Swiss Barley Soup, or Bunder Gerstensuppe, is traditionally eaten in the Swiss Alps in the winter.  It is a warm, delicious soup that comforts you after being outdoors.  I discovered this soup while I was visiting friends in Switzerland while we were hiking down the mountain in Grindelwald, Switzerland!

Swiss Barley Soup in a bowl topped with chopped parsley
Healthy and Delicious Swiss Barley Soup

While this soup is typically made with heavy cream, butter, and bacon, I have created a lighter version of this soup.  It still gives you the same delicious flavor without all the extra calories and fat.  This soup makes a great starter or can be eaten as a meal.  When I eat this soup, I am transported back to my amazing trip in the Alps!

If you are interested in learning more about Swiss food, check out my post, 6 Things to Eat in Switzerland.


Ingredients for Swiss Barley Soup

  • Pearled Barley – Barley adds a nice heartiness to this soup.  And because barley is a good source of fiber, it helps to keep you full.
  • Potatoes – Potatoes also round this soup out nicely.  They add nutrients and texture.
  • Vegetables – This soup has plenty of vegetables from potatoes, leeks, onions, celery, and carrots.  These vegetables add color, texture, nutrients, and fiber.
  • Half and Half – At the end of cooking the soup, you traditionally add heavy cream.  By changing this to half and half, you reduce the calories, fat, and cholesterol content, but the flavor is still amazing.
  • Bacon – Bacon adds flavor to Swiss Barley Soup.  The bacon is still in this recipe, but I decreased the amount of bacon to cut down on the saturated fat.  However, if you are vegetarian, you can make this recipe without the bacon.

How to Make Swiss Barley Soup

First, heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion and leek and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, which is about 10 minutes.

chopped onions and leek in Dutch oven stirring with wooden spoon
Sautéing the onions and leek

Then, add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and bacon.  Then lower the heat to medium.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dutch oven with chopped celery, onion, carrots, bacon, leeks, and bay leaf

Next, add the stock, barley, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Preparing the soup, broth added
Stock, barley, and potatoes have been added, now time to simmer

After 1 hour, remove the bay leaf.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the half and half.  Allow the half and half to cook through for 1-2 minutes, without boiling.  Then remove the pot from heat.

soup with potatoes, barley, and carrots, cooked after 1 hour
The soup is almost ready!
Stirring in the the half and half into the soup
Stir in the half and half

Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve!

Swiss Barley Soup in a bowl with chopped parsley
Warm and delicious Swiss Barley Soup

Nutritional Benefits of Swiss Barley Soup

Barley

Barley is a whole grain that is a rich source of fiber, B vitamins, and potassium.  One type of fiber in barley is beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, which helps you to feel full.  This can result in reducing appetite and overall intake and may result in weight loss over time.  Barley also has insoluble fiber which promotes regular digestion.

Also, the fiber in barley can prevent gallstones as well as lower cholesterol levels. Barley is also a good source of iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, and vitamin B-6. 

The barley in this recipe is pearled barley which means the hull and bran have been removed.  Hulled barley still has the bran and germ intact, but the inedible outer shell is removed.  This also means that hulled barley takes longer to cook, 1 1/2 hours compared to about 1 hour for pearled barley.

Fiber

With all the vegetables and barley, this soup has 5 grams of fiber per serving.  If you are looking to increase your fiber intake, this soup will help to add to your total daily fiber!

Fiber or dietary fiber is the part of a plant that the human body cannot digest or absorb.  There are 2 different types of fiber in foods: soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber means it dissolves in water and forms into a gel. Examples of foods containing soluble fiber are oats, beans, apples, oranges, carrots, and barley!

To learn more about fiber, read my post on 27 of the Best High Fiber and Low Carb Foods!

Carrots

Carrots are high in beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A) and vitamin C, as well as vitamin B6 and potassium. They also are high in antioxidants such as lutein, which in combination with beta-carotene help promote good eye health. The two main antioxidants in carrots, carotenoids and anthocyanins, help to lower the risk of cancer.

Leeks

Leeks are a part of the same family as onions, shallots, and scallions.  They look like a giant scallion or green onion but have a milder taste that goes great in soups.  And they are nutrient-dense!

One serving of leeks provides 31 calories and is high in beta carotene, vitamin C, and a good source of vitamin K and manganese.  The nutrients in leeks have many health benefits such as improving digestion, promoting weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and may protect against certain cancers. 

Potatoes

Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, B6, and a good source of niacin, and folate.  There is a variety of minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. 

Tips

  • Serve this soup as a starter to your meal or it can be eaten as a meal on its own with crusty bread!
  • If you are vegetarian, change the chicken stock to vegetable stock and cook it without bacon.
  • You can use hulled barley instead of pearled barley to add even more fiber and nutrients, but you will need to cook it for at least 1 ½ hours and increase the amount of stock used due to evaporation.

Recipe adapted from Food.com


Be sure to take pictures of your Swiss Barley Soup masterpiece and tag @noshnourishwander on Instagram if you make this recipe!

What are some of your favorite ways to cook with barley?  And what are your favorite soups? Leave your answers in the comments below!

More Soup Recipes!


Swiss Barley Soup

Swiss Barley Soup

This is a lighter version of the original Swiss Barley Soup, but it is still packed with flavor! It will make you feel like you are in the Swiss Alps!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Swiss
Servings 8
Calories 267 kcal

Equipment

  • large pot or Dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 large leek washed and finely chopped, white part only
  • 3 medium carrots peeled and finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 ounces bacon diced
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 2 medium russet potatoes peeled and diced
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup half and half
  • fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions
 

  • First, heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and leek until the vegetables begin to soften, which is about 10 minutes.
  • Then, add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and bacon. Then lower the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Next, add the stock, barley, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  • After 1 hour, remove the bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the half and half. Allow the half and half to cook through for 1-2 minutes, without boiling. Then remove the pot from heat.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve!

Notes

Nutrition information: 267 calories, 13 grams of protein, 11.6 grams of fat, 823 mg of sodium, 30.2 grams of carbohydrates, 4.6 grams of fiber. 
Tips:
Serve this soup as a starter to your meal or it can be eaten as a meal on its own with crusty bread!
If you are vegetarian, change the chicken stock to vegetable stock and cook it without bacon.
You can use hulled barley instead of pearled barley to add even more fiber and nutrients, cook for at least 1 ½ hours and increase the amount of stock used due to evaporation.
Keyword potatoes, soup

 

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Dietitian, food lover, and world traveler! Veronica has been a registered dietitian for over 18 years, specializing in clinical and community nutrition. She enjoys wellness, trying new foods, and exploring the globe to learn about different cultures.