Toasted Grain Soup with Crispy Mushrooms and Kale

updated Jan 31, 2020
Toasted Grain Soup with Crispy Mushrooms and Kale

This vegetarian soup is supremely satisfying, thanks to a winning combination of veggies, herbs, beans, and grains.

Serves4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 1 hour

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Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

You know how one recipe can totally change your mind about a dish or an ingredient? For instance, I was firmly anti-gnocchi until I made this crispy sheet pan version. I thought I hated cream cheese frosting until I tried it mixed with peanut butter. And I never considered myself a “soup person” until I made this toasted grain soup. But now, you guys, I get it.

I always associated soup, especially vegetarian or vegan soups, with being light and unsatisfying. I assumed a bowl of soup couldn’t possibly fill me up the same way a big grain bowl loaded with toppings or a crunchy, veggie-packed salad could. I figured I would be hungry an hour later, craving something to sink my teeth into.

Boy, was I wrong. With its winning combination of veggies, herbs, beans, and grains, this soup proved to me just how hearty and craveable soup can truly be.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

An Endlessly Customizable Vegetarian Soup

The best soups rely primarily on pantry staples. This one gets a lot of its flavor from workhorse ingredients like tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and it’s designed to work with plenty of adaptations. Use a red onion or a few shallots in place of the yellow onion. Replace the chickpeas with white beans. Top it with sour cream instead of yogurt. And, most significantly, use absolutely any grain hanging out in your pantry.

Cooking the grain directly in the soup minimizes extra dishes and lets the ingredient absorb all the flavors from the broth. How long it needs to cook for depends on the grain. Pearled grains, such as pearled farro or pearled wheat berries, will take less time to cook than their whole grain or semi-pearled counterparts. Start by checking the package directions to get an estimate, then taste as you go until they reach your desired chewiness (generally anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes). Regardless of which grain you use, toast them in hot oil at the beginning of the cooking process to deepen their flavor.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

A Crispy Veggie Topping to Rival Croutons and Crackers

The addition of meaty shiitake mushrooms and curly kale are part of what makes this soup so satiating. And since we’re already stirring them into the soup, why not roast some as the soup simmers to create a crispy topping, no extra ingredients necessary? As they roast in a hot oven, the mushrooms shrivel and crisp and the kale turns into crunchy chips — making a delightful umami-packed topper to your soup.

A note on leftovers: The grains will continue to absorb the broth as they sit, so this soup will thicken significantly in the fridge overnight. You can thin out leftovers with a splash of water or broth as you reheat, or embrace the thicker consistency and enjoy it risotto-style, perhaps topped with a poached egg.

Whether you eat plant-based full-time or want to go meat-free once a week, Tonight We Veg will bring you the feel-good vegetarian meals you crave. Twice a month, in addition to our existing lineup of great veggie recipes, we’ll share easy weeknight recipes that prove how diverse produce-forward food can be, each packed with smart tips we’ve picked up over the years. Cook along with us, and share your creations using #tonightweveg.

Toasted Grain Soup with Crispy Mushrooms and Kale

This vegetarian soup is supremely satisfying, thanks to a winning combination of veggies, herbs, beans, and grains.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 1 hour

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup

    whole grains, such as farro, wheat berries, spelt, barley, or brown rice

  • 1 pound

    fresh shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 bunch

    curly kale (about 12 ounces)

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 4 cloves


  • 6 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided, plus more for serving

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    tomato paste

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

  • 7 to 8 cups

    low-sodium vegetable broth, divided

  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can


  • 2 teaspoons

    red wine vinegar

  • Plain 2% or full-fat Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)


  1. Place 1 cup whole grains in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse under cool running water, and set aside to drain.

  2. Remove the stems from 1 pound shiitake mushrooms and discard (or reserve for making stock). Tear the caps into bite-size pieces and set aside on a rimmed baking sheet. Strip the leaves from 1 bunch curly kale, tear into bite-sized pieces, and place in a large bowl (7 to 8 packed cups). Chop the stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Thinly slice 1 small yellow onion and 4 cloves garlic.

  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 5 1/2-quart or larger Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the rinsed grains and cook, stirring often, until darker in color and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, kale stems, about 1/3 of the torn mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and several grinds black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened slightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, drain and rinse 1 can chickpeas. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

  4. Stir 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes into the soup and cook, stirring constantly to break up tomato paste, for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the chickpeas, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, several grinds black pepper, and 6 1/2 cups broth. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  5. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the grains. If the soup begins to thicken too much, add the remaining 1 cup broth. Meanwhile, roast the kale leaves and mushrooms.

  6. Toss the remaining mushrooms on the baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and several grinds black pepper. Roast until beginning to crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the kale leaves with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

  7. Push the mushrooms to one third of the baking sheet and add half the kale leaves to the other side. Roast until the mushrooms and kale are crispy, 5 to 7 minutes more.

  8. When the grains are tender, stir the remaining kale leaves and 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar into the soup. Cook until the kale is wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed, likely about 1/2 teaspoon.

  9. Divide the soup among bowls. Top with the crispy mushrooms and kale, a dollop of yogurt, if using, a drizzle of olive oil, freshly-ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days.