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Vegetable Barley Chili

A vegetable barley chili recipe thats warm, comforting and perfect for a vegetarian cold weather meal.

One of the things I love most about Sundays besides pumpkin protein pancakes and oatmeal pumpkin pancakes, is come 4pm blasting some music (usually Today’s Country Radio on Pandora unless I’m feeling too sassy for some twang), pouring myself a glass of wine and starting to cook.

Sundays mean plenty of time in the kitchen without any pressure to get dinner on the table by a certain time, no workouts hanging over my head and Brad Paisley singing to me to “remind him” (Oh, Brad I wish I could, believe me.)

That’s what last Sunday was like.

This Sunday, I’m spending my entire day in a freezing hotel conference room listening to sessions on elevators, green waste recovery and fuel cell technology. Scintillating, no?

Let’s talk about last Sunday instead.

While Brad crooned, (I try to drown out Carrie) this vegetable packed barley chili bubbled away on the stove.

Vegetable Barley Chili

There’s really nothing like a good spicy chili on a fall day. Turkey hummus chili would’ve also fit the bill.

The best part about chili is the fact that it tastes even better after a day or so.

Any leftover that tastes better than the original is a win in my book.

Vegetable Chili with Barley

The key to the spiciness is in these bad boys.

chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

I think the first time I heard of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce I was watching a Rachael Ray 30 minute meal episode.

I was intrigued and bought them the next time I was in the grocery store, used about 5 in the next chili recipe I made and nearly spit out the first spoonful that touched my lips.

These things are HOT! 5 is about 4 too many in a chili recipe FYI.

Vegetarian barley chili

My dad will probably cringe at the fact that there’s no meat in this chili but the barley gives it plenty of volume and staying power that dare I say the meat isn’t even missed?

Topped with some sharp cheddar cheese, there’s really not much else that’s better on a cozy fall Sunday night.

So, blast some music, drink up and spend some time in your kitchen today, ok? I wish I was.

Need some more ideas of how to enjoy barley? Try this barley summer salad or this barley beet and goat cheese salad. It’s such a delicious grain!


Kabocha Squash Chili
Turkey Chili Pie
Chicken Apple Cheddar Chili
Spicy Porter Short Rib Chili

All of these would only be improved with a slice of sweet potato cornbread on the side too!

Vegetable Barley Chili

Vegetable Barley Chili

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

A vegetable barley chili recipe thats warm, comforting and perfect for a vegetarian cold weather meal.


  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 small/medium (or 2 large) zucchini, chopped
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 14 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper


  1. In a small sauce pot combine water, vegetable broth and barley and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for approximately 30 minutes.
  3. While barley is cooking, in a dutch oven or other large pot, add olive oil, onion, carrot, garlic and thyme over a medium-high heat. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Next, add zucchini and sauté for another 5 minutes or so until softened.
  5. Once vegetables are softened, add chipotle chili, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans and spices including salt & pepper to the pot.
  6. By this time barley should have almost absorbed all the liquid.
  7. Add barley and remaining liquid to the pot with the vegetables.
  8. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  9. Let cook for at least another 15 minutes to fully cook barley and meld flavors.
  10. Can be served at this point or continue cooking on low heat for another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer you cook it, the less liquid there will be as the barley will continue to absorb the liquid.
  11. Can also be made ahead of time and warmed up on the stove before serving. Like any chili, the flavors get better with time.
  12. Serve with grated cheddar cheese, avocado & plain yogurt as topping, if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 937mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 12gSugar: 8gProtein: 16g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.


Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

What’s your favorite chili topping?

Tell me the best part about your Sunday so I can live vicariously through you guys today.

Hannah Flack

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

"This was great! Really enjoyed it - thanks for sharing. I do agree with another commenter who said it was a bit sweet - I will definitely reduce the sugar next time (I used regular granulated sugar).

Can't wait for leftovers tomorrow! :)"

Alisha Ross

Friday 31st of January 2020

I am a person that cooks in the Crockpot all the time! I like the Pulled Pork recipe, and the Mup Pie and Chicken Fajitas is awesome to make. This is a good time to cook in a slow cooker in the summer because it does not heat up the house!


Monday 6th of March 2017

Gina thank you so very much for sharing this dish. I made it with plain Egyptian rice on the side and my son loved it so very much.

In Time for Fall - Vegetable Barley Chili |

Tuesday 18th of October 2011

[...] slightly frosty fall weather, comes this delicious and flavorful spicy vegetable barley chili via Running to the Kitchen. A bit ‘o spice to warm up a cool night at the house is pure delight for any food fanatic or [...]

Jen @ Light Enough to Travel

Monday 17th of October 2011

Beautiful photos of this chili. So awesome. I have to admit when I first stumbled upon your blog, I bookmarked it because you have a Weimaraner. Ginger is, of course, awesome. But I subscribed when I saw your food photography, and I keep coming back for more!!

I made a soup with barley this week too. Funny coincidence! :) I used up all my barley though so I have to go buy more to make this.

Running to the Kitchen

Monday 17th of October 2011

Thanks Jen! I love barley in soups, such a good way to make them filling :)

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