It’s remarkable how just a handful of ingredients — celery, onion, carrots, mushrooms, barley and water — can truly transform into something hearty and nourishing. This isn’t unlike other Jewish foods, like cholent or chicken soup; Jews are masterful at transforming the ingredients on-hand into dishes that feed bellies and souls.
I am sure you have heard of mushroom barley soup, maybe enjoyed a bowl at your local deli or diner, or perhaps your grandmother made it from scratch. But did you know that mushroom-barley soup, or krupnik, is even more Jewish than matzah ball soup?
As Joel Haber explains in this piece, krupnik is a simple and hearty Polish soup made from barley and various root vegetables. Eastern European Jews had a strong affinity for mushrooms, since they were rich, nutritious and, best of all, they grew abundantly in local wooded areas, making them free.
Making this soup without meat also allows it to be pareve, so it can be eaten with either dairy or meat meals according to kosher dietary laws. While non-Jews may have made a vegetarian version if they couldn’t afford meat, most Polish recipes stress the importance of both meat and bones to create the proper consistency, making the vegetarian version distinctly Jewish.
This soup is ideal for so many things: a comforting meal train meal, paired with crusty bread and a salad; easy to make as a big batch to enjoy all week for lunch; or when you want to hear your kids complain “I don’t like mushrooms,” and then eat the barley and carrots all around those carefully sautéed mushrooms.
- Anyone who has watched “Julie & Julia” knows you don’t want to crowd your pan when cooking mushrooms. I cook this quantity of mushrooms in three batches to allow them enough space to caramelize slightly on each side.
- I chose to make this recipe with a combination of white mushrooms and baby bella mushrooms. You can absolutely mix different types of mushrooms based on your taste (or what you have on hand), as long as the total quantity is around 1 lb.
- If you want to turn the mushroom flavor up even more, you could add some rehydrated porcini mushrooms as you sauté the mushrooms. You can also add some of the hydrating mushroom liquid into the both for extra umami.
- To make this soup pareve (non-dairy), just omit the butter.
- This soup keeps well in the fridge for 3-5 days and can be frozen; you may just need to add some additional water or broth when reheating.
- 8 cups water or vegetable stock (I use a combination of half stock and half water)
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 4–6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
- 2 medium carrots, diced fine
- 2 celery ribs, diced fine
- 1 medium onion, diced fine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium-large pot, heat the 8 cups of liquid (I use 4 cups of water and 4 cups of boxed vegetable stock) over low-medium flame. Once liquid has heated to a low simmer, add barley, the dried bay leaf and cover.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil + 2 Tbsp butter (if using) in a medium-large saute pan or skillet. Cook carrots, celery and onion until soft and translucent, around 7-10 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add all the vegetables into broth and barley.
- Add another Tbsp olive oil to the pan and cook one third of the mushrooms until slightly caramelized on each side, around 3 minutes each side. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to the broth.
- Repeat with remaining mushrooms in two additional batches.
- Add all the mushrooms and soy sauce to the soup, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the soup has thickened to your liking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Ashkenazi