Yogurt Barley Soup with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

Yogurt Barley Soup with Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

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

Deliver Ingredients


Recipe Courtesy of Mollie Katzen for the California Walnut Board.


For the Soup:

  • 1 Cup pearl barley
  • 1 Cup plain yogurt (Greek style ok) - at room temperature
  • black pepper to taste
  • cilantro walnut pesto (recipe follows)
  • 1 Teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 Cup finely minced onion
  • 4 Cups water
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cumin
  • minced fresh mint (OPTIONAL TOPPING)
  • chopped walnuts (OPTIONAL TOPPING)

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 Cup walnuts
  • 1 Cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon minced or crushed garlic


For the Soup:

1)     Combine the barley, water, and ½ 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 ½ 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.

Yogurt Shopping Tip

Stock up on good quality extra-virgin olive oil, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, oregano, and lemons – these ingredients are central to Greek cuisine

Yogurt Cooking Tip

Simplicity is the secret to Greek cuisine, so paying attention to details such as marinating, seasoning well, and using only the freshest ingredients is key.