Delicious and Healthy Barley Vegetable Stone Soup Recipe | Inspired by the Classic Stone Soup Story

If you’re looking for a heart-warming soup (literally and figuratively!), look to this healthy, delicious, plant-based (vegan) Barley Vegetable Stone Soup recipe. Essentially a meal in a bowl, this hearty vegetable soup is inspired by the stone soup story, which I told to my own children when they were younger. The stone soup story is based on the classic 1947 French tale Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, which tells the story of three hungry soldiers visiting a village in search of food. When the soldiers were denied food by the villagers, they set about making a large pot of soup with three stones and water. The soldiers wondered if the soup might not be better with a few carrots. Hence, the villagers returned with an apron full of carrots. And what about, say, some cabbage…potatoes…barley? The villagers contributed step by step, eventually turning that pot of stones into a wonderful meal, along with a hunk of bread and a mug of cider, for the whole village.

I love that story, as it highlights how a few rustic ingredients from the garden can nourish the mind, body and soul. And it also features the spirit of community and sharing—a practice that stretches back through the generations. Is there anything quite as good as a comforting, vegetable-based soup shared with people you love? I like to pair this Barley Vegetable Stone Soup with a salad for a satisfying meal packed with disease-protective nutrients. This barley vegetable soup, filled with vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and canned tomatoes, lentils, barley, and herbs, is rich in protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals.

Make Stone Soup as a Children’s Activity

When my children were little, I made this soup with an actual stone as part of an activity in their classroom. It makes a wonderful, engaging teaching tool on the power of giving, as well as healthy eating. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Assign each child an ingredient to bring from home, along with the printed recipe to share with their family (have parents help chop the ingredients and place them in a container).
  • Place a large pot on an electric hot plate or burner (being careful that children can’t burn themselves), and add the broth and water.
  • Place one large clean stone in the pot (make sure to scrub it with dish soap and hot water before using it). Share the story of the hungry villagers. Then invite each child to portray a villager who brings their ingredient to add to the pot.
  • Remove the stone, stir the pot, cover it with a lid, and cook until it is done. Dish up the soup and allow the children to enjoy it.
  • Take a moment to talk about the healthy ingredients and how they help keep children strong and full of energy.

I made this recipe in my own kitchen during my Instagram Live Sustainability Series on cutting food waste here. Making soup is a great way to use up all of that produce at the end of the week and avoid food waste.

Here’s what you need to make this recipe for Barley Vegetable Stone Soup.


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This Barley Vegetable Stone Soup soup, filled with vegetables, lentils, barley, and herbs, is inspired by the classic Stone Soup story, which is all about sharing and making something of nothing.

  1. In a large pot, add broth, water, and canned tomatoes. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Add lentils, barley, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, summer squash, potatoes, mushrooms, black pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, and mustard. Stir well and cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until barley and lentils are tender. Replace any water lost to evaporation (should make a thick, hearty texture).
  3. Toast whole grain bread in the oven or toaster until brown and very crisp. Slice into small cubes.
  4. Add lemon juice and fresh herbs to the soup, and season with salt (optional).
  5. Ladle hot soup into soup bowls and garnish with whole grain croutons (1/2 slice of toast per serving). Refrigerate leftover soup and reheat as desired (add croutons just before serving to maintain crisp texture).


To make this recipe in a slow cooker, add all ingredients in steps 1-2 to the slow cooker, stir well, cover, and set to high for 4 hours. When done, follow step 3 as directed, add ingredients in step 4 to slow cooker, and serve soup as directed in step 5.

Instant Pot Directions: Steps 1-2 should be done in the Instant Pot by adding all of these ingredients and pressing the “Chili/Bean” setting. Follow steps 3-5 above.

To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute a gluten-free grain for barley (i.e., quinoa, brown rice, or sorghum), and use gluten-free bread.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 155
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Sodium: 197 mg
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg


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