Old-Fashioned Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

Soup is the perfect comfort food on these cold winter days. I recently found a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe for Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage. The soup was delightful – but the recipe name is misleading. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of barley – and it is not a predominate ingredient in the soup. This soup is really a hearty, rustic Cabbage and Bacon soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (October, 1917)

Since modern pearled barley does not need pre-soaking, I skipped that step. Also, I didn’t think that three green onions were very many, so I used all the green onions in the bunch that I purchased. Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

6 cups water

2 tablespoons barley

1/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 small cabbage (about 1 pound), finely shredded

1 bunch green onions (6 -8 green onions), chopped

1 cup half and half

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Put water in a dutch oven; bring to a boil using high heat, then add barley, bacon, cabbage, and green onions. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add half and half, salt, and pepper. Heat until steamy hot, then serve.

24 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)

  1. I haven’t used barley- always put off by that line in Mary Poppins about the kids wanting a nanny who doesn’t smell of barley water, I guess- but this recipe makes me think I should try it!

    1. Haha Lauren, that is funny. And the way they say it too “bah-ley wah-ta” kind of drawn out with a sound of disgust. Have you seen the new movie? Kind of off topic but I haven’t run across anyone who has seen it yet.

  2. I bought a nice head of cabbage at a farmers market and was going to make soup – think I’ll try this as it sounds delicious, especially using half and half to cream it. I may cut back on the bacon as it is high in sodium, just put enough to season a litttle. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re fortunate to have mild weather this winter – though I shouldn’t complain, it’s generally been fairly warm this winter here, too.

  3. I love barley in soups and it used to be a fairly regular thing to have soup once or twice a week in the winter. This looks wonderful, and while I love barley, I think the cabbage and fat from the bacon probably add the best of the flavors with just enough barley for interest and texture. And doesn’t pearl barley kind of “swell up” and expand? Happy New Year, Sheryl and all your wonderful readers, and thank you for all the great recipes and wisdom shared here!

    1. Barley does swell up and expand – but there really wasn’t enough in this recipe for it to be very noticeable. It you make this soup, and want to taste the barley, I’d use a little more than what the recipe calls for (maybe 1/3 cup or so).

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