Lentil-barley stew

A great ‘gateway’ dish for those who are new to lentils!

This dish is so satisfyingly yummy it can turn non-believers into lentil lovers! I encourage you to give this healthy, hearty stew a try, no matter if you are traditionally a meat eater, a vegetarian or a vegan – it seems to appeal to everyone. You can play around with the broth, vegetables and seasoning if you like; I prefer it as described below because the taste is very harmonious and balanced. My sister introduced me to this stew decades ago and I am still amazed that it doesn’t need garlic to pack a flavour punch. If you use water instead of stock, this stew is also a very economical recipe. Note that it can easily be doubled and freezes beautifully. Serve this piping hot with a loaf of crusty bread.


  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter (or olive oil for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) whole (often called pot) barley*
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried red lentils, picked over for stones and rinsed well
  • 6 – 8 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped in 1/2″ pieces (enough to yield 3 1/2 cups, or 875 mL)**
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups (625 – 750 mL) vegetable or chicken stock (can use water instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground rosemary
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated carrot
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced thin

*I like pot rather than pearl barley – it’s less refined and more nutritious.
**You can substitute a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (low sodium if you can find it).


  • In a large, heavy saucepan, melt butter (or add olive oil) and sauté onion till tender.
  • Add celery and cook 5 minutes longer stirring occasionally.
  • Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Add lentils, barley, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings.
  • Add 2 ½ cups of the stock (or water, if using).
  • Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • If it seems thicker than you’d prefer, add a bit more stock or water.
  • Add carrots and zucchini just before serving and cook 5 minutes longer.
  • If you are making the stew ahead of time, it will continue to thicken as the barley and lentils absorb moisture, so add a little more water or stock to make it the consistency you like when you are reheating it.

Serves 4 – 6.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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