Potato Barley Soup is a hearty variation of classic potato soup made with barley, leeks, and nutrient-rich veggies. Rich and creamy, the soup comes together from scratch in a pinch and is perfect for winter weeknights.
I can’t seem to ever get enough soup when the cold weather rolls in. Chicken noodle soup and white chicken chili are a few of my comforting go-to’s, but when I’m craving something a little more nourishing, I turn to Potato Barley Soup. It’s creamy, dreamy, and packed with flavor!
This hearty soup has everything you love about traditional potato soup but has added nutrition from the barley. According to Healthline, this whole grain has a low glycemic index and is high in fiber. Just one bowl will fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied.
The best part? All it takes is 10 minutes of prep work and 30 minutes on the stove top. Served with crusty bread, it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of one-pot soup the whole family will LOVE.
- Each bowl is filled with nutrient-dense potatoes, veggies, and grains.
- It’s so flexible. Treat this recipe as a blank canvas and make your own variation of potato soup. You can also make it vegetarian!
- You get a ton of soup out of this recipe, meaning it’s perfect for serving a crowd or when you need leftovers for meal prep.
- Barley - Cooked barley has a soft, chewy texture and a delicate, nutty flavor. I like using pearled barley rather than pot barley because it doesn’t need to be soaked prior to cooking. No matter which variety you use, be sure to rinse the barley beforehand.
- Potatoes - Yukon gold potatoes are sturdy, buttery, and delicious in soups. Russet potatoes also work.
- Bacon - The bacon is optional. Classic potato soup has bacon, but it’ll taste just fine without it.
- Vegetables - I like soup with a lot of stuff in it. One of those layers of stuff is onions, carrots, and leeks. The leeks give the broth a deeper flavor, but you can use celery instead or a mix of both.
- Parsley - Fresh parsley enhances the comforting flavors and aromas of the rest of the ingredients. You can also use fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage.
- Chicken broth - Use regular chicken broth. I tested this recipe with regular chicken broth and low-sodium chicken broth, and the low-sodium version needed A LOT of added salt.
- Cream - You’ll use a combination of half and half and the milk of your choice (regular or dairy free) to achieve the creamy texture.
Step 1: Cook the barley. Bring the barley and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer until the barley is soft and tender.
Step 2: Cook the bacon. Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven. Transfer it to a plate and reserve the bacon grease in the pot.
Step 3: Saute the vegetables. Add the butter to the pot and, once melted, add the onion, carrots, leeks, and parsley. Once the vegetables are soft, add the potatoes, chicken broth, and salt.
Step 4: Let it simmer. Bring the soup up to a boil, then lower the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender.
Step 5: Add the cream, then blend. Now stir in the half and half and milk. Carefully transfer half of the soup to a blender and blend until creamy (an immersion blender will also work here).
Step 6: Stir in the rest, then serve. Pour the blended soup back into the pot. Add the barley and bacon. Give everything a good stir and enjoy!
Slow cooker instructions
If you’d rather set it and forget it, you can easily make this creamy vegetable barley soup in a slow cooker instead:
Step 1: Cook the barley and bacon as normal.
Step 2: Stir the chicken stock, potatoes, herbs, and veggies into your slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
Step 3: In the last 15-20 minutes, stir in the half and half and milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.
Step 4: Transfer half of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the bacon and barley, then serve!
Tips and FAQs
- Don’t skip the rinse! Make sure to rinse the barley under cool running water in a sieve to rinse away dust and debris.
- Craving a meatier soup? Cook ground Italian sausage in a pan on the side and then stir it into the soup with the bacon and barley.
- If you want to add more vegetables to your potato barley soup, feel free to add celery, winter squash, parsnip, turnip, or other root veggies. Leafy greens, like spinach or kale, can also be added at the end.
- If you’d prefer to use a different type of grain, you can replace the barley with farro, brown rice, or quinoa.
Does barley need to be soaked?
Pearled barley does not have to be pre-soaked before it’s used in vegetable barley soup. Pot barley, however, should be soaked overnight.
Do you have to cook barley before putting it in soup?
It’s recommended. Barley is super absorbent, which means you’ll need to add more liquid and cook the soup for longer if you were to cook the barley in with the soup. It’s much easier to cook it separately.
Can I make vegan barley soup?
This recipe has only been tested with milk products to achieve a rich and creamy consistency. Check out my vegan potato soup for a plant-based option.
How do I make vegetarian potato barley soup?
Modifying this recipe to be vegetarian is simple. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and omit the bacon.
- Refrigerator: After cooling, pour the leftover soup into an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat. If it’s too thick, add a splash of broth or water.
- Freezer: Not recommended. Potato soup made with dairy products doesn’t freeze well.
More hearty soup recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
Creamy Potato Barley Soup
- ¾ cup uncooked barley rinsed
- 1 ½ cups water
- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup yellow onion chopped
- 1 cup carrots chopped
- ¼ cup leeks chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- 3 yellow or russet potatoes peeled and diced
- 32 oz. chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup half and half
- Add the barley and water to a large saucepan; bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the barley is cooked.
- Add the bacon to a heavy-bottomed pot, like a dutch oven, and cook it; remove it with a slotted spoon and reserve the bacon grease.
- Add the butter to the same pot. Once it's melted, add the onion, carrot, leeks, and parsley and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft.
- Next, add the chopped potatoes, chicken broth and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the soup for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork.
- Pour in the half and half and milk and stir. Then, scoop HALF of the soup into a high powder blender and blend until smooth. Pour back into the pot, then add the cooked barley and bacon back in. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published in October 2016. It was updated with new text and photos in February 2022.