Mushroom Barley Soup

I was on a college road trip when I had my first taste of Mushroom Barley Soup. My friends and I stopped at a roadside deli—I wish I could remember the name of the place. What I do remember is that piping hot bowl of delicious soup. It was love at first bite.

You can find this soup on most Jewish deli menus. The dish has roots in the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Mushrooms were popular in these cold-weather countries because they could be harvested, dried, and stored for later use. In my friend Etti Hadar’s family memoir, her Polish uncle Dov Levin talks about how his mother used to string up rows of mushrooms with a thread and needle in the attic. They would hang the mushrooms near the chimney; the heat of the stove would dry them out faster that way.

Barley was also plentiful and easy to grow in the Eastern European climate, making it a common addition to hearty winter dishes like soup and cholent. Barley’s history goes back even further; in fact, it is arguably the world’s first and most ancient cultivated grain. It is also one of the Seven Species mentioned in the Bible.

Ever since that fateful college road trip, I’ve worked on creating my own soup recipe to achieve what I consider the perfect balance of mushroom barley flavor. I’ve stuck to simple, natural ingredients. Inspired by Uncle Dov’s memoir, I added dried mushrooms with their soaking liquid to the broth, along with fresh mushrooms seared golden brown. The combination adds complex flavor to an otherwise simple soup. A long, slow simmer reduces the broth, making the soup thick and rich.

This robust, filling soup makes a hearty lunch or dinner on a chilly autumn day. Despite being “comfort food,” it is surprisingly healthy. Barley is rich in dietary fiber and selenium. The grain also contains beta glucan, a complex sugar that can help to lower cholesterol. Enjoy!

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Mushroom Barley Soup


  • 3 qts (12 cups) chicken or mushroom stock (low sodium okay)
  • 1 1/4 cups pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery, including leaves
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 lb white mushrooms, scrubbed and sliced
  • Salt and pepper

You will also need

  • Large stock pot, timer, small saucepan, skillet, paper coffee filter or clean mesh coffee filter
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 15 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 6-8
Kosher Key: Meat or Pareve depending on stock
  • Pour chicken or mushroom stock into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, add the bay leaves, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered. Set your timer for 2:15 (2 hours 15 minutes) starting now.
  • While the soup simmers, place dried mushrooms in a separate small saucepan. Add 3 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove saucepan from heat and let the mushrooms soak for 20 minutes.
  • Drain the mushroom water by straining it through a coffee filter (use a mesh strainer or colander to hold the filter). Reserve the mushroom water.
  • Chop the soaked, softened mushrooms into small pieces and reserve.
  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté till softened.
  • Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 5 more minutes till everything is browning and starting to caramelize.
  • Add the soaked chopped dried mushroom pieces and crushed garlic, sauté for 2 more minutes. Your kitchen should smell really good right about now!
  • Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the strained mushroom broth into the skillet, bring to a boil, stir. Cook for 2 more minutes till mixture is hot and bubbly. Add the contents of the skillet to the simmering stockpot with the broth and barley.
  • Without rinsing the skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat, tilting to coat the bottom of the pan. Spread half of the sliced white mushrooms in a single layer at the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and turn heat to high. Let the mushrooms sear without stirring.
  • After 2 minutes, stir the mushrooms continuously for another 1-2 minutes until they are seared golden brown and shrink to about half their size.
  • Pour the seared mushrooms into the soup pot. Heat the last 1 tbsp olive oil in the skillet and repeat the process for the remaining mushrooms. Add the rest of the seared mushrooms to the soup pot, stir to blend all ingredients.
  • Reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the soup cook uncovered until your timer goes off (2 hours 15 minutes total cooking time), or until the barley is completely tender and the soup is nicely thickened. Add water during the simmer if the soup becomes overly thick. At the end of cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Other Great Recipe Ideas

In Erika’s Kitchen: Winter Greens Soup with Mushrooms 

The Pioneer Woman: French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms 

Simply Recipes: Mushroom Risotto

Kalyn’s Kitchen: Chicken Barley Soup 

Weelicious: Barley, Chicken and Broccoli Salad

Comments (107)Post a Comment

  1. I can’t wait for the weather to cool off so I can try this, we’re in the middle of an unseasonal heat wave here in San Diego, wish it would chill off a bit so I coulf break out all my soup recipes! I will def be trying this one though when it gets cold outside!

    1. I just made a beef barley soup and believe me it is better without the beef. One of my favorite soups in the world.

  2. Thanks, this looks good. I’ve trouble finding a good mushroom barley soup recipe. I’ll try this one soon. Bet it will be good both vegetarian and with flanken or short ribs.

  3. thank you, I have had a love of Jewish food for years, had some incredible Jewish men in my life, and admiration for the Jewish faith, traditions and lore. Do you have a sweet cougal recipe that’s a favorite?? Bless you, dear lady.

  4. Hi

    Do you have a version of the reciepie you can post or email me that is easily printable. I want to make this today.


    1. Hi Ali, I recently updated the blog with a new print function. Click on Print Recipe and a print friendly version should pop up. Let me know if you’re having any trouble. Thanks!

    1. I freeze this recipe often. It doesn’t look pretty, and it usually needs to be thinned a little, because the barley absorbs even more water, but it is delicious, even months later

  5. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I made the mushroom barley soup in my slow cooker and it was YUMMY! I lightly sauteed all the vegetables, placed them in the slow cooker and covered with chicken stock. I added a box of quick oats and cooked the soup on high for about 3 hours (keep checking that the liquid doesnt cook away because of the barley).

    It was restaurant quality soup !

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Roni! Michele, good to know that freezing worked well for you. Seems like every time I make this soup it disappears too quickly to freeze the leftovers. 😉

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    YUM! YUM! YUM! This soup is soo good! This recipe is a “keeper” as we call good ones in my house. Thanks so much. Love your site.

  7. the weather here is a little bit chilly already, this soup is perfect, already in my menu for this week, yummm!!! Have a great week Tori. xo

  8. Love this recipe, but due to mushroom allergies, will have to omit them. Do you have a suggestion for something to replace the mushrooms? Leeks? Spinach? I would like to have your input.

    1. Hi Jan! That’s a great question. I’ve never made a sub in this recipe before, it’s tough to imagine mushroom barley soup without the mushrooms. What you could try is omit the mushrooms, and instead saute 1-2 lbs. of beef– flanken, perhaps, or short ribs– and let that cook slowly in the soup till tender. This will make it more of a beef/barley soup with lots of flavor. If you’re trying to keep it vegetarian, you could try subbing diced eggplant. Salt the cut up eggplant for 30 minutes first to pull out the bitterness, then rinse it well before adding to the pot. I’ve never tried it with eggplant, so no promises! But it might work out well. If you try it, let me know!

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Looks amazing! We love this soup…I use some black Polish dried mushrooms that make the broth really dark. Sometimes I add a piece of flanken as well…perfect soup weather!
    It freezes very well…
    Gorgeous pics Tori!

  10. Hi Tori!

    I was able to get my hands on some fresh shitake mushrooms & was wondering if I would be able to substitute for the dry? Thanks!

    1. Hi Suzanne– the dried mushrooms are used (in combination with fresh) because their flavor is much more intense than fresh. While you can sub fresh shitakes, it kind of defeats the purpose… soaking the dried mushrooms and using their soaking liquid in the soup adds a lot of flavor that you just can’t get from fresh. That said, the soup won’t taste bad if you use fresh– it just won’t be as tasty as it will if you use dry. :)

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori!

    I just made this soup, and it looks, smells, and tastes absolutely wonderful! I didn’t have barley at hand, so I substituted it with red lentils, and it worked just as well.

    I love your blog! It’s my new favorite thing! I love that I can find a recipe for just about anything I want, and the history behind each recipe is so interesting to read.

    So far everything I have made from your recipes has been a total success (Butter Bean Soup, Crunchy Broccoli Craisin Salad, Date Nut Honey Cake..)!

    Great job!! xx

  12. I love your recipes! Was just curious about the ‘uncovered’-ness …. I always cover the pot when making a soup … won’t the liquid evaporate if left uncovered? Thanks so much :)

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made this today and it was so fantastic, it will definitely be a staple in our winter diet from now on! I added no salt to the mushrooms or at the end and it was still plenty salty. A high 5 for this one, thanks so much.

  14. The lady with mushroom allergies and everyone else for that matter, might try large dried Lima Beans. They give a texture and thicken the soup too. I start with Water and Telme Israeli chicken or beef bullion instead of ready made stock. You can also put 2 medium peeled potatoes, quartered into the soup as it is simmering. Again, it thickens the soup and so this (and yours) is a soup that “grows” as it cooks!

    Thanks for a terrific recipe. The addition of my Lima’s and Potato are Litvak (Polish/Russian/Lithuanian) in origin and a favorite of my Bubbe.

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Any suggestions to make this gluten free? Sounds so delicious! Love the blog, thank you so much for all your great recipes and stories and history!!

    1. Hi Ang! You could try omitting the barley, cooking the soup as written with only mushrooms and the other vegetables. Then add 1 1/4 cups rinsed quinoa to the pot about 20 minutes before the end of cooking. Reduce the broth till the soup is thickened. I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing it would work! If you give it a try, let me know. :)

  16. If you use 1 oz of porcini mushrooms (do exactly what you did with the shiitake) your soup will taste like it’s a beef mushroom and barley soup. Leave out the celery and garlic and add a little soy sauce at the end. Oh yeah, lots of pepper. Also, cooking time doesn’t have to be more than 25 minutes. Best to eat the next day. The recipe I use is from Mark Bittman and has never disappointed. If I have room I’ll paste below…


    I find that mushrooms and shallots make a superior soup base compared to the standard carrot-onion-celery mirepoix when one is making a vegan soup; caramelizing a couple of Tbs of tomato paste in that before adding liquid gives another boost. (All of this adds the umami factor that is often missing in vegan soups.)

    Mine includes a small amount (4 tablespoons) of dry sherry.

    Note from Tori: I removed the recipe from this comment due to copyright laws. I am linking to it instead for anybody who is interested: link to

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    OMG….I just tasted the soup. It is amazing. It is so refreshing to be able to get recipes from you and have them turn out so good!

  18. I think I’ll give this a try tonight. This cold midwest weather calls for a nice hot soup and this should do the trick.

  19. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Recently made it and it was amazing! Followed your reciepe and it was out of this world. Such comfort food! Raved about it so much that so many people took the reciepe to make it too! Thanks for all your great hints, ideas and great flavors! Truly look forward to your emails! Granddaughter is coming to stay and cannot wait for her to taste it too! Very satisfying and makes a great meal with a salad and perhaps a vegetable side dish and your done! Thanks again!

  20. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made this on Friday. AH-MAZE-ING! I am ridiculously excited that I found your blog. I have never been dissapointed with one of your recipes. I have the hamantaschen dough chilling in the fridge now…can’t wait to fill em and bake em when I get home from work today!!

  21. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made this today, following the recipe exactly, except I only had 10 oz of baby portobellos, so I used those instead of 1lb white mushrooms. Very good. My husband said it was spectacular. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I am making this now. I made a few alterations since I am a bit lazy and quartered and sauteed two kinds of mushrooms in the soup pot after sauteing the celery/carrot/onion/ginger combo in the same pot and removing. I also cooked the barley for an hour and 15 minutes total in the broth (added a smoked turkey leg for a bit and the removed) and then added the mushrooms and carrot/celery/onions/ginger back in pot with barely one-half hour before the barley would be done. I tested the barley after an hour and it will be done with the rest of the party! It looks great. I really think your idea of cooking the barley in the broth separate was the key to not having soggy barley with the rest of the soup. Thanks a million!

  23. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    We are in the midst of a cold winter here in southern australia, so i thought to try your recipe. After polishing off a huge bowl, i have to say its amazing.So tasty and all the flavours are distinct but then combine wonderfully. Thankyou

  24. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Making this soup now, need something healthy, nourishing and sort of soft after suddenly getting a tooth out yesterday. Also added 1T tomato paste, and some za’atar and hawayj (which I noticed on your Yememite soup, love hawayj but not always easy to get here). Also added 2 cans of rinsed small white beans. Already tastes great although the barley needs to cook more. Love your recipes. Let us all know when what you are directing or writing for will be on tv or elsewhere….very impressed!

  25. I can’t find dried shitake mushrooms locally. Can you suggest an alternate type of dried mushrooms to use instead – for example dried Boletus mushrooms? Thank you.

    1. I think boletus are the same as porcini… at least, I’m pretty sure. If that’s the case, then you can definitely use them! Every different mushroom will have a slightly distinct flavor, but most will work as long as the flavor is not too terribly strong/overpowering.

  26. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori.
    Greetings from Chicago! Autumn always brings me into the kitchen and today I decided to make this mushroom barley soup. In fact, I just finished my first bowl. Absolutely delicious!! I followed the recipe exactly except for the dried shiitakes. All I could find was a medley of assorted dried ‘shrooms from Trader Joes but they worked just fine. Thank you for a delicious recipe. It was fun looking at the pictures while replicating on my own stove. I will make this again!

  27. So I went to my pantry did not have barely! Sooo I don’t want to run to the market? I’m hoping the French lentil a suitable substitute… Wish me luck!

  28. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Never made any soup like this or tasted any either but it looked so wonderful I had to try it for myself! I absolutely loved it!

  29. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made this today, with a few modifications:
    – used 2 parts beef stock, 1 part mushroom stock
    – used hulled barley, rather than pearl
    – toasted slices of a multigrain baguette and broiled with gruyere cheese (yes, I’m a gentile, so I know that’s probably off the table for some here 😉
    – added some basil/oregano/pepper to the soup

    The hulled barley was pleasantly toothy, especially when combined with the multigrain bread rafts. I think next time I’ll slow cook some chuck I have in the freezer and add that in as well. I’ll definitely be making it again over the winter, as it’s about as perfectly delicious of a “blizzard soup” as you can get.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  30. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made the soup today for my family and it was a big hit. The flavor took me back to my mother’s kitchen who made this for us regularly. She cooked the old fashioned way and I never learned to make her soup which was never written down.
    Previous attempts on my part with other recipes were not nearly as good this one.
    I used dried porcini with fresh shiitakes and white mushrooms. Probably any combination works well.

    Thank you very much!

  31. Hi this is my second season making this recipe. My daughter loves it and requests it often. I have a pot simmering now. At our local favorite restaurant, their mbs appears to have a lighter color they said they add a little cream…. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Sari– I have never added cream to mushroom barley soup but I don’t think it would hurt. If you want to add some I would stir it in at the end of cooking. So happy you like the recipe!

  32. looking for a jewish checkerboard cake, all the jewish bakeries have closed down in florida, never the same at the Italian bakery ….looked at alot of recipes online, can you help??? thank you

  33. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This soup is incredibly rich and delicious. I followed the directions exactly. Not sure what kind of dried mushrooms I had,but they are the essential ingredient. Would love to know why the stock and barley was cooked uncovered? It thickened considerably, so I added extra chick stock.

    1. Hi Jean, the soup is cooked uncovered so it will thicken. If yours thickened too fast, it might have been cooking on a slightly higher flame/heat. You can certainly cover it next time to slow down the thickening, and remove the lid towards the end of cooking. Glad you enjoyed it!

  34. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for this excellent recipe. Made it today, with a few modifications:
    – used all veg stock, organic.
    – used two packages of fresh mushrooms; excluded the dried mushrooms- did not feel like paying $4 for a small packet of them.
    – used more carrot and celery and chopped them larger than your photo shows; I like to see my veggies in my soups!
    Sauteed the chopped carrots/celery in my wok with the onion, then I sauteed the mushrooms in the (unwashed) wok, alone.
    So fantastic…. this recipe produced one huge pot of deliciousness. Thank you!

  35. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is the most delicious soup! I’ll be making it again as a first course for our Hannukah dinner next week, to be followed by roast chicken, salad, latkes with applesauce, and “killer kugel”. My mate is “gifting” the guests with homemade potato knishes as well! Too much food, but since all the family will be together, why not? Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe; it’s now a family favorite.

  36. Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s almost finished, and it tastes exactly like the deli soup I was craving. Perfect! Now I’m excited to check out your other recipes, too.

  37. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    i did this the weekend after thanksgiving so i made turkey stock – very rich and flavorful… this is a great recipe, easy to adapt to any pantry and i really like the way you show the steps. first time visiting your site. will definitely be back. thank you!

  38. I made this several days ago and it was a huge success. My 2013 New Year’s resolution was to follow new recipes closely on the first try, and this came out creamy and flavorful exactly as written. Leftovers a few days later were even better!

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