Barley Soup

Barley is a grain sometimes overlooked when rice, corn and wheat are predominant. This soup is almost a stew. Though simple in preparation, the meat and vegetables make it a dish that is filling and satisfying.

18th Century

Put on three gills of barley, three quarts of water, a few onions cut up, six carrots, scraped and cut in dice, an equal quantity of turnips cut small: boil it gently two hours, then put in four or five pounds of the rack or neck of mutton, a few slices of lean ham, with pepper and salt; boil it slowly, two hours longer, and serve it up. Tomatas are an excellent addition to this soup.

Randolph, Mary. “The Virginia Housewife”

21st Century

  • ¾ cup barley, rinsed
  • 1½ quarts water
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, scraped and diced
  • 3 medium turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 ½ pounds lamb (or beef if desired) diced
  • ½ cup ham, diced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • One 14 oz. can large diced tomatoes
  1. Put water into large saucepan or dutch oven and add barley and diced meat. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Add diced onions, carrots, and turnips and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender.
  3. Add diced ham and tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes up to one hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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14 Responses to “Barley Soup”

  1. October 19th, 2012

    Karen G. says:

    I LOVE barley! This looks like a great vegetarian option. Thank you!

  2. October 19th, 2012

    J Bell says:

    Looks very good!

    I’d like to have the navy bean or hearty bean soup recipe that is served in the taverns, too. Please publish.

  3. October 19th, 2012

    Christine Hansley says:

    Hi Food Crew,

    This is just the soup I need for lunch on the weekends. Something filling but easy. I think besides beef, I might try chicken or cut up a small pork roast.

    I agree with J Bell. Please publish the navy bean soup recipe, along with other great autumn harvest soups.

    As always, thank you,

  4. October 22nd, 2012

    Scott Christley says:

    I am going to make this soon! We were in the Palace kitchen the day this was prepared, we have been waiting for the recipe! We will post a review after we have finished.

  5. October 25th, 2012

    Ellen Whitehouse says:

    This might seem like a silly request, but could someone please give me some guidelines as to how I would make this in a crockpot? For example, how long to cook, when to add which items (or can I put them all in at once), should I change any of the proportions listed, etc. Thanks!

    • October 25th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Although we don’t use a crock pot to cook anything, there is no reason it can’t be done. The reason that the meat and barley go in first is to make sure that they are cooked halfway through. If the carrots, turnips and onions are added at the same time they will be too mushy when the soup is finished, particularly with the temperatures we instruct you to use. The same goes for the tomatoes and ham (the ham should pre a pre-cooked piece that is cut up). When you do this in a crock pot it should be OK to cook it on a medium heat. You’ll have to check the tenderness of the vegetables and meat after a couple of hours and if they are done, you’ve got it. None of us have tried it in a crock pot so let us know how it turns out. Thanks much for the question.

      -Dennis Cotner

  6. November 9th, 2012

    William Pace says:

    When I’m feeling low or ill, this is one of my favorite comfort foods. Thank you for posting the recipe.

  7. January 5th, 2013

    Chrissy Staggs says:

    I had this soup (or one just like it) at the tavern over 5 years ago. It was the best tasting meal I ever ate! I absolutely LOVED this soup! I’m so glad i can finally enjoy it again! Thank you SO much!!!

  8. December 3rd, 2013

    Addey says:

    I’m making this tonight for my Cadet Girl Scout troop’s potluck as part of their “New Cousine” badge. (I’m the leader, one of the requirements was to cook a dish from another time period.) Unfortunately, I realized after I started that I only had 1/3 cup of barley on hand. Oops. So, about 20 minutes into the cooking I tossed in a half cup of brown rice. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully the brown rice won’t get over done and turn the whole thing into paste.

    Oh, and for the person asking about in the crock pot, put everything _but_ the barley in first and then about an hour before you want to serve it, add in the barley, or else you’ll end up with paste.

  9. December 10th, 2013

    Scott Christley says:

    Combined this recipe with my Mom’s beef vegetable soup recipe. Love the addition of the barley in the soup! The barley absorbed more liquid than I had expected, so had to add additional tomatoes and broth.

  10. December 21st, 2013

    Lani Tucker says:

    I love Barley. I use it like rice. It makes a great pudding. This would make a great meal or side dish. I would decrease the liquid so it would not be a soup.

  11. March 3rd, 2014

    I am wondering why you alter the amount of vegetables: 2 medium carrots instead of six, for instance. Are you basing this on what the size of vegetables from a home garden would be in that era or are you altering the receipt for modern tastes?

    Thanking you for this very interesting part of your website.

    • March 3rd, 2014

      Historic Foodways says:

      It is to compensate for larger modern vegetables. Feel free to increase this if you are using homegrown or smaller veggies. Just like our colonial counterparts, we as cooks should look on these as guides, not hard and fast rules.

      Melissa Blank

  12. September 21st, 2014

    Sharon Poniewaz says:

    I had the vegetable soup in the Museum Cafe today and it was WONDeERFUL. Thicker than usual vegetable soup. Is the recipe available?

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