Creamy Vegan Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Soup

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With each passing February day the sun hangs a little higher and the daylight hours stretch just a bit longer. Today marked the first day there was no need to partially draw the shades in my office to block out the blinding winter rays. It’s a strange way to mark the approaching end of winter, but my heart is happy about it.

There is no doubt this winter has taken it’s toll on many and I will be the first to admit I’ve spent much of this winter wishing it away. But a small, optimistic inner voice continues to remind me of this gloomy season’s one redeeming quality; hot soup.

Getting dinner on the table can be a challenge, even more so when winter’s biting cold siphons our energy. But a big batch of soup is the gift that keeps on giving. Throw things in a pot and you’ve got a week’s worth of dinner.

I’m letting the slow cooker do the heavy lifting for this recipe. Barley is a perfect grain for the slow cooker as it’s a little more hearty compared to quinoa or farro. After 8 hours it’s perfectly tender.

While the bulk of this recipe is made in the slow cooker, there is one last optional step that really sets this soup over the top. Cashews get soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then blended until creamy. This is the equivalent of adding a splash of heavy cream at the end of a recipe and though it’s not necessary, it makes the dish a little more luxurious.

Friends, I hope you’re taking care of yourself. Do a little something to nourish yourself during these last few cold winter days and remember spring is just around the corner.

Creamy Vegan Slow Cooker Mushroom Barley Soup

For the soup

  • 1 Cup Pearled Barley
  • 1 Lb Button Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Thyme Sprigs
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper

For the cashew cream (optional)

  • 1/2 Raw Cashews
  • 1 Cup Boiling Water

Combine the barley, mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic, vegetable broth, bay leaf, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a 7 quart slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve as is, or make the cashew cream by soaking the cashews in boiling water for 10 minutes. Reserve the liquid and place the cashews in the bottom of a blender. Turn the blender on high and drizzle in the reserved liquid until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream. Pour into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Enjoy!