Today’s vegan mushroom barley soup recipe has quickly become one of our family’s favorite soup recipes. It’s hearty and filling, entirely plant-based, oil free, kid friendly (my toddler eats every last spoonful!), and better yet, it can be made both in the Instant Pot and on stovetop.
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.
I’ve always been a fan of chunky vegan soups because they make a full meal in one bowl. This soup is quite different from traditional creamy mushroom soups popular in the US because it has a tomato base with the additional ingredients like chickpeas, barley, and spinach.
Whenever I make this vegan mushroom soup recipe, I almost have to hide the soup pot after Rob and I have a couple bowls 🙂 This chunky mushroom soup is so good that we would gladly wolf down the whole pot and not leave any leftovers for the following day!
I’ve made different variations of this soup in the past months, but it all started as an attempt to recreate one of my favorite soups form my childhood.
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. (See why I prefer to cook with no oil over here.) I kept trying though, and eventually this recipe was born!
The combination of tomato paste-based broth, mushrooms, chickpeas and rice gives this soup the exact richness I was looking for, no oil or added fat needed.
To make the soup even healthier, I top 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.
More Vegan Instant Pot Recipes to Try:
- Vegan Instant Pot lentil soup with spinach;
- Easy vegan Instant Pot Jambalaya;
- Vegan Zuppa Toscana Instant Pot soup;
- Southern-style vegan black eyed peas in the Instant Pot;
- Healthy vegan Instant Pot minestrone.
What kind of mushrooms are used in this vegan mushroom barley soup?
I use sliced shiitake mushrooms in my vegan mushroom barley soup, but cremini mushrooms will work as well. Shiitake mushrooms make a great substitution for meat strips in the traditional meat-based version of this soup 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.
UPDATE March 2021: I recently ran out of all shiitake mushrooms and made this soup with sliced fresh cremini mushrooms. It worked out perfect! Feel free to use cremini (a.k.a. baby Bella) mushrooms instead of shiitakes here.
Can I use other types of greens in this mushroom barley soup?
Of course! I often use chopped kale in this recipe in place of spinach. The only difference in preparation is that kale needs to be added about 5 minutes before the soup is done, not right at the end of cooking as spinach does.
Can I use another type of beans in this vegan mushroom barley soup recipe?
Yes. Sturdier beans like kidney beans will work best because they keep their shape better, but cannellini or Great Northern beans can be used as well as long as you add them closer to the end.
For clarification, I’m talking about cooked or canned and rinsed beans, not uncooked dried beans.
Is vegan mushroom barley soup kid friendly?
Yes! I can’t vouch for all kids, but my 2 year old toddler eats every last bit in her bowl. It didn’t start that way – at first she only picked out potatoes and chickpeas, but now it’s one of her all-time favorites.
See other kid friendly vegan recipes from the blog that my toddler has approved.
Recently I adapted this recipe for the Instant Pot, and I have to say that this soup comes out even more delicious when pressure cooked! The recipe card below includes both Instant Pot and stovetop directions.
In case you have an Instant Pot but don’t feel very confident cooking in it yet, see my easy-to-follow 5-step guide to using an Instant Pot for beginners.
Hope you enjoy my vegan mushroom barley soup with spinach and chickpeas!
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