This easy lentil barley minestrone soup is so comforting, flavorful, filling, packed with vegetables and healthy. It uses simple ingredients and makes for a perfect lunch or dinner to enjoy on a chilly fall or winter day. 100% vegan and dairy-free.
This healthy lentil barley soup recipe is one of those perfect feel-good hearty dishes you have to make on a chilly day.
My favorite part is how straightforward it is to prepare and how it uses only a few simple ingredients. But still, the combination of onion, celery, carrots and garlic with canned tomatoes surprisingly packs a whole lot of flavor into the broth without much effort.
I often make my celery, carrot and dill soup when I crave a bowl of brothy vegetable soup, but this time, I included lentils and barley to give it a more hearty consistency. It can easily qualify as a full meal especially when served with a side of bread or crackers and makes for the perfect make-ahead lunch recipe to prep before a busy week.
Barley gives this soup a pleasant chewy texture and a nice nutty flavor that we cannot get enough of. Plus, both barley and lentils are packed with a heaping serving of plant-based protein and a ton of fiber. This makes this soup very filling and such a great meatless lunch for the hungry appetite.
Let me know if you give it a try! ❤️
Why you should try this recipe
- Easy soup recipe made with whole foods
- Packed with fiber and rich in plant-based protein
- Perfect meatless meal you can make ahead
- Suitable for lunch or dinner
- Nourishing comfort food recipe to enjoy on a cold winter day
- Such a flexible soup you can customize with what you already have
- Naturally vegan and dairy-free
Ingredients you will need
You can easily play around with the ingredients to make this recipe your own. Be sure to check down below where I share a few good swap options.
- Onion, celery and carrot: cooking these vegetables until golden brown first will boost your soup with so much more flavor. I used a yellow onion, 2 medium carrots and 2 stalks of celery. It is the classic "mirepoix" vegetable mix that French cooking is well known about!
- Fresh garlic: use as much as you want to give your broth a deeper flavor. I added 3 large cloves.
- Pearl barley: I highly recommend using pearled barley and not hulled barley for this recipe, which is more widely available anyway. Pearled barley is mildly processed to make it easier to cook while still being packed with nutrients. If you only have hulled barley, then you will have to cook the soup for longer and likely have to add more water as well.
- Lentils: I used brown lentils, although you can use different kinds of lentils for making this soup, such as green lentils, French DuPuy lentils or even black lentils. Red lentils can also be used although the consistency of your soup will be different.
- Diced tomatoes: try using "petite" diced tomatoes if possible for the best texture. You will need a large 28 oz for this recipe.
- Dried herbs: I used a mix of dried basil, oregano and thyme, but use your favorite, such as parsley, dill, Italian seasoning, rosemary, etc.
- Vegetable stock: I'll often use a concentrated vegetable broth to save some money and it is more convenient too, but simply use your favorite broth. A homemade broth would be amazing here to add more authentic flavors.
- Lemon: I like to add a splash of fresh lemon juice once the soup is done to brighten up the flavors, but this is optional.
How to make lentil barley minestrone soup
Cook the aromatics
Warm up a large pot with a little oil (a heavy bottom pot like a Dutch oven works well) and then, add the onion, celery and carrot with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook on medium heat until softened and golden brown.
Then, add the garlic and dried herbs, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the rinsed lentils, rinsed barley, canned tomatoes, veggie broth and water. Stir to combine and bring to simmer.
Then, turn down the heat to medium-low and cover. Keep simmering for about 20 minutes stirring once in a while so it does not stick to the bottom.
Adjust and serve
The soup is ready when the barley and lentils are cooked through. You can check on the consistency and add more water or broth if it is too thick. Also, taste to adjust salt.
Then, add the lemon juice and you can add fresh herbs as well.
Serve and enjoy warm with a side of bread.
- I recommend rinsing the barley and lentils before adding them to the soup to clean them up and remove debris, if any.
- For a deeper flavor, you can deglaze the mirepoix with a little white wine before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- This soup will thicken quite quickly as the barley and lentils keep absorbing the liquid. We enjoyed it as a thick soup, but you can also simply add more liquid before serving as needed.
- I recommend dicing the vegetables on the small side. This will help caramelize more surfaces and get more flavor into your soup, plus have a little bit of everything in each bite.
- For a smoother soup, you can use an immersion blender and blend or pulse just for a few seconds right into the pot.
This hearty soup is great accompanied by a side of bread, especially if serving as a full meal. Whole wheat dinner rolls would be perfect: they are super soft and so delicious! But we also like it with a crusty French baguette bread or crackers.
We love this barley lentil soup as a full meal, but it makes for a tasty appetizer or side dish to go alongside sandwiches or a green salad.
Variations to the recipe
This is such a versatile soup recipe! You can use it as a base and tweak the vegetables and spices to experiment with flavors. Here are a few ideas:
- Vegetables: I think the combo of onion-celery-carrots-garlic works amazingly for this kind of soup, although you can also include mushrooms, leeks, red bell pepper, corn, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, green beans or green peas.
- Leafy greens: add a handful of spinach, collard green, swiss chard or kale at the end of cooking the soup for a more chewy texture and to help you eat more greens.
- Spices: you can add a pinch of cumin, curry powder, smoked paprika or cayenne pepper. Also, feel free to include a bay leaf.
- Pasta: minestrone often includes small pasta, which would work well here too. Use a small-shaped pasta, such as ditalini, small stars or elbow macaroni. If adding some pasta, then make sure to add more broth and consider adding a little less of the barley and lentils. Also, add the noodles later in the cooking process, it will cook faster especially if small!
- Fresh herbs: you can toss in a handful of fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro or dill into the soup to add more flavor. Or simply sprinkle some when serving.
- Other grain: you can usually swap barley for farro, which is a very similar grain. You can also use brown rice or quinoa if you prefer (add the quinoa a little later as it takes less time to cook).
- More: Miso paste or Worcestershire sauce are fun flavorful additions to soups that you can also try!
Once the soup has cooled down, then you can transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
It will significantly thicken over time, so simply add a splash of broth or water before reheating.
To reheat, use the microwave or the stove.
You can also freeze this soup for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
How can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Barley is related to wheat, meaning that it contains gluten. So, to make this recipe GF, then you can swap for brown rice or quinoa. The rest of the ingredients are naturally GF!
Do I have to soak the barley first?
No, pearled barley cooks within 20-25 minutes. No need to soak it first!
More cozy soup recipes you might like
- Creamy oyster mushroom soup
- Vegan creamy tomato soup
- Creamy broccoli pea soup
- Mexican shell soup
- Easy bean soup
- Vegan gnocchi soup
- Zucchini potato soup
- Curried ginger carrot soup
I hope you like this lentil barley minestrone soup recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Lentil Barley Minestrone Soup
- 1 yellow onion - diced
- 2 stalks of celery - diced
- 2 carrots - diced
- 3 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil or parsley
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup lentils - brown or green, rinsed
- ¾ cup pearled barley - rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water - or more for desired consistency
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- lemon juice - to taste
- salt - to taste
- fresh herbs (cilantro or parsley) - optional
- Warm up a large pot with a little oil (I like using oil spray) and then, add the onion, celery and carrot with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat.
- Then, add the garlic and dried herbs, stir and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add the can of tomatoes (with the juice), vegetable broth, water, rinsed lentils and rinsed barley. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- Then, cover and let the soup simmer on medium heat until the lentils and barley are tender, about 20 minutes. If the soup gets too thick, then add more broth or water.
- Add the lemon juice and taste to adjust the salt. You can also add some fresh herbs. Enjoy with a side of bread or crackers.
- Storage: the soup will thicken quickly as the barley absorbs the broth. You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. To reheat, add a splash of water and use the microwave or the stove.
- Feel free to customize this recipe to your preference! You can use other veggies (such as mushrooms, sweet potatoes, leeks, green beans, etc) or spices (ground cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, etc). Check out the blog post for more ideas!