Bündner Gerstensuppe (Graubünden Barley Soup)

The Bündner Gerstensuppe, a barley soup from the alpine Canton of Graubuenden, is hugely popular in Switzerland. People cook it at home from scratch or from a dried soup packet, and this soup is also one of the most loved, filling and satisfying lunches in restaurants up in the Alps while skiing in winter or hiking in summer.

This soup isn’t difficult to prepare but does need a long time on the stove to bring out the flavours, but it’s so worth it. It’s one of my favavourite soups and it doesn’t need more than a slice of freshly baked bread for a satisfying dinner on a cold evening.

The main star of the soup is pearl barley. There are two types of barley, as thekitchn.com explains: Hulled barley has had the tough, inedible outermost hull removed but still retains its bran and endosperm layer. It is the most nutritious of the two and can be considered a whole grain. A light golden brown in color, it’s the nuttier and chewier version as well. Pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran and possibly even the endosperm layers, resulting in a pale, creamy-colored grain. It is less chewy and cooks faster than the hulled variety, but has less fiber, is less nutritious, and is not considered a whole grain.

Recipe for 4 persons

  • 60g pearl barley (Rollgerste)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1/2 white cabbage
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbsps oil
  • beef stock powder
  • 300g cold meat (choose from Bündnerfleisch, bacon, or smoked pork sausages)
  • 2 tbsps cream
  • Salt and pepper


Wash and chop all vegetables in small cubes (potatoes, carrots, celery) or slices (leek, cabbage). Gently fry all vegetables except the leek in the oil. Add the leek, barley, stock powder and 2.5l water. Cook for 2 hours.

Then add the cold meat (in thin slices) and gently cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and the cream and serve with freshly baked bread.

3 thoughts on “Bündner Gerstensuppe (Graubünden Barley Soup)”

  1. Thank you for another recipe that mystified me! I really appreciate the photo of the barley and packaging. It is difficult to find correct translations for the grains and many people don’t know the difference. My husband always insisted that rollgerste was rolled oats! I will try this recipe this weekend when it is supposed to be cooler. I also appreciate your advice on which cold meats to use. That is another hard one to work out for a Swiss-by-marriage!

    1. Little Zurich Kitchen

      Oh yes please let me know how you got on! I just double-checked about the Rollgerste, I think I should have translated it to pearl barley which is a more common name in English. I hope you can find it! It‘s the barley that has the outer layers removed and hence is softer. The wholegrain one, still with outer layers on, is hulled barley, which is a lot chewier and not recommended for this soup.

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