cook Aromatics: In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add onions, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 min, stirring occasionally, until tender. 
  2. Add Spices and Tomato Paste: Add garlic, tomato paste, thyme, oregano and paprika (and chili flakes or cayenne, if using). Cook for another 2-3 min, stirring often, until fragrant and toasted.
  3. Cook Soup: To the pot, add sweet potatoes and barley, stir to coat. Then add bay leaves, diced tomatoes and vegetable broth. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 20 min.  
  4. Finish Soup: Stir in spinach. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
  5. Serve: Divide soup between bowls. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired. 


This soup thickens up a lot as it sits, as the barley will absorb more liquid.  Extra broth and seasonings can be added if making ahead of time and reheating.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days and reheated as needed on the stovetop or in the microwave. To freeze, cool and transfer to freezer bags or a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 362
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Sodium: 890 mg
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 75 g
  • Fiber: 15 g
  • Protein: 9 g