Yogurt Barley Soup with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

Total Time
1 Hr, 20 Mins


Enjoy this very simple, refreshingly tart soup as a light spring greeting for lunch or dinner.

Total Time

Prep Time
20 Mins
Cook Time
1 Hr
Total Time
1 Hr, 20 Mins


320 cal
Total Fat
12 g
10 mg
Polyunsaturated Fat
2 g
620 mg
Monounsaturated Fat
4 g
Dietary Fiber
9 g
9 g
45 g


For the Soup:

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (Greek-style okay) – at room temperature
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 cup California walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Optional Additional Toppings: 

  • Minced fresh mint
  • Chopped California walnuts


For The Soup:

  1. Combine the barley, water, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium-large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the barley is tender – about 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Toss in the onion and cumin and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and continue to sauté until the onion becomes very soft – about another 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. When steps 1 and 2 are done, add the sautéed mixture to the barley mixture, and simmer them together, covered, over lowest possible heat, for about 10 minutes – to meld the flavors.
  4. Stir and/or whisk the room-temperature yogurt into the hot soup until it blends in completely. Season to taste with black pepper, and serve right away, with a heaping teaspoon (or more) of the pesto added to each serving. If desired, you can also top with scatterings of fresh mint and minced walnuts.

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  1. Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
  2. Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
  3.  Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.