Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vegetable Soup with Barley and Basil ~ A Simple Soup When You Need it Most

A simple vegetable soup is what I cooked up on this dark, icy Monday afternoon in New England. It's the kind of austere soup that I imagine peaceful monks eating at suppertime in ancient monasteries. A clear  broth is infused with many vegetables, fortified with whole grains and finished with fresh basil. It's what my body craves after too much feasting on heavier fare. Sometimes all we need is soup and solitude.

Like a warm fire on a snowy day, this soup will restore your wintered soul. Make a big pot of it when you're in hibernation mode. A soft quilt, a cozy dog or cat and a good movie will add to the enjoyment.  

Vegetable Soup with Basil and Barley Recipe

Some Notes:

The base of this light but satisfying soup is a mix of vegetables and my favorite clean-tasting vegetable bouillon. Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon cubes lend a pure vegetable flavor without salt. They're vegan and just delicious. If you're turning your nose up to bouillon, trust me, you might want to try this product. I buy them online or at Whole Foods. Here is the link: I also buy them by the case so I can use them in my vegetable soups and stews when I don't have the will to make my own veggie stock.

This is a light but incredibly flavorful soup. Layers of flavor are created by adding the vegetables in stages then finishing the soup with fresh Thai basil. Thai basil is stronger and spicier than regular basil. It works well against the mellow barley. But any herb you fancy will be fine. For that matter, most vegetables will be delicious in this soup. Mushrooms, cabbage even butternut squash will work here. I'd stay away from broccoli and cauliflower though. Use your imagination and what you have in your fridge. It's loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Brown rice, quinoa or small pasta can take the place of the barley. The soup is delicious topped with grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese too.

I often make this soup (or variations of it with whatever veggies I have on hand) when I feel a cold coming on. If I'm too tired to bother with the barley, I eat it with just the veggies and broth. It's gentle and restorative. You could add a little lemon or lime and ginger to it too to boost the flavor and the vitamin C.

If storing it for workweek meals, keep the barley in a separate container and add it to your bowl of soup when heating it up. I always keep my grains and pasta separate from my soups so that they don't turn to mush in the broth.

This recipe makes an entire large pot. It's featured on Healthy Aperture.

You'll Need:
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 baby carrots or 2 large carrots, sliced
  • A handful of green beans (about 25) , chopped into small pieces.
  • 1 sweet potato or regular potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves. Remember to remove them at the end of cooking.
  • 1 package or 8 cubes of Rapunzel No-Salt Vegetable Bouillon Cubes (see notes) Do not use vegetable broth or bouillon that you wouldn't sip on its own. This brand is the best I've found on the market. 
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 cups of instant barley, cooked according to the package directions. You can also swap the barley for brown rice, pasta or quinoa. 
  •  Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste 
  • To Serve: regular basil, Thai basil or dill, grated Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, crusty bread (for more serving suggestions see notes)

The Rundown: 

Cook the instant barley according to the package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a deep soup pot and saute the onion, carrots, celery, pepper with salt and pepper on medium heat until soft. It helps to occasionally turn down the heat and cover the pot. Add the Rapunzel bouillon cubes, dried bay leaves, 8 cups of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add the sweet potato, corn and the green beans and cook until starting to soften. Taste and adjust the salt. Finish by adding the zucchini and the peas to the pot. Cook until tender crisp. Add a few tablespoons of cooked barley to the soup and stir. Remove bay leaves. Serve with more barley and fresh basil. Enjoy!

More soups from Jilly: 
Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Bisque with Coconut Milk, Warm Spices & Fresh Lime

 Lightened Up Leek & Potato Soup

Thai Red Lentil Soup ~ Coconut Milk, Thai Basil, Warm Spices ~ Luxurious Taste & Texture


  1. Love love love this!!! Barley is my favorite soup and I belong to a CSA/Farm Share so I have TONS of veggies. Like the idea of adding basil. Great recipe!

    1. Thanks so much Dawn! I hope you like it! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :)

  2. Hi Dawn, thanks so much for your kind words. It's a light but filling soup. I learned about the Rapunzel no-salt bouillon cubes from a vegetarian food blogger. I highly recommend them. They create a delicious base without sodium and weird ingredients. Have fun and put your own spin on it. Thanks again!