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Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and barley soup is satisfying comfort in a bowl – rich and hearty, this recipe is a complete meal comprised of tender chunks of beef, rich vegetables, filling barley, and umami-rich broth. Beef barley soup is a staple in our home during the cooler months, along with other favorites like hamburger vegetable soup and easy beef stroganoff.

A bowl of beef and barley soup with celery and barley in the background.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

If you’re looking for an easy, make-ahead meal with incredible leftovers, beef and barley soup will be your new go-to. The ingredients are warming and delicious, and the addition of barley provides body and texture as they absorb the tasty broth and compliment the beef, tomatoes, and fork-tender vegetables.

Where Does Beef and Barley Come From?

Also called Scotch broth, beef and barley soup originated in Scotland; today, it’s gained popularity worldwide. The traditional dish consists of braised beef or lamb, root vegetables, and barley.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Chuck Roast: The success of the stew depends heavily on the beef used. We love boneless chuck roast because it is easy to find and affordable. Chuck is naturally tough, so it benefits from being slow or pressure-cooked, making it perfect for stew. When purchasing a beef chuck roast, select one with a good amount of marbling. I also recommend avoiding the pre-cut stew meat in favor of cutting it on your own. It’s an extra step, but the result is well worth it.
  • Salt + Pepper: Generously season the beef with salt and pepper.
  • Olive Oil: Sear chuck roast in olive oil to lock in all the moisture.
  • Vegetables: Onion, carrot, celery, and garlic add textural variation and flavor to the beef stew.
  • Marmite: Whisk marmite into the stew for a salty boost of flavor while highlighting the savoriness of the beef.
  • Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is the perfect addition to thick stews and meaty braises because it adds another layer of depth and complexity to savory dishes.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce enhances the other ingredients.
  • Chicken Better Than Bouillon: I use Better Than Bouillon and water in place of stock for this recipe. It’s flavorful, easy, and something I always keep in my pantry. You can also purchase store-bought chicken stock and use that instead.
  • Tomato: Fresh tomatoes and tomato paste thicken and add color.
  • Pearl Barley: This nutty grain is a fantastic addition to soups and stews. As it cooks, the Pearl barley acts like a sponge and soaks up the richness of the flavorful broth.
  • Bay Leaves: Bay leaves subtly flavor the dish as it cooks.
  • Thyme: Fresh thyme modestly flavors the soup with an earthy sweetness.
  • Kale: Fresh kale added at the very end brightens the stew.

Additions and Substitutions

  • Replace Chicken Better Than Bouillon with chicken broth, or use half broth, half red wine.
  • Add vegetables like mushrooms, green beans, and peas.
  • Use rice, couscous, or farro in place of barley.

How to Make Beef and Barley Soup

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Step 2: Brown the beef and set it aside.

Sear the beef in oil.

Step 3: Saute carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.

Saute onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a pan.

Step 4: Deglaze with marmite, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and tomato paste.

Deglaze the pan.

Step 5: Add broth, beef, tomatoes, garlic, barley, and bay leaves. Simmer for 1-2 hours over medium heat.

Add the reserved beef and pearl barley to the pan with the broth.

Step 6: Stir in kale to serve.

Stir the kale into the beef and barley stew until wilted.

Expert Tips

  • Select boneless beef chuck with a good amount of marbling, and cut it yourself rather than using pre-cut stew meat.
  • Cut the beef and vegetables the same size to ensure they cook at the same rate.
  • Sear the beef to lock in moisture and build the base of flavor for the soup.
  • Deglaze the pot, scraping up the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot.

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze: Let the dish cool, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Beef and barley soup freezes for 2-3 months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the stew in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: The soup may thicken upon cooking, so consider adding a little water or broth before you warm the leftovers on the stove-top or microwave.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best cut of beef for beef and barley soup?

My answer changes based on what soup or stew I am making, but for homemade beef barley soup, boneless chuck roast is the way to go; you can also use boneless short rib and beef brisket.

Can I use quick cooking barley or hulled barley.

Yes – let the beef cook until tender, then add the quick barley 10 minutes before it’s ready to serve. For hulled barley, increase the cooking time by one hour.

Can I make this recipe in a slow cooker?

1. Sear the chuck roast in a skillet, then add it to a slow cooker.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours.

Can I make this recipe in advance?

You sure can! In fact, it’s encouraged. Prepare the soup ahead of time and freeze or store it in the fridge for up to two days. Warm the soup on the stovetop when you’re ready to serve.

Do you cook the barley before adding it to the soup?

If you prefer to add pearl barley but don’t want it to thicken the soup- I suggest cooking it separately first. Otherwise, cook the barley along with the other ingredients.

More Soup Recipes:

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A bowl of beef and barley soup with celery and barley in the background.

Beef and Barley Soup

Tressa Jamil
Beef and barley soup is comfort in a bowl – rich and hearty chunks of beef combine with rich vegetables, filling barley, and an umami-rich broth.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, European
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 382 kcal
Equipment
Ingredients
  
  • 2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium celery, diced
  • 2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon marmite
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup kale, chopped and stems removed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
 
  • Generously season the chuck roast with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a Dutch oven until smoking. Then, add a layer of beef to brown. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, and set them aside.
  • Next, add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until the onions soften and become translucent.
  • Deglaze with marmite, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and tomato paste.
  • Add the broth and scrape up the brown bits left by the meat. Add the beef, tomatoes, garlic, barley, and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat to maintain a simmer for 1-2 hours.
  • Stir in kale to serve.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • Select boneless beef chuck with a good amount of marbling, and cut it yourself rather than using pre-cut stew meat.
  • Cut the beef and vegetables the same size to ensure they cook at the same rate.
  • Sear the beef to lock in moisture and build the base of flavor for the soup.
  • Deglaze the pot, scraping up the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot. 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Bowl | Calories: 382 kcal | Carbohydrates: 12 g | Protein: 35 g | Fat: 21 g | Sodium: 686 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 4 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating




Kevin

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

I could eat this stew three nights in a row, thanks for the recipe.

Tressa Jamil

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

My husband says the same thing.