Lentil Barley Soup (With or Without Meat)

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Learn how to make hearty lentil barley soup with or without meat. Get the easy steps to make a creamy, hearty, thick lentil barley soup with a beef recipe option and a vegetarian recipe option. Cook the lentil barley split pea soup the quick way on the stovetop or let it simmer and thicken in the crock pot for hours. The ingredients are simple, budget-friendly, and the results are delicious. Ready to make the easiest, best lentil barley soup ever? Let’s get started!

easy barley lentil split pea soup

My Lentil Barley Soup Backstory

This recipe came to me from one of my dear sisters-in-law, who is a whiz at whipping up simple meals to feed her family. I adjusted the ingredients to feed a larger crowd and adapted it for the slow cooker, then added it to our easy, budget-friendly family meal rotation. It’s now a family favorite.

Equipment for Lentil Barley Soup

The equipment needed for lentil barley soup is very basic. You may already have all that you need on hand.

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1 6-quart stock pot

1 Wooden spoon for stirring

Measuring cups and spoons

1 Large ladle

Ingredients for Lentil Barley Soup

1 pound ground beef (You can also add chopped-up leftover cooked link sausage or ham, as you can see I did in the photo below.)

3 tablespoons dried minced onion

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried celery flakes

4 teaspoons instant beef bouillon or 4 beef bouillon cubes (more or less to taste)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup dried lentils

1/2 barley

1/2 cup rice

1/2 dried split peas

10 cups water

1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Shredded cheese for topping (optional)

This lentil barley soup recipe serves 8.

lentil barley soup in the crock pot

Directions for Lentil Barley Soup

Brown the ground beef in the stock pot. Drain off excess fat.

Add the rest of the ingredients except for the tomato sauce.

Bring to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste, heat through, and serve. This lentil barley soup recipe makes 8 servings at 155 calories per serving.

Crock Pot Lentil Barley Soup

Brown the ground beef, then add it and all the other ingredients to the crock pot. Let the lentil barley soup cook on low for 6-8 hours. If the soup thickens too much, you can add extra water and more beef bouillon for flavor if needed. I like making the crock pot version because I can dump everything in, turn on the crock pot, and leave it alone to do its thing until dinnertime.

lentil barley soup ingredients

Shortcut Lentil Barley Soup

The easiest way I know to speed up a recipe is to pre-cook the meat. I like to cook ground beef in big batches along with chopped onions, celery, and peppers (optional) for a customized make-ahead meat mix. I portion the cooked meat mix out to freezer containers to be used in future recipes. If you want to take a shortcut to make this lentil barley soup, you can have the ground beef already cooked and ready to add in with the rest of the ingredients when you are putting the soup together.

Vegetarian Lentil Barley Soup

Make a couple of easy substitutions to the basic ingredients and you can have vegetarian lentil barley soup. Just use vegetable broth instead of beef broth and omit the ground beef. You can leave the soup as is or add in some ground beef substitute for a simple vegetarian meal option.

Common Lentil Barley Soup Questions

Are lentils and barley good for you?

Yes, lentils and barley are both nutritious foods with various health benefits. Here are the health benefits of lentils. They are:

Rich in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.

Low in fat and a good source of iron, potassium, and folate.

May contribute to heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management due to their fiber and protein content.

Here are the health benefits of barley:

Contains a good amount of fiber, including beta-glucans, which can help lower cholesterol levels.

Rich in vitamins and minerals, such as B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.

Provides antioxidants that may have protective effects against certain diseases.

May contribute to improved digestion and satiety due to its fiber content.

lentil barley soup finished

What is the purpose of barley in soup?

Barley serves several purposes when added to soup:

Texture and Bite: Barley has a chewy texture, adding a pleasant bite to the soup. This can enhance the overall mouthfeel and make the soup more satisfying.

Nutritional Value: Barley is a nutritious whole grain, providing fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Including barley in soup increases its nutritional content, contributing to a well-balanced meal.

Thickening Agent: Barley has a tendency to absorb liquid, which can contribute to the thickening of the soup. This is particularly beneficial if you prefer heartier, more substantial soups.

Flavor Absorption: Barley has a mild, nutty flavor that can complement the overall taste of the soup. It can absorb the flavors of the broth and other ingredients, enhancing the overall taste profile.

Satiety: Due to its fiber content, barley can contribute to a feeling of fullness and satiety, making the soup more satisfying and potentially aiding in portion control.

Should I soak barley before adding to soup?

Soaking barley before adding it to soup is not strictly necessary, but it can have some benefits. I do not take the time to soak barley before using it in this lentil barley soup recipe, but you certainly may if you like. To soak barley, rinse it, then add it to a bowl or pan along with enough water to cover it. Let the barley soak for 2 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the barley before using it in a recipe. The benefits of soaking barley include:

Reduced Cooking Time: Soaking barley can help reduce its cooking time. This is particularly useful if you want to speed up the soup preparation.

Improved Texture: Soaking may result in a slightly softer texture in the cooked barley, which some people prefer. If you like a softer consistency, soaking can help achieve this.

Easier Digestion: Soaking grains can make them easier to digest for some individuals by breaking down certain compounds. This may be beneficial for those who are sensitive to grains.

Are lentils good or bad for gut health?

Lentils are generally considered good for gut health. Here are some reasons why:

High in Fiber: Lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Fiber is beneficial for digestive health as it adds bulk to stool, helps prevent constipation, and supports a healthy gut microbiota.

Prebiotic Properties: Lentils contain prebiotics, which are substances that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This contributes to a balanced and thriving gut microbiome.

Digestible Protein: Lentils provide a good source of plant-based protein that is easily digestible. Including protein in your diet is important for overall digestive function.

Nutrient Content: Lentils are rich in various nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A well-nourished body is more likely to maintain optimal digestive health.

It’s important to note that while lentils are generally beneficial for gut health, individual responses may vary. Some people may experience digestive discomfort such as gas or bloating when first introducing lentils or legumes into their diet. This can be minimized by gradually incorporating them and ensuring proper cooking techniques. You can also (I do this) take a product called Beano which aids in the digestion of fiber-rich foods like lentils.

What Goes Well with Lentil Barley Soup

This lentil barley soup goes well with some easy-to-make cornbread (no need for buttermilk with this recipe). You could also bake some simple dinner rolls, which are a breeze to make when you use a bread machine to make the dough. Serve a nice tossed berry mandarin salad alongside the soup for an extra helping of greens.

lentil barley soup finished

Lentil Barley Soup: Creamy, Hearty, Easy

Learn how to make hearty lentil barley soup with or without meat. Get the easy steps to make creamy lentil barley soup with beef and vegetarian options.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 155 kcal


  • 1 6-quart stock pot
  • 1 Wooden spoon for stirring
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 Large ladle for serving soup


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried celery flakes
  • 4 teaspoons instant beef bouillon or 4 beef bouillon cubes more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ cup dried lentils
  • ½ cup barley
  • ½ cup rice
  • ½ cup dried split peas
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded cheese optional


  • Brown the ground beef in the stock pot. Drain off excess fat.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except for the tomato sauce.
  • Bring to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste, heat through, and serve. 
Keyword dinner, easy recipes, soup

Other Easy, Budget Friendly Dishes You Might Enjoy

If you are a fan of easy soups, here are some other recipes you might want to try. The ingredients are simple, and the preparation takes very little time. Some of these recipes make use of leftovers to make your food budget stretch further. Check out these delicious options:

Are You Now Craving Creamy Lentil Barley Soup?

If you are like me, you are always looking for new, easy recipes to try. I get many of my ideas from Pinterest. If I find a recipe I’d like to try, I save it to my Recipes to Try board.

Recipes to Try Pinterest Board

My family members have been beneficiaries of my many Pinterest experiments. Most of them have turned out well. Do you have a Pinterest account? If you like to collect easy recipes as well, I’d love to follow you.

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Enjoy making one of these easy lentil barley soup recipes and may all of your cooking endeavors meet with great success!

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Lisa Mitchell is a wife, mom, and school librarian who likes to create and share recipes, often using fresh ingredients from her family’s small Pacific Northwest farm. To get more easy recipes, click on over to the Food page.

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4 thoughts on “Lentil Barley Soup (With or Without Meat)”

    • I hope you get the chance. Lentil barley soup is a favorite of mine as well. =)

  1. 5 stars
    This easy lentil barley soup is just what I was looking for. I need some cozy comfort food like this, and I love the dump and go crock pot option. Thank you!

    • You are most welcome. I love eating this lentil barley soup on a chilly evening.


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