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French Onion Soup with Barley

Photo: Ryan Liebe; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl


Hands-on time 18 mins
Total time 1 hr, 25 mins

Serves 6

We've updated the classic soup with whole-grain barley, whose hearty chew is a tasty addition. Pearl barley may be quick-cooking, but it's not whole grain; choose whole-grain barley here, sometimes labeled "hulled barley" and often found in the bulk foods section.


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup hulled barley
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and vertically sliced
  • 1 pound sweet onions, peeled and vertically sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 6 cups unsalted beef stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 ounces French bread baguette, cut into 18 thin slices
  • 3 ounces cave-aged Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

Nutrition Information

  • calories 380
  • fat 11.7 g
  • satfat 4.2 g
  • monofat 4.9 g
  • polyfat 2 g
  • protein 16 g
  • carbohydrate 51 g
  • fiber 9 g
  • cholesterol 22 mg
  • iron 2 mg
  • sodium 590 mg
  • calcium 279 mg

How to Make It

  1. Bring 6 cups water and barley to a boil in a large saucepan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until done. Drain.

  2. While barley cooks, heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 45 minutes or until onions are caramelized and very tender, stirring occasionally.

  3. Increase heat to medium-high. Add sherry; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in stock, pepper, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir in barley, thyme leaves, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  4. Preheat broiler to high.

  5. Arrange bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 30 seconds on each side or until toasted. Ladle 1 1/3 cups soup into each of 6 ovenproof bowls. Arrange 3 toast pieces in each bowl; divide cheeses evenly over toasts. Place bowls on baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.