Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

In a time when the economy has been a challenge for most everyone, I’ve been reading about different suggestions on how to live more frugally. One way is to cook at home more. Well, I’ve always done that and I’ve always tried to be smart about buying produce in season (which are normally on sale and also fresher) and stocking up when meats go on sale.

But I also firmly believe that eating cheaply doesn’t mean giving up on flavor or variety. I think that if we all just chose to cook more from scratch and use less processed or packaged foods, we’d be able to stretch our money further and also live a healthier life.

Delicious, Healthy, Filling and Cheap

This barley and lentil soup with Swiss chard is a great example of tasty frugality. It makes a huge batch and leftovers are even more tasty the next day (soups always taste better the next day!). The barley and lentils in the soup give it a lot of flavor and depth and make this soup so hearty that the soup can stand alone as a one dish meal.

Barley and lentils are seriously cheap! A package of each will make you many meals and fill you up. On top of that, they are whole grains so they are so good for you as well. Delicious, healthy, filling, and cheap—how can you go wrong with that?

Carrots, Onions, Lentils and Barley

Carrots, Onions, Lentils and Barley

Eat the Rainbow

Swiss chard is pretty reasonable right now at the stores. I got myself 2 bunches of Swiss chard (organic, no less!) for only $1.50 a bunch. I really love Swiss chard in soups. They are so tasty and hold up so well under all that boiling and simmering. On top of that, the color of all that Swiss chard makes the soup look so lovely and appetizing.

I normally try to get the more colorful chards (reds, or rainbows) because they’re so pretty and ok, so healthy also (trying to eat all the colors of the rainbow is supposed to be good for you). But really, I just love how pretty it makes my soup—you have to eat with your eyes too! Even though the original recipe only called for half a bunch of chard, I couldn’t help myself and used up both bunches! Feel free to use as much or as little as you like but I would say at least one bunch is needed.

Rainbow Swiss Chards

Rainbow Swiss Chards

The recipe calls for some chicken or vegetable broth but I’ve been using turkey broth for mine. I don’t know how many of you still have a turkey carcass in your freezer from Thanksgiving. If you do, this is a great time to take it out and make some broth!

We just happened to have made two turkeys this year, once on Thanksgiving (and the carcass was quickly used up for turkey jook), and another one later, nearer Christmas when we made it for a church gathering. That carcass has been sitting in our fridge for many months. So I decided to boil that baby up for this soup.

And it was delicious! We brined our turkey so the broth was so flavorful without having to add any additional seasonings. And the extra turkey meat played nicely with all the other ingredients as well. Of course, if you are wanting it to be totally vegetarian, go ahead and use vegetable broth.

For the broth, I would say make sure you have more than the recommended 10 cups in the recipe. The barley and lentils make this soup very thick and without the extra broth, this would almost be a stew.

I adapted this recipe from Epicurious and I must say the little flavor additions really do make this soup spectacular. The toasted cumin gives it depth and warmth. The hit of dill at the end brightens and adds a green herbal flavor which contrasts nicely with the rest of the ingredients.

So, do try this soup out while the weather is still cold enough for you to want to curl up to a nice, hearty, warm cup of lovely flavors (can I ever use enough adjectives? ^_^). And be grateful that cheap foods can be delicious and easy to make!

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

adapted from Epicurious


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions (1 large)
1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrots (about 2-3 carrots)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
10 cups (or more) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth, or turkey broth
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2/3 cup dried lentils
8 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard (1 large bunch)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat oil in heavy large nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots; sauté until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.


2. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Mix in cumin; stir 30 seconds.


3. Add 10 cups broth and barley; bring to boil. Reduce heat; partially cover and simmer 25 minutes.
4. Stir in tomatoes with juice and lentils; cover and simmer until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
5. Add chard to soup; cover and simmer until chard is tender, about 5 minutes.


6. Stir in dill. Season soup with salt and pepper.
7. Thin with more broth, if desired.

Serve up and garnish with more dill, if desired. Don’t forget to save some for the next day as the flavor improves overnight.

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard


Cheers, Annie

20 thoughts on “Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard”

  1. >Thanks Annie for all the explanations on why this or that for a recipe & the wonderful pictures! I've got a bumper crop of greens (kale, chard, etc) in the garden & will try this recipe out this weekend!

  2. >Oh Annie – I love the lentil soup. I could just picture curling up with a bowl of it, in a blanket, while relaxing 🙂

  3. >The soups looks excellent! I’ve been also eyeing the pretty rainbow chard in my grocery store.

    Thanks so much for visiting my site and please keep in touch!

  4. >Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am bookmarking your’s because I can tell by the beautiful photos and amazing recipes, that I will be hooked.

    I have not tried the Two Hands Shiraz from Australia. I will be on the lookout, as I love me some Aussie Shiraz!! Thanks for the reco.

  5. >Thanks Annie for sharing the recipe. May I know if the barley you used is the same kind we use for our Chinese sweet dessert? By the way, I already sent you a package 🙂

  6. >I love swiss chard and I am growing them this year. Your recipe is really great. I cannot wait to try it.

  7. >Beautiful healthy soup! What do you think about using collard green instead of swiss chard? What kind of cookware is nonreactive? Thanks.

  8. >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @Mei – do let us know how it turns out for you!

    @Pearl – ahh, yeah.

    @Mo – I’m so glad to hear you like our site.

    @ICookforFun – yes it is the same barley as the Barley with Fuchok sweet soup recipe.

    @Zue – I hope you get enough chard to try our recipe!

    @Wendy – I bet collard or kale would work great in this soup. We used a Le Creuset porcelain enameled cast iron pot to cook the soup.

  9. >I made barley and chickpea soup for lunch today. Looks like we’re on the same page. Yours looks wonderful, thanks for sharing!

  10. >Nice one, Annie. The weather is funny in Montreal, 10 degrees two days ago and now it’s back to -2. I could use some of that barley and lentil soup right about now 😉

  11. >Thanks, Annie. I have a porcelain enameled cast iron pot that I can use. What is the reason using it intead of a stainless pot or clay pot?

  12. >I’ve been on a real barley kick lately… and always lentils.
    Very pretty soup – Now I just need some rainbow chard.

  13. >@Haley – you’re welcome!

    @Elaine – hope you get to try this recipe and warm up some!

    @Wendy – either would work.

    @katiez – try your farmer’s market!

  14. >I love soup no matter the season or weather and this looks wonderfully delicious and healthy! I love that second to last photo – so vibrant and colorful.

  15. >I loved your suggestion to eat cheap and healthy by cooking at home. I also liked your suggestion to buy cheap and fresh for such a tough time impacted upon us by credit crisis.

  16. >Swiss chard is really easy to grow, and you get so much from just a few plants! We have it growing all over our garden. It grows all year long here.

    This looks good. I’ll have to try it in the fall when it’s cold again.

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