This hearty bean and barley soup tastes like it has simmered for hours, but actually it's quite quick to throw together. Plus this recipe for healthy bean and barley soup freezes beautifully. If you have cooked barley on hand, omit the quick-cooking barley and stir in 1 1/2 cups cooked barley along with the broth in Step 2.

David Bonom
Source: EatingWell Magazine, Soup Cookbook


Recipe Summary

45 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, and basil; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

  • Mash 1/2 cup of the beans. Stir the mashed and whole beans, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese and pepper.


To make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Nutrition Facts

333 calories; protein 13.4g 27% DV; carbohydrates 54.7g 18% DV; exchange other carbs 3.5; dietary fiber 11.9g 48% DV; sugars 10.7g; fat 7.8g 12% DV; saturated fat 1.5g 8% DV; cholesterol 4.3mg 1% DV; vitamin a iu 1919.5IU 38% DV; vitamin c 37.3mg 62% DV; folate 24.4mcg 6% DV; calcium 182.6mg 18% DV; iron 3.5mg 19% DV; magnesium 92.4mg 33% DV; potassium 832.3mg 23% DV; sodium 618.7mg 25% DV; thiamin 0.1mg 7% DV.

Reviews (18)

Read More Reviews
18 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 8
  • 4 star values: 9
  • 3 star values: 1
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
Made it exactly as described and it was delicious. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
This is a good hearty recipe. I didn't change a thing and it was great! Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Easy and delicious! I was skeptical of the fennel bulb having never cooked with it before and especially since it smelled like vile black licorice. But 99% of the smell and taste cooked off - zero licorice taste. It's a nice crunchy alternative to celery. The consistency came out similar to the onion. I'm not one for a lot of prep and this soup fit the bill. All there was to chop was onion and fennel bulb. Next time I will definitely chop up the baby spinach because it clumps a bit. Between the barley and the mashed beans this was very filling as a main dish. Tasty! I got 5.5 servings - filled up five 2.5oz square Ziploc lunch containers and had a smallish bowl left over. Pros: Not much prep work keeps well freezes well Cons: makes a ton Read More
Rating: 4 stars
I loved this soup. What a gem of a recipe! We accidentally got fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis so I made a southwestern rendition of the soup with chili powder ancho chili powder and cumin. I also just used an immersion blender at the end to puree part of the soup before adding the greens and that worked great - the soup was quite thick. What a nutritional bargain for 2 1/2 cups serving size and 323 calories! I prefer kale to spinach - I think spinach tastes kind of slimy in soups but that's just me. This recipe is going into our regular rotation. Pros: Easy to prepare quick to pull together filling. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Hearty bean soup Very good. Made a nice hearty winter stoop as it was pretty thick. I love soups and this is a keeper. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Very Good Snow Storm Food! Michigan like most of the Mid-West got hid with a pretty bad snow storm so I wanted a recipe I could make from things already in my pantry so I had to substitute some ingredients. This is a very hearty soup mine turned out more stew like so it was like a steoup! I did not have a fennel bulb so I used dried fennel seeds (approx 1tbs) I had regular frozen spinach in my freezer so I just used that and It turned out very nice. My husband loved this and it is keeping us warm while we wait out the storm! Pros: Very hearty easy stores well. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Filling and Hearty! This soup was so good! Came together quick and easy and smelled wonderful while cooking. The mashed beans and Parmesan cheese thickened it up nicely great great soup....will be making this again for the chilly winter! Pros: Handy ingredients Cons: none! Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Delicious! Loved this filling soup! Found 10-minute barley at Trader Joe's and also used Trader Joe's vegetable broth and added water to make it 6 cups. The fire roasted tomatoes are a must! Gives it a nice spicy taste. The leftovers tasted better the next day. I think next time I'll make it a day in advance so the flavors will meld. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
One of the BEST soups I've made this year! I LOVE this soup! It's soooo flavorful and healthy. I make this soup for lunch and just add a salad and I'm good to go. Pros: Flavor very healthy Cons: None Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Quick healthy and YUMMY! I made this sup just now and it is really great! Few changes I made: I used cup or so of leftover cooked brown rice so omitted a couple steps there; added one small finely diced jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed) when I added the garlic; used one box low-sodium vegetable stock no other liquids other than the juice in the fire-roasted diced tomatoes; did not mash the beans so less liquid was necessary. One tip though - coarsely chop your spinach or it will be kinda stringy - not fun. Next time I will use chopped kale for more flavor and substance and also quinoa instead of barley for the health benefits and added protein and chew texture. LOVE IT! Pros: Quick easy very very tasty with my modifications! Cons: None! Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Tasty and Easy This made a lot. Hubby and I had a bowl and there were 6 lunch containers leftover! When I make this again I will use kale instead of spinach. I prefer spinach less wilted so kale would be better I think. I also will substitute quinoa for the barley just for the nutrition. My only criticism is that it will leave a half box of stock which doesn't keep long once open. To avoid that I used one box of stock and 2 cups of water. It was still very good. Pros: tasty easy big servings healthy Cons: 1.5 boxes of veggie stock Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Tasty and so easy! I was very pleasantly surprised with how this soup turned out. Based upon a few of the reviews I read I did make a few adjustments but overall it was great. I used about half a small can of tomato paste to thicken the brought. I also used chicken stock instead of veggie. And last I added some seared sliced Italian chicken sausage to boost the protein content. I was so impressed with how easy tasty and filling this recipe was. Pros: Simple quick one-pot Read More
Rating: 3 stars
Good Vegetarian option The soup was good. Not outstanding. I like the healthy factor to it and enjoyed the spinach and cheese added. The one thing I would change would be to add a couple tbls of tomato paste to the broth to up the umph factor. Pros: Easy to make Cons: Broth needed more body Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Best Bean Soup This soup was way over the top. I was wary of the amount of onion and garlic but don't skimp on those. The fennel really worked to add flavor too. Hubby said this is a keeper and that's a real compliment from him. I paired this with the open face tuna melts. Made a delicious meal although we agreed the soup was so filling we didn't need the sandwich. Pros: Fast and Easy Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Easy & Delish! I've been dying to make this soup since my Jan/Feb issue came. Looked at the reviews posted before making it today. Always helpful so I'm posting mine. This soup was super easy and it is full of flavor. I did not use the full 5 cloves of garlic- that seemed like a lot. I found diced tomatoes with chipotle and used those to add a bit more spice. I like beans so added a can of chili beans with sauce too. My fave part is the fennel! haven't cooked much with it so was wary. It is so refreshingly different than celery as an aromatic. Love it! I did make it with the spinach but I agree- kale or chard would be just as good. Pros: easy freezes well filling Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Winter vegetable delight! I made this soup tonight but substituted swiss chard for the spinach because that is what I had on hand. Also did not have fire roasted tomatoes so I used regular ones. It was great and very filling. I think you could probably use Kale or any other greens you have on hand. I especially appreciate that it is low sodium. Hard to find good soup recipes that don't use tons of salt. Pros: Easy and Flexible recipe Cons: none Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Made this soup today it was fantastic! The only thing I added was a parmesan cheese rind that bumped up the cheese flavor.I loved the texture flavor and ease of putting it together. Pros: Easy to make flavor was great. Cons: Can't think of any Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Hearty but lacking We made this soup tonight during a winter storm. It was good and very filling. However it lacked real flavor. I just wanted to slam it with some chili powder or something. I will say that I have 2 picky vegetarians in my home and they enjoyed it. Pros: Hearty great ingredients easy to make Cons: less flavorful than hoped for Read More