This Beef Barley Soup is flavorful, incredibly easy and satisfying on a cold day. One pot meal ready in an hour with ground beef, barley and vegetables. So good!
Busy? Make in slow cooker or try this Instant Pot beef barley soup.
Soups are busy parents, grandparents and anyone’s budget life savers.
Unlike my grandma and other classic beef and barley soup recipes out there, I like to use ground beef for beef barley soup. Small pieces of cooked hamburger pair well with barley and end up in every spoonful making soup extra rich.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I do crave tender beef chunks. That’s when I make vegetable beef soup recipe, beef stir fry recipe or beef and broccoli. But for this particular soup recipe, I am just fine to use minced meat.
Ingredients and Notes
This beef barley soup recipe is the best! It is quick, easy and healthy. It uses simple ingredients and is highly customizable. I give you lots of options below.
- Ground beef: It cooks much faster than beef stew meat. If you use lean hamburger, you can drain excess fat after sauteing. Cooked leftover beef from Instant Pot pot roast or sirloin tip roast is great and will take only 40 minutes to create a rich flavoured beef barley soup.
- Barley: I prefer to use hulled barley that is high in fiber, protein and is a whole grain. Hulled barley or sometimes called whole wheat barley is more chewy and can be found in most grocery stores. You can use pearl barley, it is just less nutritious. Also buckwheat groats are a pretty close substitute in taste and texture.
- Vegetables: Veggies used in classic soups like onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes and celery create a flavor base for meat and broth.
- No beef broth? I get it, I often do not have one on hand. Use any other low sodium broth, Instant Pot beef bone broth, chicken broth or Instant Pot chicken broth. Water works too, you might cook barley beef soup a bit longer or add more seasonings.
How to Make Beef and Barley Soup
Beef and barley soup recipe is quick and easy. Traditional mirepoix vegetables onion, carrots and celery are sauteed with dried thyme for additional flavor and no extra calories. Then all ingredients are simmered in low sodium beef broth for only 40 minutes vs. 1 hour and often longer.
- Saute onion and garlic in hot olive oil: That is why I love my Lodge dutch oven – you can saute and cook soup in same pot and it cooks faster because cast iron retains heat well.
- Cook beef breaking into small pieces: Meat doesn’t have to be cooked through, just small pieces are welcome to end up in every spoonful. Also sauteing dried herbs like thyme helps them release their natural oils and add more flavor.
- Simmer soup for 40 minutes after you added barley, broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper. It is important to bring any soup to a boil first and then simmer covered.
Tips for Best Results
Here are my top tips for the best beef barley soup recipe ever!
- If you don’t love thyme: Use dried oregano, dried rosemary or dried basil.
- Add 2 cups of cubed potatoes to bulk up the soup: But cut them larger so they don’t fall apart completely during 40 minutes.
- Love mushrooms in beef barley soup? Saute 1 cup sliced brown mushrooms after onion and garlic.
- If you would like to make this soup in Instant Pot: Saute ground beef first, then cook with all other ingredients (but use only 6 cups broth) on high pressure for 10 minutes. Wait 20-30 minutes to avoid splatters and then release remaining pressure, if any.
- Got slow cooker? Saute meat and veggies and then slow cook all ingredients together for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. That is when chewy hulled barley comes in handy – it won’t be as mushy as pearled barley.
How to Make Ahead, Store and Reheat
To make ahead: Saute all veggies and meat. Add to a large glass container or bowl with a lid along with all spices. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. Then add stock and cook beef barley soup as per recipe.
You can also freeze the make ahead version above in a plastic bag: Then cook from frozen on the stove or Instant Pot following recipe’s cooking time.
This method wouldn’t work for crockpot though because it is not recommended to allow not fully cooked meat sit in warm slow cooker for hours. However, you can first thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours or maybe overnight and then slow cook.
Store leftovers: For up to 5 days in the fridge. Or freeze beef and barley soup leftovers for up to 3 months. Reheat by simmering on low heat in the pot on the stove.
More Soup Recipes to Try
Beef Barley Soup Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 large carrots diced
- 2 large celery stalks diced
- 3 large potatoes cubed
- 1 lb ground beef extra lean
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 9 cups beef broth low sodium
- 1 cup hulled or whole wheat barley
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup parsley finely chopped
- Preheat large Dutch oven or pot on medium heat and swirl oil to coat.
- Add onion and garlic, saute for 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add carrots, celery, ground beef and thyme. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking meat into small pieces.
- Add beef broth, potatoes, barley, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.
- Turn off heat, stir, add parsley and adjust any seasonings to taste, if you wish.
- Serve hot with a slice of toasted bread.
- Store: For up to 5 days in the fridge. Reheat by simmering on low heat in the pot on the stove.
- Freeze: Cooked soup up to 3 months.
- Freezer meal: Saute veggies and meat. Add to freezer bag with spices. Cook from frozen on the stove or Instant Pot adding broth and following recipe cooking time.
- Barley: I prefer to use hulled barley that is high in fiber, protein and is a whole grain. It is also called whole wheat barley and texture is chewier. You can use pearl barley, it is just less nutritious.