Shiitake Mushroom Barley Soup

What makes this shiitake barley mushroom soup so satisfying is a mix of leeks, mushrooms, ginger, barley, spinach, and miso. Easy, fast, and eminently slurpable.

A crock filled with shiitake barley soup--mushroom, leeks, miso, ginger, scallions, nori seaweed

Umami. It’s that elusive depth of flavor that brings seemingly endless layers to this soup made with shiitake mushrooms, barley, spinach, leeks, and miso. So it’s no surprise that our testers are calling this umami-rich soup “comforting,” “nurturing,” and “deeply-satisfying.” We couldn’t agree more.–Angie Zoobkoff

Shiitake Mushroom Barley Soup

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
2/5 - 1 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • 2 medium leeks (about 18 oz)
  • 6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • One (3-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled if desired
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 2 cups roughly chopped spinach (about 2 oz)
  • 1/4 cup miso paste (red, white, or a combination)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (whites and light greens)
  • 1/2 sheet nori seaweed, cut into matchsticks with scissors

Directions

  • 1. First, get the broth together. In a large saucepan, combine the tough green parts of the leeks and the stems of the shiitake mushrooms. Peel the ginger and toss the peels into the saucepan, along with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to bring the liquid to a lively simmer. Let the stock cook while you begin the soup.
  • 2. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and slice it into thin half-moons. Slice the mushroom caps into 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices. Mince enough ginger to measure about 3 tablespoons.
  • 3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the leek and ginger to the oil and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the shiitakes and tamari, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the shiitakes shrink, first turning white and then deepening to a very light brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in the barley.
  • 4. Place a fine-mesh strainer over the saucepan and pour in the mushroom-leek stock, discarding the scraps. Cover and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the barley is tender and the broth a bit creamy, 20 to 40 minutes.
  • 5. Stir in the spinach and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Measure the miso into a small bowl or measuring cup and ladle some of the liquid from the soup into the miso paste. Stirring constantly, keep adding liquid until the miso is the texture of a thin pureed soup. Pour the miso into the pot, stirring to combine. Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning with additional tamari, if needed.
  • 6. Ladle into bowls and top with the scallions and nori. Serve immediately.

Recipe Testers Reviews

This umami-rich shiitake mushroom barley soup was hearty, comforting, and full of flavor. Perfect for a cool late winter evening. The soup had so many layers of flavor and the combination of hearty barley and meaty mushrooms made for a fantastic meatless meal with a loaf of crusty bread alongside.

I did add a bit more soy sauce at the end, but still felt it was underseasoned. We had to add a bit of salt at the table.

This is exactly what a classic miso soup should be: the individual flavors of the ingredients are ever so gently present in every spoonful. I love the earthy umami of shiitake, the warmth of ginger, a whiff of the ocean from nori, but the sweet melt-in-your-mouth leeks are what I adore most here.

The mellow weight of the creamy barley reminds me of an excellent risotto—it’s reassuring, like the softest blanket your cheek will ever touch. With the word “comforting” in mind, I used white miso for this recipe for its rounder flavor (red miso typically has a sharper salty flavor). I grew up eating miso soup almost daily, and I’m sorry I had never thought of marrying it with mushroom and barley, one of my favorite soups of the West, until now.

This shiitake mushroom barley soup is such a hearty and fulfilling soup that I would almost dare to call it a stew. As promised, it delivers layers of healthy, deeply satisfying flavor and does indeed feel like the most nurturing meal you could serve in a bowl! The ingredients are simple to gather if you don’t already have most of them in your pantry and fridge, and the recipe itself involves very little effort with maximum pay-off; the creamy miso swirl-in at the end of the preparation takes this from very, very good to truly transcendent!

I loved the soup as written with all its vegetarian goodness, but for my meat-loving husband, I stirred in some julienned pork tenderloin that I had marinated in soy and ginger and grilled: a perfect variation! I used white miso and stirred in some grilled and julienned pork tenderloin along with the spinach. Chicken would also be great if you wished to make a heartier dish than the base recipe. As recommended, I touched up the seasoning at the end with a stir-in of 1 teaspoon additional soy sauce. Delicious!

This shiitake mushroom barley soup was just what I needed on a drizzly, cool spring day. The meatiness of the mushrooms paired with the saltiness of the miso made this a filling, comforting, and delicious meal. I also think that this soup can be modified as desired—I would definitely add more spinach, as I loved it in the soup and wanted more.

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Comments

  1. I wanted to make a miso-marinated grilled chicken thigh to put in this for heartiness, but I usually use yellow miso for that. Lest I have to buy two containers of miso, can I use yellow in this as well, or shall I use white on the chicken? I bow to your wisdom, kitchen gods.

    1. Oh my, Ariadne. I’ve never been called a kitchen god but what a title! I think you could use easily use yellow miso for this recipe as it is similar to red which the author suggests in addition to white. Both red and yellow have been fermented with barley and add a great depth to dishes, especially soups. Let us know how it turns out.

  2. Didn’t love this. The ratio of mushrooms to barley and leeks seems low, and this just didn’t have a punch of flavor. Seemed a little bland.

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