Black Bean and Barley Vegetable Soup


Homemade soup is something most of us really like, but it can often seem like just too much effort. If all that chopping and preparation intimidates you, this recipe might be a good one to try. Yes, there is some prep work but the end result of perhaps half an hour (and probably much less) of kitchen work will yield a huge batch of soup.

After serving the soup while the house is full of wonderful aromas, you will still have plenty to refrigerate for later microwaved bowls on busy evenings and more for taking to the office for quick lunches. Then freeze some meal-sized portions for later hectic weeknight dinners. A lot of wonderful meals for remarkably little preparation overall.

 This soup also provides a wide range of options, from using almost all “pre-made” ingredients–canned beans, frozen onions, etc.–to a completely “home-made” version; just use whatever your time and budget allow. If you have a food processor, this is a great time to use it too, for preparing everything from the onions to the cabbage.

Even the “long cook” ingredients–black beans and barley–can be made more “convenient.” The beans of course can be from a can, but you can also make your own beans ahead for convenience. Buy a pound or two of dried beans and cook the entire amount according to directions on the bag. Then you can freeze the beans in 2 cup portions (approximately the amount in a 15 oz can).

Barley is not available in a can–at least not in any store I’ve ever been in–so you will need to cook this yourself. If you use pearl barley, the kind most often available, you could start it cooking while you are gathering all the other ingredients and getting the onions sauteed. Since the hulled form (which is healthier–hulled is to pearl for barley as brown rice is to white) will take longer to cook, you either will need to start it cooking it earlier OR you could prepare a large batch ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze just as with beans. In this approach, you’ll no doubt cook the barley with water; in that case, just use the broth in place of the water in the recipe. 

Black Bean and Barley Vegetable Soup

1 c hulled or pearl barley
3 c turkey or chicken broth (OR substitute vegetable broth for a VEGAN soup)
olive oil
2 c chopped onion (may use frozen if desired)
1 c diced celery
approximately 6 c shredded cabbage (may use cole slaw mix)
2 to 3 c organic carrot juice
1 15 or 16 oz can or jar Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
2 c cooked black beans (or 15 oz can, undrained)
2 c frozen corn (no need to thaw before adding)
1/2 c chopped bell pepper (frozen diced or sliced peppers may be used)
1  1/2 c frozen chopped kale (no need to thaw before adding)
5 to 8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c bottled red peppers, diced (use sweet or hot depending on your taste)
1 t basil
1 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t black pepper
4 to 5 c water, enough for desired consistency

1. In a large soup pot, bring the broth and barley to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer about 25 minutes for pearl barley, about 40 to 50 minutes for hulled. (This step can be done well ahead of time, with the barley refrigerated until ready to make soup.)
2. Meanwhile, saute the onion and celery in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat.

3. When the onions are light golden in color, stir in the cabbage, cover,  and continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the cabbage is starting to soften.
4.  Add the remaining ingredients except the water. Gradually add water to reach desired consistency.
5..  Bring mixture to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes and taste, adjusting for seasoning at that point.
6.  Add more water if desired and simmer for another 30 to 60 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate or freeze for later. As with most soups, this will be even better the second day.

Makes 5 to 6 quarts of soup, depending on the amount of water added. Allow 1 to 2 cups of soup per serving.


  • If you don’t have carrot juice, substitute additional broth for the carrot juice and add 2 to 3 c sliced or grated carrots with the other vegetables.
  • Fresh or frozen spinach, coarsely chopped, can be substituted for the kale.
  • An extra can or jar of diced tomatoes can be substituted for the sundried tomatoes.

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