This vegan mushroom barley stew is a comforting meal for a cold day. It can be prepped and frozen in advance, and dumped in the crockpot to be ready in time for dinner on a busy day!
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I’ve definitely been getting ready for spring with some of my recent recipes (asparagus and peas, anyone?), but TBH it’s not really spring yet in Minnesota. We’ve had a few 50+ degree days, but recently the days have been damp and chilly.
So obviously I’m seizing the opportunity to prolong soup season in our house. This Mushroom Barley Stew is just perfect for a cold spring day, and it’s pretty much the easiest soup I have on here!
Part of what makes this stew so easy is that it’s a crockpot “dump meal” or a slow cooker freezer meal or whatever prepped-in-advance title you want to give it.
In a nutshell, these meals entail gathering the ingredients, storing them in a bag in the freezer, and never thinking about them again until you dump it all into the crockpot for a quick meal.
So easy, I know. The most challenging part of the process is remembering to take the bag out of the freezer to thaw it in the fridge a day before you want to make the meal.
But if you can master that, then you will be good to go! (I find cell phone alarms/reminders to be particularly helpful…)
How to Make Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Stew
Mushroom Barley Stew is pretty short on ingredients (no complaints here). All you need is:
- Mushrooms (duh)
- Barley, uncooked (duh)
- Mirepoix: carrots, celery, onion
- Dried thyme
- Bay leaf
- Veggie broth
How can something with such simple ingredients be so flavorful? Beats me. All I know is that the slow cooker is a magical tool that makes things taste so yummy and comforting. If you haven’t dusted off that bad boy in a while, now is the perfect opportunity.
If you want to freeze this meal to make at a later time, you need to quarter the mushrooms, chop the carrots, celery, and onion, mince the garlic, and measure out the dry barley. Dump all of that into a freezer bag.
I personally like to use reusable Stasher bags. Throw on a label that tells you what ingredients to add when you put it in the slow cooker (thyme, bay leaf, broth), and BOOM. All done.
You can also make this all at once. Just skip the whole freezing then thawing thing.
Tips for Serving, Storing, and Reheating
This recipe makes about 4 large servings, so depending on how many people you’re feeding, you may want to store some of it in the fridge or freezer. It will keep well in the fridge for 5-7 days.
Just reheat it in the microwave for ~2 minutes on high, or on the stove over low heat (be careful not to scorch it). You can also freeze the soup, thaw in the fridge overnight, and reheat it in a saucepan on the stove over low heat until it’s heated through.
Keep in mind that barley is fairly starchy and may absorb more liquid the longer the stew is stored. You can add some water or broth before reheating if you desire.
Oh, and BTW, it goes REALLY well with crunchy sourdough bread. YUM.
For other mushroom recipes, check out:
- Roasted Kohlrabi Steak with Mushroom Sauce
- Garlic Thyme Roasted Mushrooms
- One Pot Mushroom Spaghetti
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear how you like it in the comments below!
Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Stew
- Dice the onion and garlic, slice the carrots and celery, and quarter the mushrooms. If you are prepping this in advance to make at a later time, add these ingredients to a freezer bag with the dry barley. Add a label with the other ingredients you need and how long it will cook in the crockpot. Put it in the freezer and pull it out to thaw in the fridge a day before or the morning of the day you want to make the meal.
- Add the veggies and barley to the slow cooker with the broth, bay leaf, dried thyme, and salt. Stir, cover, and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
- Taste the soup before serving, and add salt or pepper to taste. Enjoy warm with crunchy bread!
- This is intended to be a light and nutritious soup option, so you may find that you want to add or adjust the seasonings to your preference. If you are looking for more of a kick, add some lemon juice, fresh herbs, parmesan cheese, and/or hot sauce. Other seasoning ideas include garlic or onion powder, oregano, marjoram, and other dried Italian herbs.
- Store in the fridge for 5-7 days. Reheat for ~2 minutes in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the stove over low-medium heat. You can also freeze this soup for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- The barley will absorb more water the longer it is stored, so you may have to add a bit more liquid (water or broth) when reheating. If the soup gets congealed in the fridge, reheating it in a saucepan with a splash of liquid helps it return to its original consistency.
- Depending on your crockpot, the soup may take longer than mine did to cook and thicken. Check the progress of the soup at 3 hours on high, or 6 hours on low, and cook for longer as needed.
- Also, if you use hulled barley, the soup will likely take longer to cook than if you use pearled barley like the recipe suggests.