Mushroom Barley Soup: A Delightful Jewish Deli Classic

Mushroom barley soup is a thick and creamy delight that pairs perfectly with crusty bread. This beloved recipe from Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine has made its way into Jewish delis across the country, captivating taste buds with its hearty and delicious flavors. Let’s delve into the history of this delectable soup and explore what makes it so special.

The Rich History of Mushroom Barley Soup

The macro history of mushroom barley soup can be traced back to nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, where it originated in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Like chicken soup and matzo ball soup, mushroom barley, or krupnik, was brought over by Jewish immigrants and eventually found its place in New York’s Jewish delis. For me, the nostalgia of this soup goes back to the Gold Lake Deli in Larchmont, New York, where Thursday nights meant a steaming bowl of mushroom barley soup after piano lessons with my mom and sisters. It was a soul-warming experience that made every lesson worthwhile.

A bowl of mushroom barley soup with fresh sage.

Ingredients for Mushroom Barley Soup

To recreate this comforting soup at home, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Fresh and dried mushrooms: Combining fresh mushrooms with dried ones adds depth and texture to the soup. Don’t forget to use the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms for enhanced flavor.
  • Barley: Cook the barley separately and add it to the soup later. It will naturally thicken the soup and provide a delightful chewy texture.
  • Shallots: These finely minced shallots bring a distinct onion flavor to the soup. While using onions is an alternative, shallots truly elevate the dish.
  • Celery: Chopped finely for a delightful crunch, celery adds a refreshing element to the soup.
  • Chicken stock or veggie stock: Opt for a good-quality chicken stock for a rich flavor. If you prefer a vegetarian option, mushroom stock works wonders.
  • Butter: Adds a touch of richness to the soup.
  • Cream or half and half: For a lusciously creamy soup, use cream or half and half. If you want a lighter option, try evaporated milk.
  • Sherry: Provides a wonderful background flavor, with most of the alcohol cooking off. Alternatively, dry white wine can be used, or you can omit the alcohol altogether.
  • Flour: A flour and water slurry can be used to thicken the soup, although the barley will naturally thicken it on its own.
  • Sage: This fall-leaning herb complements the earthy flavors of the soup beautifully.
  • Worcestershire sauce: A magical touch of umami that brings the soup to life.
  • Salt and pepper: To taste.
  • Parmesan cheese: A generous sprinkle of Parmesan adds a delightful finishing touch.
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Mushroom barley soup in a white Dutch oven.

Make Ahead Tips for Mushroom Barley Soup

If you’d like to prepare in advance, the barley can be cooked a day or two ahead. You can also use any extra cooked barley to create delicious grain salads by substituting it for farro or wheatberries. Creamy soups like mushroom barley and wild rice soup tend to develop even richer flavors overnight. However, due to the barley, the soup will thicken considerably. When reheating, remember to thin it down with some additional liquid or enjoy it with a fork!

Mushroom barley soup in a bowl with sliced bread.

More Mushroom Recipes to Explore

If you’re a fan of mushrooms, here are a few more mouthwatering recipes to try:

So, why not immerse yourself in the rich history and flavors of mushroom barley soup? Gather your ingredients, channel your inner chef, and prepare to enjoy this classic Jewish deli dish that will warm your heart and satisfy your cravings. For more delightful recipes, visit Family Cuisine.

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Now, go on and indulge in a bowl of this creamy and comforting soup!

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