Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Barley Soup

Caramelized-Onion,-Barley-&-Mushroom-SoupI’m struggling to come up with something to write about this soup.  What can I say about its warming, comfort food qualities that I haven’t said about most of the dishes I’ve shared here in the past 6 months?

Arg.  What I actually want to say is that it’s still very much in the thick of winter and I’m hitting that wall where I cannot, cannot, cannot tolerate another cold day or another snowstorm.  I’m feeling dull, gloomy, and uninspired.

But I won’t let us wallow in our late winter depression, instead we can wallow in a(nother) great big pot of soup.  And despite my rather sad sounding introduction, this soup is really good!  It’s hearty, the kind of soup that’s a whole meal in a bowl.  It’s full of caramelized onions with lots of barley and chunky slices of mushroom.  The brothy caramelized onions are reminiscent of my beloved French onion soup, but the lack of cheese croutons makes me believe eating it will help me feel better about myself once I do finally emerge from my 3 layers of bulky sweaters and long underwear.  Which is going to happen some day soon, right?  

Just.  Say.  Right.

Ready to cook?  Winter soup, take 12  30 46.

Onions,-Mushrooms,-Barley,-CeleryStart out by slicing up a few big onions.  This is a task that would have induced tears streaming down my face a few short months ago.  Not anymore!  A reader suggested I toss my onions in the freezer for a few minutes before slicing them and, I’ve got to say, it works like a charm!  


It’s going to look like a lot of onions at first (and it is!), but we’re going to exercise our patience and let them slowly wilt down and caramelize until it looks like a more reasonable amount.

Caramelizing-OnionsOnce the onions have gotten where you want them, scoot them to one side of the pan and add the mushrooms to the empty spot.  Let the mushrooms get a little color then add a few dabs of tomato paste and stir it all together.Caramelized-Onions,-Mushrooms

Now add some stock, chopped celery, and a couple of handfuls of barley.  Bring to a boil then simmer until the grains are tender and you’re stomach’s rumbling.

Mushroom,-Caramelized-Onion-&-Barley-SoupAnd there you go: another good winter soup.  It’s probably not the last of the season, either.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Barley Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This stick-to-your-ribs soup is perfect for a cold winter day.
Recipe type: Soup, Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Winter, Vegetarian, Vegan
Serves: 6-8
  • 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
  • 3 large Yellow Onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • 8 oz. Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 3 bushy sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 6 c. Vegetable or Chicken Stock
  • 1 c. Pearl Barley
  • 2 stalks Celery, sliced
  • Parmesan Cheese, optional
  1. Heat about 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and let them slowly cook down over medium-low heat until they are golden and almost sticky, about an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, place the dried porcini in a small bowl and pour ½ c. of boiling water over them. Allow to soak for half of an hour, then remove and roughly chop, reserving the soaking liquid.
  3. After the onions have caramelized, move them to one side of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add a Tbsp. of olive oil to the empty side of the pan. Add the cremini mushrooms to the empty space and sauté briefly until they take on a little color, about 2 minutes. Toss the onions a couple of times so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Season the mushroom and onions, then drop in the tomato paste, porcini mushrooms, and thyme and stir to incorporate.
  4. Add the stock, porcini soaking water, barley, and celery and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the barley is tender, 25-30 minutes. Taste. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt, as needed. Remove the thyme branches. Divide between soup bowls and garnish with grated parmesan or parmesan curls, if desired. The soup keeps well for several days though the barley will continue to soak up the broth and become more porridge-like as time goes by.



  1. pam says

    Just printed it – will be making this soon! You are a lifesaver this winter with all of your very inspired warming soups and other great recipes – thank you!!!!

  2. Jessica says

    This was the best meal I have ever cooked. I made it on Sunday and have eaten it for dinner ever since. It tastes better each day! I’m tired of winter too, but this soup is making me appreciate the last stretch of soup weather! Thank you! Your recipes are inspiring me to be a cook!


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