Cumin Lentil Barley Stew


Is my blog looking a little fat to you? I think maybe it’s had a little too much chocolate lately, and is starting to look paunchy around the middle. Maybe it needs a cleanse, one of those detox diets. Or maybe it needs to give up chocolate for Lent. Except that I am pretty certain my blog is not Catholic. And I am very certain that it would fail miserably at such an endeavor. Forty days without chocolate? Impossible. But it is willing to forego the sweets for a day or two in order to bring you this lovely vegetarian stew, filled with all sorts of healthy things and not one little bit of chocolate. Winter still has a pretty firm grip on us here in New England, and this makes a hearty but healthy meal. And it also contains a sizeable dose of one of my favourite spices – cumin.

I fell in love with cumin back in university, after coming across a recipe for cumin lentil soup. It sounded easy to make, and the ingredients were cheap, both pre-requisites for all food in my student days. That soup became a standard for me and I made buckets of it all through undergrad and grad school and well into the first years of my marriage. And I always put in more cumin than the recipe called for. I’ve long since lost that recipe but it’s not a hard soup to recreate, and it’s a good one for playing around with and changing things up.

One thing that I always loved about that soup was that if you let it sit for long enough, it became more like stew as the lentils soaked up the broth. This time, I decided to play up that quality deliberately. The original recipe called for potatoes, but I also have a soft spot for barley soup and decided to marry the two together into a thick, hearty, vegetarian stew. With extra cumin, naturally.

This is by no means a low carb meal, as both lentils and barley have a lot of carbs. But they also have a lot of fiber and there is little question that this soup is healthy with a capital H. It was a welcome break in my house after several meals based around meat, and every single person gobbled up their bowl happily. Including my picky, picky baby! I rounded out my meal with some salad and a piece of almond meal bread and was happy to find that my blood sugars were in target range afterwards. This recipe is a keeper, especially if you are still experiencing some chilly weather as we are.

Cumin Lentil Barley Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup barley, rinsed and picked over
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large stockpot until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery and salt and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, stock, lentils and barley. Bring just to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils and barley are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in spinach and heat through.

Season with salt and pepper.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Angela@RecipesFromMyMom says

    Carolyn, I'm in love with this stew. Cumin has always been my fav spice too but I don't usually put it into anything beyond Mexican food. You've opened up a whole new world for me. Thanks!

  2. Belinda @zomppa says

    I'm a huge cumin fan, too. =) What a healthy and hearty stew – certainly deserving of some chocolate afterwards.

  3. Elizabeth says

    I love cumin and barley, this stew looks excellent! And you're right, a keeper for the folks trapped in a cruel chill before spring champions.

  4. Boulder Locavore says

    Hi Carolyn! Cumin is the one spice I run out of regularly. I love it's pungent smell and flavor and can't think of much I wouldn't add it to. This stew sounds great, earthy and soul warming. We got some snow overnight so it sounds particularly good right now; I'd eat it for breakfast if I had some! Hope all is well!

  5. Becky says

    We are still having winter temps here, so your stew is inviting and warming. I love the addition of the spinach!

  6. Pretend Chef says

    I really need to make more soup. This makes me crave a bowl. Your stew looks delicious and hearty. A must for these chilly days. Cumin is one of those spices that makes me giddy. The aroma is amazing. Yummy!

  7. Fresh and Foodie says

    Yum. I've been really into lentils lately, so this looks great. Is that a cube of feta on top in the pictures?

  8. Sandra says

    Ohh dear Carolyn your blog never looked better, I think it needs more chocolate:))) however you can't go wrong with this amazing soup of yours! Looks so tasty and beautiful!
    My family love soups, I have to try your recipe asap!

  9. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says

    Your stew looks amazing, so flavorful. I love barley and lentils. I'm definitely trying this! :)

  10. Kristen says

    I wish that spoonful of stew in the top photo would just keep moving right on through my computer screen and into my mouth! That is one lovely looking dish. Spring doesn't seem to know whether she is coming or going even here in AZ, so a bowl of stew would hit the spot.

  11. Karen says

    This is what I need for lunch…I'm sitting here freezing in my house. Time for the heater, I think! I like the combo of lentils and barley here. Sounds so hearty and comforting.

  12. Susie Bee on Maui says

    I love cumin too. I'll have to look for your almond meal bread-that sounds interesting.

    There's always a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert!

  13. Cakewhiz says

    The weather here in chicago is as chily as it was in winter…i don't know where that spring went but until it comes back, i can rely on your stew to warm up :)
    It looks hearty and tasty!

  14. Tiffany says

    Cracked. Me. Up. Your blog's not Catholic! LOL! Hehehehe! I love cumin + I love lentils = I love this recipe!

  15. kitchenarian says

    I love cumin! It is one of my favorite spices. The weather here is still chilly and we are expecting rain – this will be perfect. Thanks!

  16. sweetlife says

    I love to keep lentils in my pantry they are perfect for wuick meals and me and cumin have a fab relationship!! yummy


  17. Trish says

    This soup is sooo up my alley. Love cumin and all the great flavors you packed into it. I would NEVER be able to give up chocolate either…and we shouldn't have to 😉

  18. Elisabeth says

    Carolyn, I love your lentil, and barley soup, especially with the cumin spice addition. So colorful, healthy, and delicious!

  19. Amy Bakes Everything says

    So beautiful – it's still freakin' winter here, this would warm us up for sure! Gorgeous as usual!

  20. kita says

    I'm in love with this soup already and I haven't even made it yet. I have an unnatural love of cumin, a <3 a hearty soup, I love sneaking healthy spinach into things and making my BF eat it and I think lentils are the boom shiznets! I cant wait to try this!

  21. RavieNomNoms says

    I really like how you did this stew…I love cumin so this is right up my alley. Honestly, I gave up all desserts for Lent..which includes chocolate…so far I am doing okay but I know by the last week I will be dying for some chocolate! haha

  22. Susi's Kochen und Backen says

    Carolyn, what a gorgeous vegetarian meal, chock-full of ingredients that I love. We are big cumin lovers and I purchase it by the BIG bag full from Penzey's LOL

  23. Cake Duchess says

    I also love cumin. This is a great recipe for me to try as I always make my lentils the same way. Hope you're having a great week:)

  24. Kim - Liv Life says

    Cumin is one of my favorites also. Nearly everything that I make with cumin and a toss of cilantro my husband comments that "this one is really good!" I also like soups that become stews, I'm not a real brothy soup fan, so the stew suits me well. My husband would question the lack of meat, so I might toss in a bit of diced chicken, but other than that I can see this being a hit. Glad to hear your little one liked it too! I might have hope with my picky guys!!

  25. Bob P says

    If you've got the ambition and the gear, toasting cumin seeds and grinding them will create the. most. amazing. aroma in your kitchen. I'm looking forward to trying this.

  26. says

    Delicious, flavorful, hearty… And I would feel so good about eating it because it's healthy… that's a bonus!

  27. sara @ CaffeIna says

    Maybe I'm a little biased (not a big chocolate fan) but I don't think I would need a reason to switch from chocolate to this wonderful stew. Plus, I loooove lentils!

  28. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen says

    Oh that's too funny, detox for your blog! I thought at least our blogs didn't have to suffer through diets, but I guess even they get a little heavy from all the sweets sometimes. 😀

  29. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says

    I wish I had this stew waiting for me tonight for dinner! This looks so delicious and perfect for the dreary cold day here.

  30. Aggie says

    I love this. I want to experiment with more whole grains like barley. I don't know why I don't add it to soups more! This looks very delicious!

  31. Elle says

    Barley, lentils and cumin are three of my favorite ingredients! This would be perfect for tomorrow since we're supposed to get hit with snow. 😉

  32. All That's Left Are The Crumbs says

    Thank you so much for this delicious recipe. I am making a list of recipes that my eldest daughter could prepare for herself at university and this looks perfect.


    Ya know, we just don't use barley enough around here. This looks so warm and inviting. I know my kids would gobble it down!

  34. She's Cookin' says

    This stew looks so healthy, comforting, and delicious! I love the barley and lentils but because of my husband's low sodium diet, I can't even make a quick soup using broth anymore!

  35. Caroline says

    I've never been one to be successful at soup-making and I've attempted many times. I made your soup and it turned out great. The recipe is very simple and open to changes which I love. Thanks for this delicious soup. I'll be trying more of your recipes which all look tempting.

  36. Boneman says

    Very nice combination! Fired up a batch of this yesterday and had a happy time snarfing down about three bowls. Cumin and Coriander are staples in Indian cooking and as soon as saw this pop up in a google search, I was on it in a heartbeat. Well DONE!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *