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 these and these, is come 4pm, hooking up my iPhone to the docking station on my kitchen countertop, 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 bubbled away on the stove.

Vegetable Barley Chili

Spicy vegetable barley chili.

There’s really nothing like a good spicy chili on a fall day. 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.

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.


Please leave a comment & rating below or share a photo on Instagram and tag @runningtothekitchen


What’s your favorite chili topping?

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


  1. Lauren

    I LOVE chilis in adobo but I hate that I always have extras left and never know what to do with the rest. Do you know how long they stay good in the fridge? BTW-this chili looks FABULOUS!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      Oh my gosh Lauren, I was going to say the SAME thing! I’ve kept them in the fridge before in a tight tupperware for like a month but they started growing mold after that. I wish I could buy them individually!

      1. Lauren

        Been there, done that! I use them a lot in a turkey chili recipe and then watch the reminder become a science project in the fridge because I hate throwing them out. Wouldn’t it be GREAT ! Seriously who uses the ENTIRE can in ONE recipe. Thanks for the reply!.

      2. Cristal

        I’ve put them in an ice cube tray and frozen them, then into a Ziploc freezer bag, but have also kept them in a glass jar in the fridge.

  2. Cait's Plate

    Ugh. I cannot wait to make my first batch of chili!! It needs to cool down a little more before I do…WHERE IS FALL!?!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      is it sad that I passed a TJ’s here in Cali and wanted to go in and shop, pack it in my suitcase and take it home? <3 that store!

  3. Kerry

    Do you think it is possible to make this recipe in a crock pot? I don’t know how the barley would hold up – if it would absorb too much water over the 6 hours. Thanks!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      Honestly, I’m not sure. I would probably cook the barley separate from the rest of the chili if you go the crock pot route and add it in at the end. although, what’s the worse that could happen, mushy barley? I’m sure it would still taste good :)

  4. Jen @ Light Enough to Travel

    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.

  5. Pingback: In Time for Fall - Vegetable Barley Chili |

  6. Nada

    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.

  7. Alisha Ross

    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!

  8. Hannah Flack

    “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! :)”


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