Our beef barley soup is loaded with carrots, celery, onion, pearl barley, and chunks of tender beef. Fresh thyme and parsley lend tremendous flavor to this soup that's both nourishing and comforting. This is the soup to make on cold nights!
Calling beef barley soup a soup may be a misnomer.
This soup is almost more like a beef stew since it's incredibly hearty and loaded with stick-to-your-ribs goodness.
Our recipe includes beef chuck that's braised in broth and red wine along with carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.
While the soup does take almost 2 hours to cook, it's certainly worth the wait.
We love to serve our beef barley soup with a chunk of crusty bread, or garlic bread, and a simple green salad.
Note: The image above was meant to include all ingredients, however, in our haste we forgot the beef in the refrigerator and it didn't make the picture! It is however an important ingredient and is included in the full process pictures below.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Begin by slicing 2 pounds of beef chuck roast into cubes. Dice 1 medium onion, 2 ribs of celery, and 4 medium carrots. Mince 3 cloves of garlic and a ¼ cup of parsley. Note: You can cut out and remove any large pieces of fat which will cut down on the richness of the soup.
- Heat a large heavy pot to medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear the beef on all sides until well browned taking care to not overcrowd the pan. Work in batches if required.
- Once the beef is browned, set it aside and add the carrots, celery, and onion to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer or until fragrant.
- Add ¾ cup of dry red wine and turn the heat up to high. Allow the wine to reduce by half (about 2 minutes) and using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot to dislodge the brown bits.
- Add the beef back to the pot along with 6 cups of low-sodium beef broth, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes with the lid partially covered.
- Add 1 cup of pearl barley and continue to cook at a simmer for another 45-60 minutes or until both the barley and beef are tender.
- Taste test along the way and once the barley is tender, remove it from the heat. Give the soup another taste test and make any adjustments to salt and pepper, if needed. If the soup is too thick, add a little water or more low-sodium beef broth to bring it to the desired consistency. Add the parsley right before serving and enjoy!
Top tips for the best beef barley soup
- Season the beef. After you've cubed your beef chuck, it's important to pat it dry with paper towels and season it right before you sear it. Seasoning the beef on all sides with salt and pepper will help better flavor the soup.
- Red wine. We're often asked if wine can be omitted from our recipes, and with the exception of Peposo, the answer is almost always yes. The wine is simply added to enhance and deepen the flavor of the beef barley soup but it is not mandatory here. If you are using wine, use a dry red like a Cabernet or Sangiovese.
- Beef broth (or stock). We strongly recommend using a low-sodium beef broth or stock for this recipe. If you use a full sodium broth or stock, the soup could be overly salty.
- The barley. Barley takes a long time to cook, so be patient. Taste test the soup along the way and you'll know it's done when the barley is nice and tender. It usually takes about 45-60 minutes of cooking.
- Consistency. Soup in general will thicken the longer it cooks and will in most cases continue to thicken as it cools. The starchy barley will also act as a thickener as it cooks. If you find the consistency is too thin, simply continue to cook until the desired consistency is achieved. If the soup is too thick, add a little water or low-sodium broth until you reach the perfect consistency.
More hearty soups and stews
If you're looking for comforting soup, you've come to the right place. Here are a few more of our favorite soup and stew recipes!
- Italian wedding soup - tiny meatballs with acini di pepe, fresh spinach, escarole, and carrots.
- Guinness beef stew - tender chunks of beef, carrots, and potatoes stewed with Guinness and fresh thyme.
- Classic chili - ground beef, beans, ancho and chipotle peppers, cumin, cinnamon and a hint of dark chocolate.
- Italian beef stew - beef braised in red wine with carrots, celery, mushrooms, and rosemary.
- Split pea soup - Smoky ham, tender split peas, carrots, and homemade garlic croutons.
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- 2 pounds beef chuck cubed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 4 medium carrots diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¾ cup dry red wine
- 6 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup pearl barley
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup parsley minced
- Heat a large heavy pot to medium heat and add the olive oil. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear the beef on all sides until well browned. Work in batches if required. Do not overcrowd the pan.
- Set all the beef to the side and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes then add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
- Add the red wine and turn the heat to high. Reduce by half (about 2 minutes) and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to remove all of the flavor bits.
- Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and the beef back to the pot. Once boiling turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes with the lid partially covered.
- Next, add the barley and cook at a simmer until tender (about 45-60 minutes). Taste test along the way and once the barley is tender, remove the pot from the heat.
- Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, add water or extra low-sodium beef broth to thin it to personal preference. Add the parsley before serving. Enjoy!
- This recipe makes 6 large bowls.
- Add more liquid (beef broth or water) after cooking to thin out the soup to desired consistency.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated on the stovetop or microwave.
Love every recipe I’ve ever tried!!!
I can I make this a day in advance?
Hi Mary Jo, yes. In fact, it will probably taste even better made a day in advance.
Very good by itself,as so many of your recipes are, but where are the iconic and traditional mushrooms?
Hi Saundra, thanks for the comment. I will actually have a separate mushroom barley soup recipe out soon. You could definitely add mushrooms to the one with beef though.
Would it be ok to use less barley so that the soup doesn’t get so thick?
Yes, that's fine!
In England UK you can buy red wine stock pots. This turned into a fabulouso hearty meal! Thank you so much for your time and creativity in sharing your wonderful recipes 😊
Hi Glynis, I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the soup. Thanks so much for your comment!
Fantastic soup. Came out tasting every bit as good as it looked. One critique is that it is extremely heavy, ie "rich." I had the same sense of guilt while eating it that one has when eating cheesecake. I did trim a good bit of fat before searing the meat, but I would recommend that you go further and trim as much fat as you reasonably can. I seasoned the meat before searing and also seasoned the vegetables heavily while cooking, and I didn't need to add any more salt at the end. You might also consider cutting down the barley to 3/4 cup, though not sure what that might do to the consistency. I look forward to making this again and adding some pearl onions.
Hi Aaron, thanks for the comment and glad you liked the soup. This one is definitely hearty but worth it! Pearl onions would be a great addition.
Excellent beef and barley soup. I just finished having a big bowl of it, topped with pecorino Romano. I’ll definitely make it again.
Hi Catherine, thanks for the comment and so happy you liked the soup!
This came out absolutely amazing! I didn’t have barley so I ended up using farro and the recipe worked just fine - perfect for a cold day! The wine really adds something special to this dish too! Use 3/4th of a cup of the grain for a slightly more “soupy” feel, 10/10!
Hi there, so happy you enjoyed the soup! Farro is a great sub for barley. Thanks for the comment!
Hearty and warming on a winter’s night. I have a feeling all the leftovers will get eaten up the next day, which is an achievement in our house. The only small adjustment I made was to add about 2 tbsp of ketchup to the broth, because I wanted a little tomato flavor in the background.
Hi Erin, so happy you enjoyed it and appreciate the comment!
Excellent recipe! Made it today for Christmas Eve dinner for my wife and I. Absolutely delicious!
Hi Scott, thanks for the comment and so happy you and your wife enjoyed the beef barley soup!
Looks fantastic. I love hearty soups. I will be making this very soon! Love barley in soups, I add it to the split pea soup I make.
Thanks for the comment, Marie and hope you enjoy!
Looks delicious. Can this be made ahead, chilled overnight and then remove fat. When fat is removed cook with the barley? The soup seems rich enough with the additional fat remaining.
Hi Denise, yes you can definitely make ahead, chill, and remove the fat. Hope you enjoy it!
Can I use bulgur instead of the barley?
Hi Maria, I haven't tested it with bulgur but it could probably work taste-wise. You may need to make adjustments in the preparation, however.
This sounds yummy! Do you have a recommendation of what to replace the barley with that is gluten free and won't change the taste? The internet says buckwheat, millet, or Arborio rice.
Hi Kris, thanks for the comment. I haven't tested this particular recipe with a different grain but I'm sure any of the ones you listed would be ok. If you try it with one of those alternatives, let us know how it turned out.
First meal of 2023! Excellent! I had to cook the beef a lot longer to get it tender but worth the wait. Don't be too hard on The Beaver, I used to hate rice when I was a kid. Looked like maggots to me.
Hi Robert, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed this as your first meal of the new year!
Beth Ann May
This is the best beef barley soup ever made. We loved it!
Hi Beth Ann, I'm so happy you enjoyed the soup and appreciate the comment!
Can you put this in the oven instead of the stove top? If so, what temp would you use?
Hi Elizabeth, I'm sure you probably could but I haven't tested this recipe in the oven so can't say for sure. If you do try it, let us know how it turns out.
Just realized I have quick cooking barley. How do I use it with this recipe?
Hi Fran, I haven't tested this recipe with quick-cooking barley so I can't say for sure, but what you might want to do is just cook the barley separately following the package instructions and then add it to the soup once the beef is tender and done.
Made this last night and it was fantastic. Will definitely be my go to beef and barley soup recipe.
Hi Ethan, so happy to hear you enjoyed the beef barley soup and really appreciate the comment!
Hey, every recipe from you comes out perfect, wow! This is my second time .aking this soup. First time we ate it all immediately. This time I want to save it. Is this freezable or do you recommend eating it within 3 days?
Hi Nikki, thanks for the comment and so happy you're enjoying the recipes. You can freeze this one.
Had left over prime rib. Cooked that down, sautéed veggies, put meat and gravy together with the wine. Added quick cooking barley and taadaa a great soup.
This has become a favorite part of our cold weather rotation!
Hi Karen, so happy you enjoy the soup and thanks for the comment!
Absolutely the most scrumptious beef barley soup ever!!! Thnx, Jim!
Hi Patricia, so happy you enjoyed and really appreciate the comment!
This recipe is exactly the same as mine except for the red wine which made it even better! Thanks for the tip. Also, sometimes I add a tbsp or two of tomato paste to the veggies after cooking them and before I add the beef back in. It depends on my mood. Both versions are great!
Hi Joyce, so happy you liked the recipe and appreciate the comment!
Do you think I could make this in the slow cooker?
Hi Kris, I haven't tested this recipe with a slow cooker. If you happen to give it a try, let us know how it turns out.
Love this recipe. The one thing I added was a tablespoon of tomato paste, after the garlic but before the red wine. Beef and beef broth just scream tomato paste to me. This one is now in the rotation with Tuscan bean, Italian lentil and split pea. Your chicken piccata is also a family favorite.
Hi Maureen, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed this one and put your own twist on it. That's what cooking is all about!
Maria Leone San Miguel
This recipe exceeded all my expectations, my mom used to make this soup. Haven't had in years. Thanks for a wonderful meal last night😋
Hi Maria, so happy you enjoyed this and really appreciate the comment!