This thick rich Pumpkin Barley Soup is so good and filled with good for you things like vegetables, grains, and lots of great fall flavors. It’s a perfect bowl of comfort food!
As cooler weather and shorter days set in, turn to this cozy fall soup recipe. Pumpkin and thyme lend flavors of the season to the easy soup recipe while barley adds a hearty quality that the whole family will enjoy.
And this would be a perfect meal to serve for Halloween before you take the kids out trick or treating.
I originally posted this recipe in 2010. I found the autumn barley soup recipe in Better Homes and Gardens magazine and made lots of changes to it then. I’ve updated it even more here with new pictures, information, and updates to the recipe itself.
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What is barley
Barley is, globally, one of the largest grain crops, after wheat, rice, and corn.
It’s a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially used in beer making.
Cooked barley has a nice nutty flavor with a chewy texture. It’s similar to other grains like brown rice and farro, and can be used as a substitution for those grains as well.
And, it’s often used in breads, soups, and stews.
It turns out that Pearl Barley is not a whole grain.
That’s because the husk and the outer bran layer have been removed from pearled barley, and the grain has been polished.
Don’t worry though, it’s still nutritious, and much healthier than other reﬁned grains because some of the bran may still be present in the pearled barley. In addition, the ﬁber in barley is distributed throughout the kernel, and not just in the outer bran layer like some other grains.
If you want a whole grain, you’d look for Hulled barley, which just has the indigestible outer husk removed. Be sure to adjust this soup recipe as necessary.
Quick cooking barley
Most of what I see at the grocery lately is quick cooking barley.
Quick barley cooks in about 10 minutes because it has been partially pre-cooked and dried, kind of like the processing they do to minute rice.
No, you don’t need to soak barley to cook it in this soup recipe. Cooking the barley in the soup helps thicken the soup, and it helps flavor the barley. A win-win!
Both regular pearl barley and quick cook barley can be cooked right in this soup with the other ingredients.
Answering the question, “Can you add uncooked pearl barley to soup?” with a resounding yes, add the uncooked barley right to the soup.
No need to add additional steps to make this easy soup.
Can you overcook barley?
Yes, you can overcook barley.
If you cooked it for a really long time it would start to disintegrate into the soup.
Of course, that would thicken the barley pumpkin soup and make it kind of creamy. But, if you follow the directions on the recipe, you won’t have to worry about overcooking it.
How to make this
This soup is really easy and comes together in not time. Be sure to scroll down to the printable recipe card for full ingredient amounts and instructions.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until onion begins to brown, about 20 minutes.
Toss in sausage and thyme, cook for 5 minutes to heat through.
Add broth and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 20 minutes for pearl barley or 10 minutes for quick cooking barley or until barley is al dente.
Stir in pumpkin, maple syrup, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Heat through, about 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if needed. Serve hot garnished with thyme sprigs.
Others changes you can try
I made this vegetarian pumpkin and barley soup by using plant-based links. The Tofurky Kielbasa is my favorite.
Of course, you can use any kind of sausage you and your family like. Make it meaty sausage and barley soup by using regular kielbasa, maple chicken sausage, or pork sausage.
This soup would also be great with some white beans stirred in; just add a can of drained and rinsed (affiliate link) Great Northern White Beans when you add the pumpkin.
Add mushrooms, carrots, and celery for a delicious barley vegetable soup.
Thicken the soup up a little more and give it a tomato flavor with a spoonful or two of tomato paste.
Make a delicious beef barley soup recipe by adding some shredded beef to the pot.
Change up the herbs or add more. Sage is such a delicious fall flavor, try adding some here for a pumpkin sage soup.
You could garnish the soup with some blue cheese crumbles as well.
Which oil should I choose?
You may notice I used “vegetable oil” to sauté the onions.
It sounds so generic.
Olive oil will work nicely. I’ve also been using grapeseed oil lately.
I’ve tried to eliminate much of the canola oil from our diet due to the fact that the majority of canola oil is a GMO. However, if you can get organic canola oil, it should be GMO free.
Basically, use your favorite vegetable-based oil to start the cooking for this pumpkin and pearl barley soup.
More fall soups
I look forward to fall soups all year!
Keep any leftover barley soup in an airtight container, and it’ll last about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
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Pumpkin Barley Soup Recipe
Pumpkin Barley Soup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 14 ounces sausages cut in half lengthwise, and chopped in 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup pearl barley uncooked
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a Dutch-oven or 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until onion begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Add in sausage and thyme, cook for 5 minutes to heat through.
- Add broth and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 20 minutes for pearl barley or 10 minutes for quick cooking barley or until barley is al dente.
- Stir in pumpkin, maple syrup, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Heat through, about 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if needed. Serve hot garnished with thyme sprigs.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.