Butternut & Barley Winter Soup (Vegan): Healthy Comfort Food for a Chilly Day


I’m all about soup right now. Because it’s cold.

Oblique and close up view of a vegan butternut squash soup in a white , ceramic bowl.

Like, really cold. (California cold.)

But really? Our heater broke on Wednesday morning. I mean broke with an explosion that set the fire alarm off and made the whole house smell like 60-year-old heater. It was awesome.

Fortunately, we have “house insurance” which we got when we bought our house. Supposedly if you break something, the insurance will send someone out and replace it! Not quite so. They sent someone out, that’s for sure.

Slices of Cremini mushrooms scattered on a white wooden table.

The poor guy was supposed to be at our house somewhere between noon and 5pm. But come 5 o’clock he was nowhere to be seen, so I called the company and they said he would be late. Two and a half hours later the guy shows up after having driving up and down the entire county fixing heaters. Talk about overbooking. I wanted to send him home to eat a nice meal with his family and have him come back tomorrow, but the company said no.

Top down view of a large and small white porcelain bowls full of vegan butternut and barley winter soup on a white painted tabletop.

So anyway, he fiddled with it until 9:00 pm (I had gotten in bed) and then emerged victorious in having fixed the damn thing.

Call me ungrateful, but I wanted a new one! I don’t want any more explosions! Is that too much to ask?

So now I’m waiting with bated breath every time I hear the heater start to come on. It’ll either tick tick tick poof as the pilot lights, or tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick KABOOM POW BAM as the house explodes. If I stop posting you’ll know what happened to me.

Top down view of a white porcelain bowl full of butternut and barley winter soup. A slice of half eaten bread sits on top of the rim of the bowl and a second slice of bread is near the bowl on a white painted wooden surface. A spoon also rests nearby.

So for the two days that I was home without a heater (we were out of town this weekend thank goodness!) it was freezing here. Down in the 20s, which doesn’t ever happen. I was wearing a blanket and down jacket inside the house. Wahhhh!

Top down view of a winter soup made with butternut squash and barley. Two white ceramic bowls full sitting on a white wooden surface.

Now that it’s fixed, I am really grateful to have a heater again. But I still want a new one. So I’m really hoping that it dies a nice quiet, peaceful death one of these days and refuses to be brought back to life. (if anyone knows how to secretly disable a heater call me up)

So while I was freezing my bum off, all I could think about was SOUP. Warm, steamy, beany, delicious soup. Ta da!

Close up and oblique view of a butternut and barley soup in a white, ceramic bowl.

I actually went to make this, chopped all the veggies and had no other options for dinner when I realized that I had no veggie broth. None! I wasn’t sure how this would turn out with just water and some vegetable bouillon paste, but it’s great. If you have veggie broth then go ahead and use that, but otherwise the bouillon works wonderfully.

This soup is vegetarian and vegan. It could also be made gluten free by substituting brown rice for the barley (use pre-cooked and just heat it at the end).

Top down view of a bowl of barley and butternut squash soup on a white, porcelain bowl on a white painted wooden surface. A spoon sits to the upper right.

Alright, that’s all from me. Go forth and be warm!

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Top down close up view of a butternut and barley winter soup recipe in a white, ceramic bowl.

Butternut & Barley Winter Soup (Vegan)

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x


This cozy vegetarian and vegan soup recipe is perfect for cold winter nights! Chock full off good-for-you veggies and delicious spices, this is a soup you’ll come back for time and again.


  • 1 Tbsp butter, vegan or otherwise (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon paste*
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 8 oz quick-cook barley (I buy the little packs at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp italian herbs
  • 2 Tbsp potato flour
  • 1/41/2 tsp salt


  1. Add the butter and oilve oil to a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery and sautee for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to release their juices.
  2. Add the butternut squash and the water and bring to a boil. Stir in the bouillon paste, then turn heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer until the butternut is almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pot, followed by the barley. Mix in the spices, then cover again and let simmer for 10 minutes, until the barley is tender.
  4. Take about 2 Tbsp of the soup broth and mix it in a small bowl with the potato flour – this is to avoid clumps. Add to the soup and stir in. Finally, taste to see if more salt is needed (hint – if it tastes bland then it needs more salt). Add salt bit by bit until the flavors really pop – you shouldn’t need much.
  5. Serve and enjoy!


You can sub the bouillon paste for 7 cups veggie broth.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Category: Soups and Stews
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Lunch and Dinnger

Did you try this recipe? Let us know how you liked it in the comments below and please rate it!

And if you loved this winter soup recipe, then you’ll love these other vegetarian ones, as well:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published December 3rd, 2016. Last updated: October 24, 2020 at 22:18 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

6 thoughts on “Butternut & Barley Winter Soup (Vegan): Healthy Comfort Food for a Chilly Day”

  1. What a hearty & comforting soup. Love the addition of barely, it’s not something that I cook with often so definitely inspired to use some now.

  2. How big of a serving size is the nutritional information calculated for? I am making this for dinner tonight and I also track my calories! Thanks!

  3. This soup is hearty and tasty too! I did not have leeks, but a yellow onion served just fine. I added bay leaf for flavor and more garlic and turmeric for added health benefit. I will add a handful of spinach or kale to my leftover bowls, then warm them up for even more nutrition. I love how much bang for a bowl you get with this recipe!

  4. Very good! Just made this soup, but with chicken broth instead of vegetable (didn’t have any). I am going to be sharing this with my grandparents, who don’t like a lot of cumin flavor, so I decided last minute to skip all the spices at the bottom starting with paprika and substituted Herbes de Provence (blend of rosemary, fennel, thyme, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano, lavender, chevril and marjoram). I also had fresh garlic, which makes such a difference. This soup is amazing. Definitely a keeper. I will be freezing the soup for them, so will likely need to add extra broth for the barley.


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