This Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup is easy, warm, and so comforting. With chunky vegetables, hearty barley, and “meaty” mushrooms, this Instant Pot soup is perfect for chilly evenings spent indoors when the weather turns cold and dreary. Serve this healthy stew with warm bread for a perfect one-pot dinner that seriously satisfies.
During the dark months of winter, there are few things better than hot soups and warm drinks. With the transition to cold-weather season, we tend to leave behind our crisp summer salads, fruit-forward smoothies, and raw vegetable platters.
But with winter comes cold and flu season, less light and vitamin D, and stagnant indoor air. So how can you keep your immune system in tip-top shape during the cold months of winter when smoothies are the last thing you want on a chilly morning?
Replace your summer bounty with plenty of cooked winter vegetables and hearty grains, of course.
That’s where this recipe comes in. Packed with warm broth, starchy potatoes, and hearty mushrooms, this recipe is super cozy and comforting. It will also help you replace your summer veggies with some winter favorites. Whip up this delicious vegan soup on a lazy Sunday to ensure you have healthy, comforting meals throughout the week!
What’s Special About this Mushroom Barley Soup Recipe?
There are a lot of vegetable barley stew recipes out there. And for good reason! Barley is a perfect hearty grain for fall and winter. It increases satiety, provides iron, fiber, and B vitamins, and is extremely inexpensive.
Since this is vegan mushroom barley soup, we’re (obviously) omitting the beef broth found in typical recipes. We’re also using hulled barley, rather than the more common pearled version. This is an important distinction since hulled barley is a whole grain, while pearled barley is not. We’re also omitting the oil. All three of these changes help make a delicious, vegan soup that’s whole-food, plant-based compliant!
While plain-old vegetable barley soup can be quite tasty, mushroom barley soup takes things to a whole new level. Did you know that mushrooms are one of the best sources of plant-based umami? Mushrooms are also extremely healthy and lend a satisfying “meaty” texture to plant-based meals.
In this recipe, we couple the rich taste of mushrooms with additional umami sources, like tomato paste, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. This combination means that this soup is extraordinarily satisfying, even for meat-eaters!
(Want to learn more about barley and umami? I have comprehensive posts where I provide a lot more detail. For information about barley and the differences between each type, see my Instant Pot Barley post. For information about umami and why it’s so delicious, see my Ultimate Umami Tofu Scramble post.)
A Note About Instant Pot Soups
Soups, stews, chilis, and beans are amazing things to cook in the Instant Pot. Since the Instant Pot infuses flavor more deeply than boiling on the stovetop, you’ll get a ton of flavor without much effort.
Though it takes a little while for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and to release pressure, it’s completely hands-off time. Throw everything into your Instant Pot, do other things, then come back to find a delicious, comforting soup.
Through the power of pressure cooking, your Vegan Mushroom Barley Soup will taste like it’s been cooking all day!
About the Ingredients
Almost every ingredient in this recipe is cheap and pantry-friendly. In fact, I bet you have many of these staple ingredients at home already.
- Hulled Barley: A great whole-grain for soups, barley stays chewy when cooked and gives the broth body. Unfortunately, barley is NOT gluten-free.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain compounds not found in other foods! They’re great for breast and brain health, may improve immune system function, and may reduce cancer risk (source, source).
- A variety of mushrooms will work for this recipe.
- To keep things economical, use white button mushrooms (typically the cheapest) for the bulk of this recipe. For example, use two 8-ounce packages of white button mushrooms, plus 4 ounces of shiitakes (or other mushrooms of choice).
- Another inexpensive option is Whole Foods. (That’s an ironic sentence!) Near me, they sell a 20-ounce package of baby bella mushrooms (AKA criminis) for $3.99. One package works perfectly in this recipe.
- A variety of mushrooms will work for this recipe.
- Carrots, Celery, Onion & Garlic: The base of pretty much every soup recipe for a reason. Bonus: Carrots and celery are actually healthier when cooked! (source)
- White Potatoes: The ultimate comfort food. Buy organic and leave the skin on for a bit more fiber and nutrition.
- Tamari (or soy sauce), Tomato Paste, & Balsamic Vinegar: Each provides delicious umami flavor. In fact, these three healthy ingredients help veganize this stew without sacrificing flavor.
- Bay Leaves: A simple, classic flavor enhancer that improves the taste of almost anything.
- Spices: A few great spices to enhance the flavor of this soup. We’re using classics like dried parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, and black pepper.
- If you need to stock up on spices, you may want to try buying from Thrive Market, since they sell many of their spices for just $2.99! Here’s a discount code for 25% off your first Thrive order.
How to Make Mushroom Barley Soup
Making this soup is pretty straight-forward. You’ll start by rinsing your hulled barley really well.
Then you’ll chop everything up. For hearty soups and stews, I recommend chopping your vegetables roughly into large chunks. This makes for a comforting bowl of soup, reduces your chopping, and keeps the vegetables from falling apart in the Instant Pot. It’s rustic. 🙂
After chopping all of your vegetables, cook your mushrooms directly in your Instant Pot. (No separate pan required!) Your mushrooms will release their water content and will cook down quite a bit. Your kitchen will also start to smell amazing at this point.
After a few minutes of cooking, you’ll turn off the Instant Pot, add all remaining ingredients, and give everything a good stir. Close your Instant Pot, set your timer, then walk away! Do some other chores or simply relax while your Instant Pot does the cooking for you.
Instant Pot cooking isn’t necessarily the fastest, but it’s the least amount of work, and it frees up your mind. There’s no worrying about whether your soup is boiling over on the stovetop, for example. 🙂 I hope that you enjoy this comforting, cold-weather classic!
For the Mushrooms
- 20 ounces of mushrooms (white, crimini, shiitake, or a combination)
- 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the Soup
- 4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 6 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 3 medium potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 cup hulled barley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage (rubbed or ground)
- 6 cups of water
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Rinse your barley thoroughly under running water and set aside.
- Slice your mushrooms, dice your onion, and mince your garlic. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the rest of your vegetables and set aside.
- Select the "Saute" button on your Instant Pot.** The Instant Pot will take approximately 5 minutes to heat up and will read "HOT" when it's ready.
- While the Instant Pot heats, gather your remaining ingredients.
- Once the Instant Pot reads "HOT", add all of the ingredients listed under "For the Mushrooms". Stir occasionally for 8 minutes, until the mushrooms have cooked down considerably. (The mushrooms will sweat out a lot of their water content, and you’ll be left with a good amount of tasty liquid at the bottom of the pan. Do not drain off the liquid.)
- Select "Cancel" to turn the Instant Pot off. Add all remaining soup ingredients to the Instant Pot, stir well, and scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
- Close the lid and set the steam release valve to "Sealing". Select the "Pressure Cook" button and set to cook for 20 minutes at High Pressure.
- Once the cooking time is up, allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally. After approximately 30 minutes, the float valve will drop. Turn the steam release valve to "Venting" and open the Instant Pot.
- Stir well, remove bay leaves, and allow to sit for a few minutes to cool. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve Mushroom Barley Soup with whole-grain bread and a simple green salad. Alternatively, serve over mashed potatoes or polenta. Leftovers will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
**When you select "Saute" on many Instant Pots, "Normal" temperature and 30 minutes are selected automatically. These settings work well for this recipe, so there's no need to try to change any settings. If you've changed your settings for a prior recipe, reset to Normal Saute and 30 minutes.
Substitutions: Feel free to substitute half of the water with 3 cups of your favorite low-sodium vegetable or mushroom broth. Substituting all 6 cups of water with broth isn't recommended, though, as the soup will likely become too salty.
Additions: If desired, purée 2 cups of white beans with a half cup of water in a blender. Stir into the soup at the end to thicken.
Storage & Reheating: This recipe makes a fairly large batch and is great for healthy, one-pot meal prep. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, per your personal preference.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 235Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 328mgCarbohydrates: 50gNet Carbohydrates: 0gFiber: 10gSugar: 7gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 10g
Nutrition information is an estimate only, based on the recipe as written. Data was obtained through MyFitnessPal's recipe creator.
The Background and Science Behind these Ingredients
- Some vegetables are even healthier when cooked. Two such examples are carrots and celery.
- Mushrooms may increase immune system function and are amazing for breast and brain health.
- Mushrooms are powerful. They contain certain nutrients not found anywhere else, may improve immune system function, may reduce inflammation, and may improve anticancer function.
- Barley is a great source of fiber and resistant starch. Here’s an overview of resistant starch and its benefits. In brief, resistant starch improves gut health, enhances glycemic control, increases satiety, lowers cholesterol, reduces colon cancer risk, and prevents constipation.
- Fiber and resistant starch are important for colon cancer prevention.
What do you think?
Thanks so much for stopping by! If you make this recipe, then please leave a comment and rating. I would love to hear what you think and how it worked out for you!
Don’t forget to check out my other Instant Pot recipes as well!