Swiss Barley Soup (Bündner Gersten Suppe)


Before winter is totally gone I wanted to make one of my favorite Swiss soups just oooone more time. This recipe is a traditional from the Kanton Graubünden, or Grison, the home of famous ski resorts such as Arosa, Davos and St.Moritz, a region that also hosts Switzerland’s fourth official language: Romansch (speak ‘romansh’ in english)

A very mountainous region in the eastern part of Switzerland (this is where Heidi in the original story is from, and no, she did not have blond tresses but black curly hair in the written story. Seriously, I’ve read it 😉

This region is also home to other yummy specialties, like ‘Tuorta da Nusch’ (Nut CAke or Tart) Bündner Fleisch (Air dried Beef that get’s sliced transparent thin), Pizokel and more… Now I am starting to get home sick 🙁

But back to today’s favorite: Soups. This one is a staple at most ski resort restaurants, and I would often have it for lunch, with a good slice of bread, what more do you need?  It’s hearty and filling and makes me think of home 🙂

I had to make mine a bit thicker so the picture would show something. But be careful it’s very easy to make this into a stew or even a solid-something. It doesn’t look like there is that much barley when you starts out, but it swells almost exponentially once cooked. The soup should end up being creamy-thick, if that’s a technical term. But not to the point where there is just barley, it’s  a soup after all.


It can be made totally vegan, but I usually prefer to have a sausage of sorts with it. In ski resort mountaintop restaurants, this is usually one of the cheaper lunch choices and comes with one, sometimes two franks.



  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1-2 Leeks, depending on size, white and light green parts only, cleaned and cut
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into rounds
  • (optional: 3 medium potatoes, diced)
  • 3 oz Speck (or pork belly, or salt pork, or thick cubed bacon), diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (or 1 can rinsed) dark red kidney beans
  • 4 cups Beef or vegetable broth
  • water
  • 1 cup milk or some cream to finish the soup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 2 Franks per person and some hearty crusty bread



  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large stock pot, add the onions and cook over medium until translucent, add the cubed speck or bacon, and cook until the onions are slightly browned
  2. Add barley and diced vegetables, stir to coat, then add the broth and about 2 cups of water
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered until barley is almost tender, adding additional water as needed.
  4. Add the beans and keep cooking until barley is tender but not falling apart.
  5. If you are going to have the Franks, add them to the soup at this time until they are heated through, or cook any other way you prefer.
  6. Season the soup with salt and pepper and stir in the milk or cream just before serving.
  7. (This soup can be frozen, in portions, before adding the milk or cream. To reheat, let it defrost in the fridge then heat stirring frequently, add the cream or milk just before serving.)


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8 Replies to “Swiss Barley Soup (Bündner Gersten Suppe)”

  1. Having been to Switzerland several times, thank you for posting this because Swiss barley soup is always eagerly anticipated every visit. Now I can make it and have a little of Switzerland at home.

    1. Hi Sandy, Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad I could help! Isn’t it nice when you realize a favorite vacation dish can be made at home? I was jumping up and down when I realized I could make my favorite Thai desert at home 🙂
      You might also like my Swiss Christmas Cookies and check back when you get a chance, I always sprinkle in recipe’s from back home!

        1. Oh it was terrific. Usually use Betti Bossi’s recipe but it’s practical rather than being informative on what is TRADITIONAL so I loved your post and recipe because it was exactly like the Gerste Suppe that I have had in Graubünden. My husband’s family is from Davos so Graubünden is very close to my heart. Thanks so much!!!

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