I’ve mentioned before that I could eat soup any time of the year, and I truly appreciate the fact that soup always makes great leftovers. Less time stressing over what to bring to work for lunch = happy and pleasant me.
However, when I made this Chickpea and Shiitake Mushroom Soup the other day, I almost had to hide the soup pot after Rob and I had a couple bowls: it was so good that it sure seemed that we were going to wolf down the whole pot and not leave any leftovers for the following day!
UPDATE July 2015: This recipe has been approved by Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts.org to be a part of his healthy plant-based recipe directory!
My parents used to make this hearty and delicious soup with rich cuts of lamb or beef back when I was a wee lass growing up in Russia. We called it kharcho (харчо in Russian) – if you Google it, it comes up as ‘Georgian lamb and rice soup’ (Georgia being the country in the Caucasus mountains, not the Southern US state).
I continued making this soup after I moved to the US long before Rob and I entertained any thoughts about going vegan. Rob absolutely loved this soup, and every pot of it never stayed around for too long in the fridge.
Then our vegan days came. Although I was excited to discover so many delicious new plant-based dishes, I kind of missed the rich flavor of kharcho every now and then. What I didn’t miss was all the fat from oil and rich cuts of meat that saturated this soup.
For a while, I was sure that recreating this rich flavor in a vegan way was an impossible feat, especially if I wanted to make it oil-free. (Why no oil in my recipes? See this post over here.) I kept trying though, and eventually this recipe was born!
Shiitake mushrooms make a great substitution for meat strips of the original recipe thanks to their chewy texture. You can use either fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms here. Dried shiitakes tend to run cheaper, so feel free to use those to save some money.
To make the soup even healthier, I topped each bowl with a generous handful of chopped fresh spinach.
Why adding spinach before serving the soup, and not when it’s still cooking? I find that spinach wilts very well when added to a piping hot broth, and adding it to the pot of soup while it’s in progress tends to overcook spinach. If you don’t want to top each bowl with fresh spinach, however, you’re welcome to stir it in right after you take the pot of soup off the heat.
Sprinkle each bowl with black pepper, chopped parsley or scallions, and you’ll get exactly the soup I grew up loving so much! Except for this time, it will be meat-free and much healthier.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2-3 celery stalks, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 5-7 dried shiitake mushrooms*
- 1 ½ cup fresh crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/3 cup brown rice or barley, uncooked
- 1/3 cup red lentils, uncooked (optional)
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste
- 8 cups of water or low sodium vegetable broth, plus more for sautéing vegetables
- 1-2 cubes low sodium veggie bouillon (optional, best when using water instead of broth), or substitute with 1-2 Tbsp of low sodium soy sauce/tamari
- Handful of fresh spinach or arugula, roughly chopped, to serve**
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tsp fresh)
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp paprika
- Dash cayenne pepper
- In a small bowl, pour boiling water over shiitake mushrooms, set aside to soak for 10-15 minutes or up to 1 hour. For best results, place a small saucer or a lid on top of the mushrooms to submerge them deeper.
- Sautée diced onion, celery and carrots in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot with 1-2 Tbsp of water/broth or oil until the vegetables become slightly translucent, 3-5 min. Add minced garlic, sautée 30 seconds longer. Add sliced crimini mushrooms, cook 2-3 min. Mix in tomato paste; stir the mixture until the paste is well incorporated. Add rinsed brown rice or barley and lentils, if using. Add all of the spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 min.
- Meanwhile, slice the soaked shiitake mushrooms into 1/4 inch thick strips. Add them to the soup pot along with drained and rinsed chickpeas. Pour the water or broth over the mixture. The soup will look a little thin at this time because the rice/barley and lentils will expand a lot during cooking. If your soup mixture looks thick, add more water. You can also add the water from soaking the shiitake mushrooms, being careful to hold back the dirty particles from the bottom of the soaking bowl. Add the bouillon cubes/low sodium soy sauce, if using.
- Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15-17 minutes. The soup is done when the rice/barley is soft, and the potatoes can be easily split in half. Adjust the seasoning to your taste, take the soup off the heat, and let sit for 10 min before serving.
- Serve topped with chopped spinach or arugula** and/or parsley if desired.
*I prefer using dried shiitake mushrooms because they have a chewier texture once cooked, plus they are more affordable than fresh shiitake, and have a long shelf life.
*I find that hot soup broth does a good job wilting fresh spinach/arugula, that’s why I suggest using it when serving the soup. Alternatively, you can add the greens to the soup just before taking it off the heat in step 4.
Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick Covered Stockpot with Locking Straining Lid, 6-Quart, Gray
Better than Bouillon Vegetarian No Beef Base, No Chicken Base, Premium Seasoned Vegetable Base, 8 oz Jars (Variety 3 Pack)
Organic Dried Shiitake Mushrooms Extra Thick (1 LB.)
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 387 Total Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 552mg Carbohydrates: 76g Fiber: 18g Sugar: 10g Protein: 18g