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Tibetan Mushroom Barley Soup

Here’s the recipe for a tasty and nutritious whole grain soup that Lobsang made up by combining two Tibetan favorites — barley and mushrooms — along with some fresh greens. Traditionally, Tibetans would usually keep a barley soup very simple, with basically just diced yak and barley. And they would serve mushrooms also very simply, for example, grilled almost directly in the ashes of a fire with some dri (female yak) butter. But this mushroom + barley combo packs a delicious punch. Try it out for yourself!

barley soup


  • 1.5 cups pearled barley (we recommend hulled or hull-less but this is what we had on hand 🙂
  • 1 small onion (we used red), chopped
  • 4 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Mushrooms (see more info below)
  • 5 medium Shitake mushrooms (with juice from soaking if you use dried mushrooms)
  • 11 common brown mushrooms
  • 11 common white mushrooms
  • 1/4  bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 3 small potatoes, chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cube veg boullion
  • Salt and pepper to taste [optional]
Ingredients Barley Mushroom Soup

About the Mushrooms

You can use the mushrooms of your choice here. Lobsang used a combination of two varieties that are good substitutes for traditional Tibetan mushrooms : Sersha and kasha.

Sersha are high elevation “golden mushrooms.” Lobsang’s father used to gather these high on the mountain after thunderstorms. Shitake mushrooms make a good substitute for these.  In Tibet, kasha mushrooms are more similar to common brown mushrooms or crimini brown mushrooms. 

About the Barley

For barley soups in Tibet, one would traditionally use neycha, orrolled barley. Back in the day, Lobsang’s family would boil the barley grains, drain the water, and then flatten the barley grains with special rocks. It ends up looking a lot like rolled oats. 

For this barley soup, we used pearled barley, which we had on hand. We learned while preparing this post that hulled and hull-less barleys are nutritionally similar, and that pearled barley has been further refined so is less nutritious. (Pearled takes less time to cook, if that’s a factor for you.) Here’s a good post about the differences from fanaticcook.com. Next time we’ll buy hulled or hull-less!

Dried pearled barley before soaking.
Sauteing the mushrooms with the tomatoes and celery.
Sauteing the mushrooms with the tomatoes and celery.

Preparing the soup

  • Soak the barley overnight
  • Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
  • Add the tomato and celery and saute a few minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms, salt (if desired) and boullion and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
  • Add barley and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer.
  • You’re going to simmer for an hour and a half.
    • After 45 minutes, add a couple of cups of water. 
    • After another 30 minutes you may need to add another cup of water, depending on how much liquid you like in your soup.
  • After the hour and a half is up, add the potatoes.
  • Cook with potatoes 5 minutes then add carrots.
  • Cook with carrots 5 minutes then add kale.
  • Cook with kale 5 last minutes.
  • Serve steaming hot and salt and pepper to taste, or hot sauce as Tibetan’s do.
  • That’s it!
     At the stage when you first add the barley and water.
At the stage when you first add the barley and water.

Last stage of cooking.
Last stage of cooking.

Serve this intensely flavorful and hearty soup up hot. Enjoy!

Tibetan Home Cooking

Tibetan Home Cooking

Bring joy to the people you love by making your own delicious, authentic Tibetan meals


One response to “Tibetan Mushroom Barley Soup”

  1. How many servings would this recipe make please ? 😀

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