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.

Beef Barley Soup in red pot.

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.
Beef Barley Soup in a bowl served garnished with parsley.

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.
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 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 and Barley Soup garnished with parsley and served in a bowl.
beef barley soup

Beef Barley Soup Recipe

This Beef Barley Soup Recipe is flavorful, incredibly easy and satisfying on a cold day. One pot meal ready in an hour with ground beef, barley and vegetables.
5 from 29 votes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 194
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour



  • 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.


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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  1. 5 stars
    I am Ukrainian as well, and love cooking. I especially love making soups and this one sounds excellent. I will definitely make this one and some of your other recipes look good to try as well, good but healthy as well, which is what I am looking for.

  2. 5 stars
    Although I’m not a mom like you and I’m just a teenager, I just love cooking for my family and this new recipes you have been giving me are the best. But the only problem is that some of the ingredients are hard to find in my country. I still cook the food though and they are amazing. Keep up the good work.

  3. Am I missing something? It doesn’t say how long to cook the soup after adding the beef broth & barley. I hope to make it tonight!

    1. Sorry missed it in the recipe card but added to the post. Simmer for 40 mins after bringing to a boil. I will fix it once back from vacation.

  4. Hi Olena. I would like to make this soup, it looks yummy. However I’m located in New Zealand and cannot find hulled barley, only pearl barley. Are there any other healthy grains you could recommend? Thanks Ans

    1. Hi Ans. Yes sure. Brown rice or green lentils would be same cook time. Buckwheat or quinoa would be about 25 mins. Enjoy!

  5. 5 stars
    Looks so yummy, will try it. I am from Latvia and living in London, lots of your recipes remind me of home and are absolutely amazing and easy to make too! Keep up the good work!

5 from 29 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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