Mushroom Barley Soup

Holy Supper is a generation to generation tradition passed down in the Eastern Orthodox and Ukrainian culture. It’s traditionally a twelve course meal of cultural dishes that are shared and consumed family style on the first star of Christmas Eve. The man of the household leads in prayer. Verses 2:1-12 in the Gospel of Matthew are read usually by a child. And an extra place setting is set – for Christ, to commemorate a loved one or for a passing stranger because all are remembered and no one is turned away on this evening. 

As my husband and I are Julian Orthodox, we have celebrated our Christmas this past weekend. On the Julian calendar, feast days are thirteen days later than they appear on the Gregorian calendar. 

As I grew older, I began to anticipate and lool forward to the Holy Supper tradition as one of my favorite aspects of the season. I always held a fascination and an interest with food and what and why other cultures eat like that. My favorite dish from Holy Supper in particular was the mushroom barley soup. This was my father’s contribution. My father is not Orthodox and no longer attends church but has always respected my mother’s traditions. That’s one of the reasons I had a soft spot for his mushroom barley soup. My family would put out several soups that night every year, but the cream of mushroom soup was my favorite out of all them.

For awhile, I didn’t want to know he did it because that I feel that would have had spoil things for me, I don’t know.  As I  got into a serious relationship, I would have had to know so I could make it for my own family. 

It was really a cream of mushroom soup from Campbell’s soup cans along with quality fresh mushrooms and butter. Even without the barley, the soup was still good. 

As I adopted a plant based diet in recent years, my recipe would be different but I was still positive. Mushrooms have a meat like texture and combined with a little coconut oil and vegan butter, can be quite savory too. Add in barley for texture. I also added sliced carrots and celery for a more hearty soup. I usually like to make a big pot of it so it lasts and lasts into the week, a cozy comfort for snow days and Jack Frost’s wind chills which is why you don’t want to miss the rosemary to stave away the sniffles!

Mushroom Barley Soup

Barley contains a high source of fiber and antioxidants. It also is helpful at reducing cholesterol. It is not gluten free.  

Rosemary is an herb that can be potted and grown. It’s consumed for antibacterial and antifungal benefits. 


  • 3 qts (12 cups) low sodium vegetable stock 
  • 3 cups cooked barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 package of cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup organic, extra virgin coconut oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery, including leaves
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • sea salt and pepper 
  • Rosemary garnish 


1. Pour stock into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, add the bay leaves, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered. Set your timer for 2:15 (2 hours 15 minutes) starting now.

2. While the soup simmers, place dried mushrooms in a separate small saucepan. Add 3 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove saucepan from heat and let the mushrooms soak for 20 mins.

3. Drain the mushroom water by straining it through a coffee filter (use a mesh strainer or colander to hold the filter). Reserve the mushroom water.

4. Chop the soaked, softened mushrooms into small pieces and reserve. 

5. Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened. 

6. Add the celery and carrots and day he for 5 minutes until they begin to carmelize or turn brown.

7. Add the soaked chopped dried mushroom pieces and crushed garlic, sauté for 2 minutes.

8. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the strained mushroom broth into the skillet, bring to a boil, stir. Cook for 2 more minutes till mixture is hot and bubbly. Add the contents of the skillet to the simmering stockpot with the broth and barley.

Garnish or add in rosemary. 


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