Meal in a Jar: Italian Barley Soup

This is a favorite flavor-packed meal in a jar - an herb-flecked, hearty, Italian Barley Soup with a bit of a hippie twist. Just add water and a can of crushed tomatoes and you’re on your way to a really great pot of soup.

Meal in a Jar: Italian Barley Soup

Not all of of my “meal in a jar” recipes are soups, but a lot of them are. We’ll branch out at some point, I promise! In the meantime, this is the second recipe in a series that started recently when I posted a favorite tortellini soup in a jar. You were incredibly receptive to that (♥!!), so here we are with a second meal in a jar. It’s an herb-flecked, hearty, Italian Barley Soup. Italian-ish would probably be a more accurate description as I like to boost the jar contents with mung beans and quinoa from my pantry, and any vegetables tend to be added at the end rather than the start.

Italian Barley Soup in a Bowl with Spoon
I love to keep these jars on hand for fast weeknight meals and take them out on road trips and camping as well. I keep the base recipes pretty strict and my general rule of thumb is to aim for “just add water.” Or, in this case (and the tortellini soup), just add water + a can of tomatoes is fair game. The idea is that if all you have is the content of the jar, water, and perhaps an pantry-friendly ingredient or two, you have all you need for a really good meal.Dry ingredients for Italian Barley Soup in a Jar

Italian Barley Soup Variations & Ideas

  • swap in 1 cup of pearled farro for the barley. Or go halfsies!
  • add a well-drained can of chickpeas
  • put an egg on it, my preference here is poached
  • drizzle with chile oil
  • add some cubes of root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or sweet potatoes along with the jar contents. This gives them enough time to cook alongside the grains.

Italian Barley Soup in a Jar in a Wood Cabinet with other Ingredients
This soup fits nicely in a pint jar. I always get emails about the jar pictured on the left (below) here, it's a Weck jar, and they come in a range of sizes and shapes. I also love to reuse all manner of jam and sauce jars in for storage in an effort to keep plastics to a minimum in my kitchen.
Side View of Italian Barley Soup ingredients in Jars
One other thing I'll mention is don't store these "forever". I try to use mine in the coming month or so. The grains will be better (and not rancid), herbs and spices more fragrant, and all the rest.
Soup Pot along with Soup ingredients on Counter
You might not think the contents of this jar will deliver a big pot of soup, but it does! The grains really swell up and absorb the herby-tomato broth. You might even need to add an extra splash of water depending on how long you allow the soup to simmer - to thin things out to your liking. 
A Collection of Meals in Jars on Marble Counter
Here's a collection of dump & stir meals in jars ready to go (above photo). If you're interested in any of the baking versions I do, let me know! I take those out with us too when camping - for pancake mixes, breads baked in our portable pizza oven, etc. Or I'm happy to stick with soups, curries, and the like for now.
Pot of Italian Barley Soup Photographed from Above

More Ideas!

I mention this down below, in the recipe, you can add all sorts of fresh vegetables to this soup depending on what you have on hand. I typically add lots of chopped kale. We have a seemingly endless supply of it coming from our garden plot. It cooks way down, so if you’re going to use it go ahead and use more than you might think. Broccoli florets are another good booster vegetable to get some green going in your bowl. Chopped or shredded cabbage is also a super choice here. 
Recipes for the Road: Meals in a Jar and Just Add Water Recipes Cover
If you’d like more of these types of recipes, I’ve pulled together a collection of my favorites. Recipes for the Road: A Small, Useful Collection of Meal-In-Jar & Just-Add-Water Recipes for Road Trips, Camping & Everyday Life. It includes my favorite adventure pancake mix recipe, a bunch of soup mixes,  and an A+ recipe for packets of instant oatmeal. You can get a preview of it here.

If you want to take couple for a spin, here’s the Meal in a Jar: Tortellini Soup, there's also Meal in a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles, and I love this homemade bouillon powder. Here’s where you can browse the complete archive of soup recipes. Also! Here's a list of my favorite camping recipes.

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Meal In A Jar: Italian Barley Soup

4.73 from 11 votes

I’ve noticed that some quinoas are pre-washed before packaging. This rinses of the bitter saponins. By using the pre-washed quinoa here, you can simply pour the entire contents of the jar into the soup pot, no need to rinse the quinoa. I prefer to use fire-roasted canned tomatoes here when I can find them, but the regular version are great as well. To keep this vegan, skip any cheese on the finish.

  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 3 tablespoons pre-washed quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons dried mung beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grains salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • 1 boullion cube
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 14- ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • To serve ideas: a few handfuls of chopped kale, broccoli florets, mozzarella or a bit of feta, drizzle of olive oil
  1. Combine the ingredients into a pint jar, leaving the bouillon cube wrapped. Set aside until ready to make the soup.
  2. When you’re ready to make soup pour the water and crushed tomatoes into a medium soup pot. Unwrap the bouillon cube and add that along with the contents of the jar to the soup pot as well. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Allow to cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the barley and mung beans have cooked through. If you need to thin your soup at all, add water 1/2 cup at a time. If you want to add any kale or broccoli go for it a few minutes before the soup is done cooking.
  3. Serve topped with a bit of cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Serves 6.

Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
40 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Recipe Rating


Hello! If using your homemade bouillon powder in this recipe as opposed to purchased, is it then okay to add the powder directly to the jar with the other ingredients? ‘Thank You’, for all you share!~Dona


    Yes! That's exactly what I do Dona.

    Heidi Swanson

Please do add some baking versions. We're trying to decide whether to get a portable pizza oven, and more inspiration would be helpful.


    On it!

    Heidi Swanson

lid on or off when cooking?


    Hi Kim - I usually go with off. But either way, really.

    Heidi Swanson

Very interested in the pancakes/breads etc pre prepped for camping!


What size of a jar would the dry mix fit in? Last fall I dehydrated kale, cabbage and a few other veggies. Could they fit in into a quart sized jar? I'd love to make some of these to have at the ready.


    Hi Jerilea - this mix fits in a pint jar.

    Heidi Swanson

I hope you'll publish a Recipes-in-a-Jar cookbook soon!


    Lol. Thanks Gretchen - it probably just keep posting them here. :)

    Heidi Swanson

Hi Heidi, Rapunzel Bullion cubes, a former favorite, are no longer available (at least in NYC). Is there another bullion that you can recommend as a replacement? Many thanks!


I would love more meal in a jar ideas! So great for meal planning with a house full of kids and I love the idea of using them for road trips. PS. I’ve been reading your cookbooks and blog for many years now - thank you for many years of great recipes. I made your baked oatmeal from Super Natural Every Day the week my oldest was born so that I’d have a nourishing breakfast for when I went into labor…and now that baby is 10 and has three younger siblings, all of whom have eaten that baked oatmeal (and many of your other recipes) as well.


    Aww, I love this Tamar. Thanks for the kind note.

    Heidi Swanson

Hi Heidi, It seems that Rapunzel boullion is no longer be available (at least in NYC). Can you recommend a yummy substitute? Thanks so much!


    Hi Lisa - it seems to be the same on the West Coast as well. I've been dating around on this front, the ones I've been using lately I found at WF from Edward & Sons, there's a range of veg, low-sodium, not chik'n, etc.

    Heidi Swanson

I love this idea! Please keep the recipes that adapt to camping coming, it’s so inspiring.


    Thanks Wendy!

    Heidi Swanson

I just used all my mung beans. Do you think french green or black lentils would work instead?


    Wonderfully! Especially the black lentils.

    Heidi Swanson

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