This Beef Barley Soup is flavorful, incredibly easy and satisfying on a cold day. Healthy one pot meal ready in an hour with ground beef, hulled barley and vegetables. So good!

Busy? Make in slow cooker or this Instant Pot beef barley soup.

Beef Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup

Healthy soups are busy parents, grandparents and anyone’s budget life savers. 🙂

In our household, beef barley soup is a welcome change to turkey meatball soup or chicken noodle soup that tend to happen more often. Unlike my grandma and other classic beef and barley soup recipes out there, I like to use ground beef for this 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 healthy beef stir fry or beef and broccoli. But for this particular soup, I am just fine to use minced meat. 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.

See, ground beef barley soup is the best! Quick, easy and healthy. And highly customizable. I give you lots of options below. Enjoy! 🙂

Beef and Barley Soup with carrots, celery, onion and parsley

Ingredients for Beef Barley Soup

  • 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 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 (which I love) and can be found in most grocery stores (look in bulk). You can use pearl barley, it is just less nutritious. Also buckwheat is a pretty close substitute in taste and texture.
  • Vegetables: Veggies used in classic soups like onion, garlic, carrots and celery create a flavor base for meat and broth.
  • No beef broth? I get it, I often do not have one on hand although I try to with low sodium organic bouillon cubes. Use any other low sodium broth, bone broth or stock. Water works too, you might cook soup a bit longer or add more seasonings.
Beef Barley Soup in a bowl served garnished with parsley

How to Make Beef and Barley Soup

  • 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 ground 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 Beef Barley Soup

  • If you drain beef fat: Do so in a garbage or city collected compost. Do not drain into the sink as fat solidifies and may clog the pipes. Also do not add to your yard compost as meat attracts rats.
  • If you don’t love thyme: Use dried oregano, rosemary or 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 pearl.
Beef Barley Soup in a ladle

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 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 them for up to 3 months. Reheat by simmering on low heat in the pot on the stove.

More Healthy Soup Recipes

Beef and Barley Soup
beef barley soup

Beef Barley Soup

This Beef Barley Soup is flavorful, incredibly easy and satisfying on a cold day. Healthy one pot meal ready in an hour with ground beef, hulled barley and vegetables. So good!
5 from 25 votes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 194
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 large carrots diced
  • 2 large celery stalks diced
  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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, 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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.
  • If you drain beef fat: Do so in a garbage or city collected compost. Do not drain into the sink as fat solidifies and may clog the pipes. Also do not add to your yard compost as meat attracts rats.
  • 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 pearl.
See recipe post for more tips and FAQs.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 194kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 358mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g
Course: Soup and Stew
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Oh so yummy on these cool rainy days, easy to cook and easy on the budget, just add corn bread and get ready for the compliments

  2. I have a bag of mixed split lentils, can I substitute them for the barley, thank you. And would I use the same amount as stated in the recipe.

    1. You can. Probably same amount but you might have adjust thickness with more broth at the end. It’s soup so it’s forgiving. Just play it by the ear.

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious soup! Quick and easy to make with ingredients pretty much always on hand.
    Did not use the parsley. Hubbie said there should be mushrooms (an addition you suggested)
    Thanks for another great recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe amazing delicious soup I already made two times our new favourite soup love all your recipes 😊

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