Hearty Beef Barley Soup: A Comforting Classic

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Dive into a bowl of rich, savory goodness with this ultimate beef barley soup. Tender chunks of beef, plump pearls of barley, and perfectly cooked vegetables come together in a deeply flavorful broth that’ll warm you from the inside out.

This isn’t just any soup – it’s a hearty meal that borders on stew territory, packed with protein and fiber to keep you satisfied. Let’s uncover the secrets to making this soul-warming dish that’s perfect for chilly evenings or whenever you need a comforting boost.

The Key to Incredible Beef Flavor

The foundation of an amazing beef barley soup lies in selecting the right cut of beef. We’re after those collagen-rich cuts that transform into tender, juicy morsels after a low and slow simmer. Our top picks? Chuck roast or short ribs.

Chuck roast is budget-friendly and delivers great flavor, though you might notice some variation in texture throughout the pot. Short ribs, while pricier, offer consistent tenderness and an even deeper beefy taste. Plus, if you can snag them bone-in, those bones will infuse your soup with an extra layer of rich flavor.

Pro tip: Ask your butcher to remove the bones from short ribs before cooking. This allows you to control the size of your beef chunks while still benefiting from the bone-infused broth.

Browning: The Flavor-Boosting Step You Can’t Skip

To create a soup with restaurant-quality depth, we’re employing a clever browning technique. Instead of cubing the meat first, we brown large pieces, then cut them into bite-sized chunks. This method gives us those delicious browned flavors while keeping most of the meat juicy and tender.

Don’t forget about the veggies! A quick sauté of carrots, onions, celery, and garlic builds another layer of flavor that’ll make your soup irresistible.

The Stock Secret

Here’s a surprising twist – we’re using chicken stock as our base. Why? Because most store-bought beef stocks fall short on real beef flavor. A good chicken stock provides a neutral canvas that allows the true beefiness of your meat to shine through. Of course, if you have homemade beef stock, that’s the gold standard.

Barley: The Heartbeat of the Soup

Pearled barley is the star grain in this soup, offering a delightful chewiness and subtle nutty flavor. It also releases just enough starch to give the broth a slightly thicker, more satisfying texture without venturing into stew territory.

A Symphony of Flavors

To round out the flavor profile, we’re adding a sachet of aromatic herbs and a splash of fish sauce. Don’t worry – you won’t taste fishiness. This umami-bomb ingredient simply amplifies the savory notes, making your soup taste even more… beefy!

Ready to dive in? Let’s get cooking!

Beef Barley Soup Recipe


  • 2 pounds (1kg) boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2–inch steaks, or 3 pounds (1.3kg) bone-in beef short ribs, ribs removed and reserved (see notes)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) canola oil
  • 3 large carrots (10 ounces; 280g), diced
  • 1 large yellow onion (12 ounces; 340g), diced
  • 2 ribs celery (6 ounces; 170g), diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 quarts (3L) homemade or store-bought chicken stock (see notes)
  • Sachet of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and about 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup pearled barley (7 ounces; 200g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3ml) Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • Minced fresh parsley, for garnish


  1. Season beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat until it shimmers. Add beef in batches if necessary, and sear until a beautiful brown crust forms on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the browned beef to a plate.
  2. In the same pot, add carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring often and scraping up those flavorful browned bits from the bottom, until the vegetables start to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl. Pour stock into the pot and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom to release any remaining browned bits.
  3. While the stock heats, cut the seared beef into bite-sized chunks. Add the beef, any accumulated juices, reserved bones (if using), and the herb sachet to the simmering stock. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the beef is meltingly tender, 1 to 2 hours. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
  4. Fish out and discard the bones and herb sachet. Stir in the barley, reserved sautéed vegetables, and fish sauce if using. Simmer until the barley is tender and the vegetables are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with a bit of water until it reaches your desired consistency. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Special Equipment

Large pot or Dutch oven

Recipe Notes

Beef chuck is your wallet-friendly option that still delivers great flavor. For an extra-luxurious soup, splurge on short ribs. Their intense beefiness, especially when paired with bones, creates an incredibly rich broth. Don’t hesitate to ask your butcher for help removing the bones if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

While we recommend chicken stock for its neutral base, homemade beef stock is the ultimate choice if you have it on hand. Most store-bought beef stocks lack authentic flavor, which is why we generally avoid them.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

This beef barley soup is a meal prepper’s dream! It freezes beautifully and will keep in the freezer for three to six months. Simply thaw, reheat, and enjoy a comforting meal any time.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
320 Calories
16g Fat
19g Carbs
26g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 320
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Sodium 638mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 26g
Vitamin C 5mg 23%
Calcium 45mg 3%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 649mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

October 2016


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