Recipe: Refrigerator Wonder Soup — Vegan Comfort Food for Fall

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What’s this? Another soup recipe?

If I seem a bit soup-obsessed, it’s only because I had a chance to experiment a bit over the past couple of months and decided to wait to post the results until the weather was more appropriate.

Alas for the perpetually summer-obsessed among us (read: me), it would seem that the calendar is right and the season is well and truly over. Summer squashes and cucumbers are making way for winter squashes and kohlrabi at the farmer’s market, and every morning there’s a chill in the air that whispers, “Winter is coming!” When it does, it will be time for all things roasted, baked and casserole-y, but until then, I’ll stick with the occasional stovetop comfort food.

Like this Refrigerator Wonder Soup.

vegan refrigerator wonder vegetable soup
So named because, like my Invented Family Soup, it was born when I took a bunch of vegetables from the fridge and dumped them in a pot with some lentils and barley. This generally happens if 1) I have random veggies that need using up, or 2) I’ve gone through every cookbook I own and failed to find a recipe that matches what I have in my head for dinner.

What did I throw in this time? What didn’t I throw in…

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Brussels sprouts

I guess it technically qualifies as mushroom barley soup on some level, although looking at the list now, I realize that I did get a bit carried away. Hence the use of the enormous pan pictured above. Sometimes I think things are going to fit in smaller pans and get an amusing surprise when it comes time to actually put things in. To avoid this, just use the biggest pot you have. Unless, you know, your biggest pot is something you could easily rent out as an apartment.

refrigerator wonder soup veggies
The soup starts with sauteing pretty much everything all at once, which makes for a bit of advanced prep time. If you’d rather chop things and toss them in as you go, that’s fine, too. (Mark Reinfeld is a big fan of this, it would seem.) Just remember to stir everything once and a while so that it doesn’t stick or burn while you’re working on the rest of the ingredients.

barley and lentils in vegan refrigerator wonder soup
Then in go the lentils and barley along with some salt-free seasoning. This is a tremendously delicious trick I picked up from Nava Atlas after making a few soups from her Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons book. The simple act of adding a bit of pre-mixed spice blend instantly infuses the soup with a complex savory flavor. You can use any kind of Mrs. Dash or something like the 21-Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s — whatever you’re in the mood for.

vegan lentil barley refrigerator wonder soup
Everything takes about 45 minutes to cook, and the wait is totally worth it because you wind up with a big pot of warming awesomeness. I swear I’m not saying that because it’s my recipe-there’s just something about veggie barley soup that reaches right down into your core and makes you feel cozy.

vegan refrigerator wonder soup served
If this picture was on a cereal box, the caption would read “Serving Suggestion.” I love soup with salad and a nice crusty bread, but lacking the latter I went with some Mary’s Gone Crackers of the herb variety. Either option can be dipped in the soup to sop up the broth and deliver extra veggie goodness into your mouth.

One word of caution: I enjoyed this soup so much that I wound up eating it way too fast and burned my mouth! It might be a good idea to let it sit for five or ten minutes once it’s done cooking to give it a chance to cool off and be “just right.”

Refrigerator Wonder Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
What happens when you take everything in the refrigerator and cook it in a pot with barley and lentils? This chock-full vegan soup, of course!
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1½ cups onion, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 4 large celery stalks with leaves, sliced
  • 1½ cups parsnips, sliced
  • 1½ pounds white, red or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 cup white or cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ¾ pound Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 8 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free seasoning (such as Mrs. Dash)
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  1. Place the onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes and Brussels sprouts in a large pot over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, adding a little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the mushrooms and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more.
  2. Add the water or broth, lentils, barley and seasoning. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils and barley are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, adding more water or broth if necessary.
  3. Taste (carefully, it's hot!) and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve with biscuits or crackers and a green salad for a tasty, warming meal!

Do you have a favorite barley soup recipe?
Share the details (or a link) in the comments!

Follow Quantum Vegan on Instagram for more recipe ideas and fun food photos!' About The Author

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals as well as Toastmasters International and currently serves as Vice President Membership of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read, play silly card games and knit socks.

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