Mushroom barley soup is thick and creamy and makes a satisfying meal with crusty bread. This classic Jewish deli soup is hearty and delicious!
the history of mushroom barley soup
The macro history of mushroom barley soup has its roots in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine stretching back to nineteenth century Eastern Europe. Like chicken soup and matzo ball soup, mushroom barley (krupnik) is one of the beloved recipes that came over with Jewish immigrants and found its way into Jewish delis in New York and eventually all over the country. My own history with the soup goes back to the Gold Lake Deli in Larchmont New York (no longer there!) where my mom would take me and my sisters every Thursday night after piano lessons. You could find everything from a $1 cream cheese and jelly to monster triple decker pastrami, salami, and corned beef sandwiches on their menu. But for me it was all about that steaming bowl of mushroom barley soup. It (almost) made the piano lessons worth it.
what you’ll need for mushroom barley soup
- fresh and dried mushrooms
- using dried mushrooms along with fresh gives an extra layer of flavor and texture to the soup. Definitely add their soaking liquid to the pot!
- we’ll cook the barley separately and add it to the soup later. It will naturally thicken the soup and has a wonderful chewy texture.
- shallots are the onion element in this soup. I use 2 large shallots and finely mince them. Use onions instead if you like, but shallots are much better.
- celery adds a nice crunch to the soup. I chop it finely and I don’t over cook it.
- chicken stock or veggie stock
- a good chicken stock is my preference, but if you want a vegetarian soup, get yourself some nice mushroom stock which is widely available in supermarkets these days.
- cream or half and half
- this is a rich soup. If you want to cut the fat, you might use evaporated milk, which is lower fat but still creamy.
- it adds wonderful background flavor and the small amount of alcohol mostly cooks off. Dry white wine will also work. If you don’t want alcohol just leave it out.
- a flour and water slurry thickens this soup, but you can actually leave it out if you like, the barley thickens the soup on its own.
- a wonderful fall-leaning herb that doubles down on the earthy flavors in this soup.
- Worcestershire sauce
- a magic pop of umami that seems to wake up so many foods.
- salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese
make ahead tips for mushroom barley soup
The flavors in creamy soups like mushroom barley and my wild rice soup get even better overnight. The issue with this one is that it will thicken considerably due to the barley. You will need to thin it down as you reheat it, or enjoy it with a fork!
more mushroom recipes to try
- Mushroom Carbonara with Gruyere and Hazelnuts
- Beer Battered Fried Mushrooms
- Chopped Steak with Bacon and Mushroom Gravy
- Creamy Chicken with Wild Rice and Mushrooms
- Cooking with Mushrooms
- Warm Hummus with Mushrooms
Mushroom Barley Soup
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 large shallots, minced, about a cup.
- 1 cup finely sliced inner celery stalks (and leaves)
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/4 cup flour
- 48 ounces chicken stock or vegetable broth
- a sprig of fresh sage leaves
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup half and half or heavy cream (evaporated milk or cashew cream can also be used.)
- Put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl or jar and pour boiling water over them to cover. Stir well, and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain and rough chop the mushrooms and set aside. Note: the soaking water is full of flavor and can be added to the soup, but first you must remove any sediment. The best way to do this is to strain the liquid through a filter like a coffee filter which will trap the fine sediment.
- While the mushrooms are soaking bring a pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. When the water boils add the barley and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the barley is tender but not mushy. Drain.
- While the barley is cooking brush any dirt from the fresh mushrooms. Trim the stem ends and chop half of the quantity of mushrooms. Thinly slice the remaining half. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot and saute the shallots and celery for a couple of minutes. Add the fresh and dried mushrooms to the pot and sauté everything for about 10 minutes, stirring often, while the mushrooms lose their moisture and brown a bit.
- Add the sherry to the pan and let it bubble to evaporate for a minute or two.
- Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir to cook briefly.
- Slowly add the chicken stock to the pan, along with the fresh sage, stirring as you add it. Bring the stock up to a simmer, stirring often as it heats and thickens slightly. Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Add the barley to the pan, along with the cream. Mix everything together. Let simmer, partially covered, for several minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
- Taste to adjust the seasonings and then serve with a shower of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more fresh cracked black pepper.