Instant Pot

Persian Barley-Lentil Soup with Spinach

4 Servings

FAST: 50 minutes
Slow: 5¼ to 6¼ hours 20 minutes active

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This hearty vegetarian soup was inspired by a recipe in “Bottom of the Pot” by Naz Deravian, who explains that she created the dish by combining two classic Persian soups: lentil and barley. She uses dried limes common in Persian cuisine to infuse the broth with unique citrus notes. We opted for easier-to-find fresh limes and use the zest for fragrance and flavor and the juice to add tanginess. For efficiency, prep the spinach and cilantro while the barley and lentils cook. And to round out the meal, serve with warmed bread or flatbread and a dollop of plain yogurt for richness.




Don't use hulled barley instead of pearled barley. Hulled barley has had its inedible outer hull removed but retains its bran. Pearled barley, on the other hand, has been polished to remove the bran, which makes it quicker to tenderize; in this recipe, it cooks at the same rate as the lentils.

FAST: 50 minutes
Slow: 5¼ to 6¼ hours

20 minutes active



Anne W.

I love this soup! It has a freshness from the spinach and cilantro that was perfect for a cool rainy summer night. The creaminess of the barley and lentil combo was perfect. I made the fast version and look forward to making it again soon! Don't skip the greek yogurt and oil on top, it really rounds out the flavors.

Natacha M.

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Erica D.

Can farro or another gluten free grain be used in place of the barley?

Amy R.

I used sweet brown rice and it was a lovely substitution.

Lynn C.

Hi Erica -

Farro is a general Italian term that refers three specific wheat species: spelt, emmer, and einkorn, which are all types of hulled wheat. Some supermarkets label them by their Italian names: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). In the U.S. anything labeled simply "farro" generally means emmer and has been pearled, which means the bran has been removed. Since it contains wheat, farro it is *not* gluten-free. Each type of farro takes a different amount of time to cook. If you are using pearled farro it should be similar to pearled barley and would probably work fine here. Other types of farro will take longer to cook and, therefore, cannot be substituted.

The Milk Street Team

Arianne B.

Could I use sour cream instead of yogurt for this? I've a family member who dislikes yogurt.

April D.

Arianne - yes, definitely! A dollop of sour cream at the end will have much the same effect as the yogurt. You could also use the sour cream to thicken the soup itself, like we do in this Persian barley soup recipe (for stovetop, not Instant Pot):

The Milk Street Team

Leslie H.

Very good!! Did not have yogurt so used sour cream. We doubled it (in 8 qt IP) and were glad we did.

Diana S.

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Tricia S.

This smelled heavenly. I made it on the stove and simmered it with extra water to get the texture I wanted for the barley. It took a little over an hour. The only negative was that the lime zest, added early, gave the dish a bitterness we did not care for (there was no pith). Next time I'll add it closer to the end or skip it and add more lime juice to finish.

Lori L.

This soup was so flavorful and easy to make. A bowl of healthy and tasty goodness.