As the heartiest budget-friendly meal, this vegetable beef barley soup is a must-make for meal prep or cozy family dinners. Easy to make on the stove, in the Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker!
This beef barley soup recipe is a new family favorite, thanks to its stick-to-your-bones blend of beef, barley, and a medley of nourishing veggies. I’ll whip it together for meal prep or make a batch when the kids and I are craving something that’s equally comforting and delicious.
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
- Simple, customizable ingredients. I made sure to use readily available, affordable, and customizable ingredients in this beef and barley soup.
- Heartwarming. The tender chunks of beef, pleasantly chewy barley, and assortment of vegetables make this the ultimate heartwarming meal.
- Nutrient-dense. Every soul-warming bowl is packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Versatile cooking methods. Besides being a warm hug in a bowl, this soup is also easy to make on the stove, in the slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot. Your pick!
Like my beef stew, this beef barley soup calls for a slab of budget-friendly beef, fresh veggies, and a few pantry staples you likely already have. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Beef chuck. This is my top pick for soups and stews because it tenderizes and becomes more flavorful during the slow cooking process. You can use pre-cut stew meat here or cut it yourself into cubes slightly thicker than bite-sized.
- Salt and pepper. To season.
- Oil. To sear the beef. I like olive oil but you can use any high-heat cooking oil.
- Vegetables. You need a mix of onions, carrots, and celery. Once they start to sizzle, your kitchen will smell amazing!
- Parsley root. AKA hamburg rooted turnip. It has a similar taste to parsnips and contributes to the overall depth of flavor. If you can’t find this, feel free to use parsnips.
- Garlic cloves. Freshly minced to enhance the savory flavor.
- Red wine. To deglaze the pan and add depth and complexity to the soup. I recommend using a dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
- Beef stock. I like using homemade beef stock but a good quality store-bought brand is just as good.
- Worcestershire sauce. AKA the holy grail of flavor in many beef recipes.
- Barley. I used pearl barley because of its shorter cooking time and smoother texture. Remember that the cooking times will change and you’ll likely need more broth/wine if you use hulled barley.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How to make beef barley soup
Step 1 – Season and sear the beef. Season the beef stew meat with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef cubes and brown on all sides, then set it aside.
Step 2 – Sauté the vegetables. Add the onion, carrots, celery, parsley root, and garlic to the empty pot and sauté until fork-tender.
Step 3 – Deglaze the pot. Pour the wine into the pot and scrape up the stuck browned bits on the bottom.
Step 4 – Simmer. Add the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce, then return the meat to the pot. Heat to a simmer, then cover and let it cook for 1 hour.
Step 5 – Add the barley. Lastly, stir the barley into the pot. Continue simmering until it’s tender and cooked through. Garnish the soup with fresh herbs, then enjoy!
Alternative cooking methods
I prefer cooking the soup on the stovetop because that’s how I grew up making soup but I know many of you have slow cookers and instant pots so I’ve also tested using those kitchen pots too!
Instant Pot instructions: First sear the beef chunks in the oiled Instant Pot using the sauté function. Remove the meat from the pot, then add the vegetables and sauté until softened. Add the broth, Worcestershire, and barley. Return the beef to the pot and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally before removing the lid.
Slow cooker instructions: Begin by browning the beef pieces in an oiled skillet before transferring them to the slow cooker. Add the vegetables, followed by the beef broth, Worcestershire, and barley. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the beef is tender and the barley is cooked.
Recipe tips and variations
- Trim the beef. Remember to remove any thick, visible chunks of fat from the meat (some is okay), as it can make the beef tough and the soup taste gritty.
- Don’t skip the sear. That gorgeous golden crust around the beef pieces adds an incredible depth of flavor to the soup. Don’t skip this part!
- Toss in some fresh herbs. If you have fresh parsley, thyme sprigs, or bay leaves, please throw them into the pot for extra flavor.
- Experiment with veggies. While I don’t recommend omitting the hearty vegetables from this beef soup, you’re more than welcome to add more veggies you need to use up. Experiment with fresh green peas, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, or kale.
- Or add root vegetables. Diced potatoes, parsnips, and turnips would also be an excellent addition to this comforting soup!
- Instead of beef. Swap the beef for a different protein, like chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, or venison. Remember to adjust the cooking time based on the type of meat you choose.
- Save time with leftover beef. The leftover bottom round roast, top round roast, sirloin tip roast, or round steak in your fridge would be perfect here. Just chop the beef into bite-size pieces, then add it to the pot during the last few minutes of cooking to heat it through.
To store: Allow the leftover beef and barley soup to cool to room temperature, then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: Leftover beef barley soup freezes very well! Once it’s cool, transfer the soup to an airtight, freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 to 4 months. Let the soup thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: You can reheat the leftovers on the stovetop in a saucepan or in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Sirloin or brisket are both excellent substitutions for the beef chuck roast in this soup.
Sure! To do so, brown the ground beef in a skillet, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. From there, cook the soup as normal.
Yes, cooking the barley ahead of time is a great time-saving trick. I typically cook the barley directly in the soup but pre-cooked barley added in the last 15 minutes of cooking is just as tasty.
More comforting soup recipes
- Cheeseburger Soup – Enjoy the best a delicious burger offers in a rich and creamy soup.
- Ground Turkey Soup – If you’re looking for new ways to enjoy ground turkey, you’ll love this nourishing soup!
- Stuffed Pepper Soup – Ground beef, vibrant bell peppers, and white rice in an aromatic tomato broth. Yum!
- Keto Broccoli Cheese Soup – Indulge in a beloved classic with a fraction of the carbs.
Vegetable Beef Barley Soup
- Season the meat with salt and pepper on all sides.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat and sear the meat until well browned. Remove the meat from the pot.
- Add onion, parsley root, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and cook until fork tender.
- Deglaze the pot with wine, cook for a couple of minutes until the alcohol evaporates, and add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and meat back to the pot.
- Bring the soup to a simmer then cover it and cook for an hour.
- Add barley to the pot and cook until it is cooked through.
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