Greens and Grains Soup

This greens and grains soup is hearty, healthy, easy to make, and endlessly customizable with your favorite sturdy greens and whole grains.

Three stacked white bowls and the top one filled with greens and grains soup, and finished with Parmesan.

This basic greens and grains soup recipe sets the stage for all kinds of experimentation. The combination of barley or farro and chard is a particular favorite at my house, where we almost always add the optional beans and ancho chile powder or pepper flakes (see variations below). Seriously, any green you can cook works in this recipe, which is more template than formula; just adjust the total cooking time. I like to cook the grains separately so the broth doesn’t get starchy, but feel free to cook the grains in the soup—just add an extra 1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 milliliters) broth and cook until the grains are just tender to the bite before adding the greens. If you want to use quinoa or bulgur or another quicker-cooking grain, add it at the end along with the greens.–Molly Watson

LC X + Y = Z Note

We see this greens and grains soup recipe as a practical application for algebra. It’s as simple as X + Y = Z, with the X variable standing in for the greens component and the Y variable representing grains and the Z—well, the Z is the soothing and satiating bowl of soup you get to sit down to for supper and, if you’re fortunate, for lunch the next day. Whatever hearty greens and whole grains you’ve got on hand will work. So after you breathe a sigh of relief at finally finding a use for high school algebra, let us know in a comment below exactly what you solved for in terms of X and Y.

Greens and Grains Soup

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 4 to 6
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Rinse the grains and place them in a medium pot along with 2 teaspoon salt and enough water to generously cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a gentle but steady simmer until the grains are tender to the bite. The exact amount of time will depend on the grain used, from 15 minutes for quinoa to 60 minutes for wheat berries. Drain the grains and set aside.

If using greens with thick stalks, such as Swiss chard or kale, cut the stalks from the leaves. Finely chop the stalks, then cut the leaves into thin ribbons, keeping the stalks and leaves separate. If using greens without thick stalks, simply chop the leaves into ribbons or bite-size pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the stalks, if using, and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock or vegetable broth plus the drained, cooked grains and bring almost to a boil. Add the greens (stalks and leaves), stir to combine, and cook until the greens are wilted and tender, just 1 or 2 minutes for spinach, 5 minutes for chard or bok choy, and up to 10 minutes for hearty kale.

Season with salt and a grind or two of pepper and, if desired, a drizzle of oil. Ladle it up while warm. Leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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    Tuxedo Variations

    • Beans, Greens and Grains Soup
    • Tux variation

      Add 2 cups (430 grams) or one 14- to 15-ounce (400- to 430-grams) can cooked, drained beans such as white beans, chickpeas, or cranberry beans to the soup when you add the cooked grains.

    • Umami Greens and Grains Soup
    • Tux variation

      Drop a Parmesan cheese rind into the soup while the greens simmer and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

    • Eat Your Veggies, Greens, and Grains Soup
    • Tux variation

      Use chopped onion, chopped celery, and/or chopped carrot in place of or in addition to the greens’ stalks.

    • Hot Greens and Grains Soup
    • Tux variation

      Spice things up by adding 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or 1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes with the garlic.

    • Citrusy Greens and Grains Soup
    • Tux variation

      Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon at the end and/or a bit of grated lemon zest.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This is a very good “blank canvas” soup that can accommodate many different twists, depending on what you’re in the mood for. My greens and grains soup took no time to make, as I used quinoa for the grain (which took just 15 minutes after the water came to a boil), and prewashed chopped kale in a bag for the green (5 minutes to wilt). While the quinoa cooked, I prepared everything else, including measuring the chicken stock and sautéing the garlic. Once the soup was done, we tried different variations for individual servings. Grated Parmesan made a great garnish, and lemon zest was fantastic. But the two ad-lib Asian variations were big hits—a squeeze of lime juice and chopped cilantro for a Southeast Asian flare, and a few drops sesame oil and a dash soy sauce for a Chinese/Japanese flavor. I don’t think the amount of greens is so critical. My kale came in a 12-ounce bag, although most prewashed/chopped greens come in a 16-ounce bag—no point in taking out a few ounces of the leaves for the sake of being precise.

    Healthy, light, and restorative is what I would call this greens and grains soup. Prep time is mostly chopping or snipping, so my hands-on time was about 15 minutes. I used a blend of rice, lentils, and oats for the grains part of this soup, a blend of baby kale and Swiss chard for the greens, and a light homemade chicken broth. The grain blend took 15 minutes to cook. I added a diced onion and diced celery stalk, and I sautéed them with the garlic. Since there were no tough stems to deal with, I just snipped the baby leaves into bite-size pieces and added them to the soup for the last couple minutes. The soup was delicate, almost bland, which made the greens the predominant taste. One taster added a tablespoon soy sauce to her soup, as she wanted more flavor in her broth. The rest of us loved it as is. We served this soup with open-face avocado and cucumber sandwiches. It was just as nice the next day for lunch. It's certainly a great soup to restore yourself after the excess of the holidays. I can't wait to try other greens and grains in it.

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    1. Hearty, satisfying and vegan… I had fun with this recipe. I had some mixed grains (farro, barley and spelt), some roasted vegetables (carrot, potato, green beans) and also some cooked white beans (tepary) that were in my fridge from meal prep earlier in the week. I wanted to make a soup or stew and found this recipe that I tweaked just a bit. I added some dried guajillo chiles, fresh fresno chili and onion with the garlic and greens’ stalks in the saute then added some broth and blended that up before added the rest of the broth, roasted vegetables, beans and grains. I also added a few other herbs and spices (oregano, celery seed, cumin seed and dried chili powder). Cooked that for about 10 mins before adding the greens’ leaves and some lemon juice and salt. Yumm!

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