Go Back
+ servings
Hands holding a bowl of the best beef barley soup recipe.
Print Pin
5 from 8 votes

Beef Barley Soup

This old-fashioned Beef Barley Soup is a healthy and cozy lunch or dinner for cool nights!
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword beef and barley soup, beef barley soup, crockpot beef barley soup, homemade soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 14 cups
Calories 165.6kcal
Author Blair Lonergan


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup quick barley (or see note below to use regular pearled barley)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  • In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper, to taste. Working in batches, when the oil shimmers, add the beef and brown on all sides (it doesn’t need to be cooked through – just make sure it gets nice color on the outside) – about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pot and set it aside (leave the fat in the pot).
  • Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, for one more minute. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and broth. Scrape up all of the flavorful beef bits from the bottom of the pot as you stir! Return the beef to the pot. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Increase the heat and bring soup to a boil. As soon as the soup boils, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour (or until beef is tender). Add the quick barley, cover, and simmer for 10-15 more minutes (or until barley is tender).
  • Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.


  • This recipe yields a very large pot of soup. You can freeze leftovers, or prepare a smaller batch by cutting all of the ingredients in half. The rest of the cooking instructions remain the same for a half-batch of soup.
  • Brown the meat. This is an extra step, but it's worth the effort. The caramelized surface gives the beef extra flavor, while the browned bits and drippings in the pot add even more flavor to the soup.
  • When browning the meat, do not overcrowd the pot. Instead, work in batches so that the meat is spaced apart in a single layer. This will help to achieve that great sear on the meat, whereas a crowded pan will steam the meat.
  • Cook the beef long enough to break down the tough connective tissue and fibers. If your meat is still tough after about 1 hour, simmer the soup a little bit longer. This will result in a delicious soup with tender chunks of beef throughout.
  • Keep the Dutch oven covered while simmering in order to trap moisture in the soup.
  • Garnish each bowl with fresh parsley or other chopped herbs for a bright finishing touch.
  • This recipe calls for "quick barley" which cooks in about 10-15 minutes. You can also substitute with regular pearl barley if you prefer. If using regular pearled barley (instead of “quick barley”), you will need to add some extra cooking time at the end. Regular barley requires about 30-40 minutes to simmer in the soup, so just plan accordingly.
  • Beef stew meat is ideal for this recipe, but you can substitute with diced chuck or short rib. These affordable cuts become very tender when cooked low-and-slow in a simmering soup!
  • Add a splash of red wine for extra flavor, or a dash of balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Flavor the soup with additional herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, oregano, or chives.
  • For a richer tomato flavor, add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the soup at the same time that you add the mushrooms and garlic to the pot.
  • Chicken broth is an adequate substitute for the beef broth; however, the soup will have a slightly different flavor and a less robust, "beefy" taste.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 165.6kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.5g | Protein: 18.2g | Fat: 4.7g | Saturated Fat: 1.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.7g | Cholesterol: 42.9mg | Sodium: 392.5mg | Potassium: 179.3mg | Fiber: 2.6g | Sugar: 2.7g