The classic 1947 French tale “Stone Soup” by Marcia Brown, tells the story of three hungry soldiers visiting a village in search of food. When the soldiers were denied food by the villagers, they set about making a large pot of soup with three stones and water. The soldiers wondered if the soup might not be better with a few carrots. Hence, the villagers returned with an apron full of carrots. And what about, say, some cabbage…potatoes…barley? The villagers contributed step by step, eventually turning that pot of stones into a wonderful meal, along with bread and cider, for the whole village.

I love that story, as it highlights how a few rustic ingredients from the garden can nourish the mind, body and soul. After all, is there anything quite as good as a hearty, vegetable-based soup? Pair it with a salad and some whole grain bread, and you have a satisfying meal packed with disease-protective nutrients.

Carrots, peppers, onions, summer squash, tomatoes, and potatoes are the key ingredients in this stone soup.

This vegetable soup, filled with summer produce, lentils, barley, and herbs, is inspired by the classic Stone Soup recipe. Topped with home-made whole grain croutons and fresh herbs, it can be the centerpiece of your meal. Cook it up in a slow-cooker to make it even easier.

Yields 12 servings (approximately 1 1/4 cup each)

Vegetable Stone Soup (Vegan)
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  • 6 cups water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid, reduced sodium
  • 2 cubes vegetable bullion, reduced sodium
  • ½ cup green lentils, uncooked
  • ½ cup barley, uncooked
  • 1 medium onion (red, yellow, or white)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (purple, yellow, or orange)
  • 2 small summer squash (i.e., zucchini, scalloped, yellow crookneck), sliced
  • 4 small, thin-skinned potatoes, diced (i.e., Yukon gold or red potatoes)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried mustard
  • 6 slices whole grain bread
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (i.e., sage, parsley, basil, oregano, chives, marjoram)
  • Sea salt (optional)


  1. In a large pot, add water, tomatoes, and vegetable bouillon and stir together.
  2. Add lentils, barley, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, squash, potatoes, mushrooms, black pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, and mustard. Stir well and cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium and cook for about 1 hour, until barley and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Replace any water lost to evaporation (should make a thick, hearty texture).
  3. Toast whole grain bread in the oven or toaster until brown and very crisp. Slice into small cubes.
  4. Add lemon juice and fresh herbs to the soup, and season with a small amount of salt (if desired).
  5. Ladle hot soup into soup balls and garnish with whole grain croutons (1/2 slice of toast per serving). Refrigerate leftover soup and reheat as desired (add croutons just before serving to maintain crisp texture).


*To make this recipe in a slow cooker, add all ingredients in steps 1-2 to the slow cooker, stir well, cover, and set to high for 4 hours. When done, follow step 3 as directed, add ingredients in step 4 to slow cooker, and serve soup as directed in step 5.

*Nutrients Per Serving: 155 calories, 6 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g sugar, 197 mg sodium


Recipe and photography by Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life and blogger at The Plant-Powered Blog.

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