A warming, filling vegan soup to bring you gently into the new year! This golden lentil barley soup is a house favorite because it’s so easy to make, soothing, and nutritious.
I’ve scheduled this post in advance, and as you are reading it, I’m taking a planned break from the internet, social media and this website. I’ll be back on the grid on January 1st, so I will respond to any questions or comments at that time. Thanks for understanding! I feel a lot better kicking off the new year with some time to myself.
I don’t have any specific resolutions this year. As usual, I’d love to eat healthier, exercise even more, change my furnace filter on time, be more perfect, etc. But looking back on 2016 it went pretty damn well. The usual suspects made appearances: laughter; tears; joy; loneliness; achievements and setbacks in my career and personal life; a bit of travel; lots of good food and a thankful few kitchen disasters. But I bought a house! Learned a lot at work. And met a really great person. I’ve no clue where I’m heading in 2017, but I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve been kind of a rice fiend for the past year or so, centering many of my easy weeknight meals around it. Lately I’ve tried to make myself branch out to other grains more again. My golden lentil barley soup uses one that I have always been really fond of, but for some reason, rarely use: pearl barley. The chewy texture and slightly malty flavor are amazing. If you want to make this gluten-free, the best substitute would be (perhaps ironically) rice.
This golden lentil barley soup is very gently spiced. You can add more or different spices to your taste. I chose to keep it simple here to let the wholesome lentil, barley and turmeric flavors shine. Also, I used fresh turmeric, which has been popping up more and more in stores in my area recently (sweet!). You can substitute ground, but I urge you to use fresh if you can find it. The difference is like the difference between fresh and ground ginger: ground ginger is great, but fresh ginger is a little bit magical.
Also, I should mention that my original inspiration for this recipe was the barley and creamy lentil soup I got at Au Bon Pain in JFK airport during a layover. It was the only decent vegan option I could find but it was a good one! JFK is seriously disappointing when it comes to vegan food, your options are mostly either junk food or cost $15. A 15-minute walk finally got me to Au Bon Pain who thankfully warmed my heart with some really quite tasty soup, labeled vegan so that this weary traveler didn’t have to inquire with anyone about it :). I liked the idea of adding tomato paste instead of fresh or canned chopped tomatoes, which take time to cook down but can’t be added until the lentils are already fully cooked. (The acid in the tomatoes causes legumes’ skins to seize up and prevents them from getting tender. I actually see many recipes online making this mistake!)
I had mine with a generous side of crispy roasted cauliflower. Texture, I tell ya! If you give this golden lentil and barley soup a try, let me know! It’s a great soup for staying both healthy and warm during this darkest time of the year. 🙂
Golden Lentil Barley Soup
- 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or refined coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch ginger root minced or grated
- 1 inch fresh turmeric root minced or grated (or use 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)
- 2 carrots peeled and diced or thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin heaping
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander heaping
- 4 and 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3/4 cups dry red lentils rinsed
- 1/2 cup dry pearl barley rinsed several times in hot water
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp salt scant (plus more to taste)
- ground black pepper to taste (I used just a pinch)
- 3 cups loosely-packed fresh baby spinach leaves (or more, if you like - up to 6 ounces)
- (optional) fresh lemon juice, for serving
Warm the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and saute until translucent, stirring occasionally; 3-5 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger, and fresh turmeric (if using), stir, and cook for another about 60 seconds or until softened and fragrant.
Stir in the carrot, ground turmeric (if using), ground cumin, and ground coriander. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the spices are fragrant and the carrot softened slightly.
Add the vegetable broth, red lentils, and pearl barley to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils and barley are both cooked through.
Stir in the tomato paste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir in the spinach, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Remove after 2-3 minutes, or when the spinach is wilted to your preference.
Serve hot, with a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice if desired.
Seriously, do a really good job of rinsing the barley. I rinse mine by putting it in a bowl, filling the bowl with hot water, using my hands to agitate the barley and loosen the starches on the exterior, tipping out most of the water, and repeating this process 4 or 5 times. If you don't rinse well, you could end up with slimy barley and/or a glue-like consistency to your soup. Nobody wants that.
Other lentil recipes from the blog: