Nothing better than homemade hearty beef barley soup for a cold winter night! This easy beef barley soup is made with tender beef, soft barley, mushrooms, carrots, celery, beef broth, tomatoes, and so much more.
It freezes really well too, so I always make a big batch and freeze the leftovers for later to satisfy my winter cravings. Many of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time for ease and convenience as well. Plus, everything is made in one pot for easy clean-up!
I promise, you will love this soup! It’s cozy, comforting, and so delicious.
Beef barley soup is one of my favorite seasonal soups, especially during this time of the year. It’s hearty, cozy, comforting, and so delicious. Perfect for a cold winter night. I love the rich savory flavors, as well as the tender beef and the soft and chewy barley.
I really like barley. Really like it. Not only is it healthy and good for you, but it also has great texture and makes a very hearty meal. The texture is great…tender, soft and a bit chewy.
Another one of my favorite ingredients in this easy beef barley soup is mushrooms. The mushrooms here pair so well with the tender and delicious beef. Both add so much heartiness to the soup!
I make this soup in a large Dutch oven, all in one pot! Plus, it is make-ahead friendly – you can chop all the ingredients the day before, and the barley can be cooked ahead too.
It freezes really well, so I often make a big batch and freeze it for later. It’s so convenient!
I love all the ingredients here. Together, they make rich and delicious soup. I’d recommend using fresh ingredients as much as you can, so fresh garlic, fresh herbs, fresh veggies.
Here is a quick overview of the ingredients (quantities are included in the recipe card below).
- Boneless beef chuck roast: Cut into small half inch pieces. You’ll need about 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat for a 6 or 8 quart pot.
- Salt and pepper: For seasoning the meat and the soup. I’d recommend using Kosher salt.
- Olive oil
- Onion: For the flavor base.
- Celery: A great vegetable for soups!
- Carrots: Another great vegetable for soups!
- Mushrooms: I love mushrooms, but feel free to omit them if you don’t like them.
- Minced garlic: For flavor.
- Fresh thyme leaves: For more aromatic flavors!
- Canned diced tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes add body, tons of concentrated flavor, and color.
- Worcestershire sauce: My favorite flavor enhancer!
- Beef broth and water: I like to use both beef broth and water so the liquid base isn’t too salty. If you want it to be less salty, substitute some of the beef broth for water.
- Pearl barley: Make sure you use pearl barley in this recipe, and not hulled barley. Pearl barley is the most common kind and takes about 45 minutes to cook. If you want, you could also use hulled barley but it will need to cook for about 2 hours or longer.
- Fresh parsley or thyme: For garnish! It will add a bit of freshness.
Pearl vs Hulled Barley
There are two main types of barley: hulled barley and pearl barley.
In this beef barley soup recipe, I use pearl barley because it takes less time to cook, is chewier and softer, and helps to thicken up the soup.
Hulled barley: It has an outer layer and has a light brown color. It is also healthier than pearl barley. Hulled barley takes longer to cook and retains its shape better, and is not as soft as pearl barley. It doesn’t release much starch either, so it won’t thicken the soup as much as pearl barley would.
Pearl barley: The outer layer is removed in pearl barley and is pearl white in color. It takes about 40-50 minutes to cook (depending on how tender you want it), and it helps thicken soups and stews. Pearl barley becomes soft, tender, and chewy much more easily, which is why I prefer to use it for beef barley soup.
I’d highly recommend using pearl barley in this recipe, but you can absolutely use hulled barley if you want. You’ll just need to cook it for about 25-30 minutes longer than pearl barley, which means you should add the hulled barley much earlier in the cooking process to make sure the rest of the ingredients don’t overcook.
Let’s Make It
Making beef barley soup at home is so easy! It’s made on the stovetop (no need to finish it in the oven) and all in one pot for easy clean-up.
Per usual, the specific step-by-step instructions can be found in the recipe card below, but here is a top-level overview to give you an idea:
- Sear the beef: Sear the beef in batches. Searing the beef will add SO MUCH flavor, and also leave behind brown bits in the pot. Releasing brown bits will add even more flavor to the veggie base.
- Cook the veggies: Celery, carrots, and onions. Cook until slightly softened, about 10 minutes, stirring.
- Add the flavor enhancers: Garlic, Worcestershire sauce, canned diced tomatoes, and fresh thyme. Also add the mushrooms, if using.
- Stir in the broth and water and simmer: Simmer for about 30 minutes, covered. This will allow the flavors to come together and the beef to become soft and tender.
- Add the pearl barley and cook: Pearl barley needs about 45 minutes to cook. If you want it more tender and chewier, cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Also, check if you need to add more broth during this time because pearl barley absorbs liquid.
- Adjust seasoning and consistency. Salt and pepper, and more broth or water as needed. Enjoy!
Also, remember to use a big pot! At least 6 quarts. A big pot will give the barley enough room to expand. This recipe feeds about 8 people.
Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions
To make beef barley soup ahead of time, simply chop and dice the veggies and refrigerate in containers or bags 1-2 days in advance. The meat can also be chopped and refrigerated in advance. Another idea would be to pre-cook the barley separately in advance, but the downside is that the soup won’t thicken up as much (pearl barley releases starch when cooked).
To freeze the beef barley soup, let the cooked soup cool down completely and freeze in small freezer-friendly containers. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a small pot or in the microwave oven.
It also refrigerates pretty well, so if you have leftovers, it will last in the fridge for about 3 days if stored in airtight containers. To reheat, add some beef broth or water since the barley will continue to absorb liquid while being stored.
You will absolutely love this easy beef barley soup! It’s cozy, comforting, and hearty…perfect for a cold winter night.
I love barley, especially in soups. The beef, mushrooms, and all the other veggies add body and so much flavor. Plus, it is made in one pot for easy clean-up. This recipe makes enough for about 8 people, and you can easily adjust the ingredients proportionally if desired.
To save time, you can also prep the ingredients ahead of time. And it’s freezer-friendly. I just love it so, so much!
Other comforting soups for winter that I love:
Tips for Success
- Use fresh ingredients as much as possible! Fresh garlic, herbs, and veggies. They will make a huge difference!
- Use pearl barley (not hulled barley). Pearl barley takes less time to cook, and is also more tender, softer, and chewier. It will also help thicken the soup.
Beef Barley Soup
- 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into small ½ inch pieces
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil for pan
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, small diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms - (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 5 to 6 cups beef broth, plus more as needed
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup pearl barley
- Fresh parsley for garnish
- Season the beef with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
- Over medium high heat, heat a few drizzles of olive oil on a large 6 or 8 quart Dutch oven pot. Sear the beef on all sides until nicely browned. Do this in batches to not overcrowd the pan (this will prevent steaming). Tip: If you notice that it begins to steam up, remove the excess liquid and continue browning.
- Transfer the browned meat to a plate and set aside. It will not be fully cooked at this point. Leave the brown bits, don’t wipe the pot clean.
- To the pot, add a few more drizzles of olive oil, and over medium high heat, cook the onions, celery and carrots for about 10 minutes until softened. The moisture from the veggies will release the brown bits (left from searing the meat) and add a lot of flavor.
- Add the minced garlic, mushrooms, and fresh thyme leaves. Cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant, stirring.
- Stir in the canned diced tomatoes and the Worcestershire sauce. Return the cooked meat to the pot. Add 5 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of water, and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, with the lid covered.
- After that, stir in the pearl barley. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for another 40-45 minutes with the lid covered, or until the barley is fully cooked and tender. Stir occasionally. If needed, add more broth and/or water (check a few times if more liquid is needed because barley tends to absorb liquid). Tip: for more tender barley, cook for an additional 10 minutes or so.
- Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with some fresh parsley or thyme as garnish. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: Large 6 or 8 quart Dutch oven or pot.
- Use pearl barley, not hulled barley.
- Storing: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. When reheating, add some broth to the soup (the barley will continue to absorb the liquid overnight).
- Make-ahead tips: The veggies can be diced ahead of time and stored in the fridge. If desired, you can also pre-cook the barley in advance, but the soup won’t be as thick (cooking barley releases starch).
- Freezing instructions: Make the soup from start to finish. Let the soup cool down completely, and divide up into smaller freezer-friendly containers. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a small pot or microwave.