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Meaty and flavorful Beef Barley Soup!
Hearty soup feeds the soul!
Beef Barley Soup answers the call when the family wants a filling, flavorful, belly warming meal on a cold winter day. Each spoonful is loaded with vegetables and tender chunks of beef in a delicious, well spiced broth. The barley adds a mild nutty flavor and tender chewy texture you won’t soon forget!
While this soup is not as easy as opening a can, it’s not an all day project, either. Make a pot of Beef Barley Soup this weekend and enjoy leftovers for lunch throughout the week.
What is pearl barley?
Barley is a very healthy grain and one of the first cultivated nearly 10,000 years ago. It’s also one of the most widely consumed grains in American diets. According to Healthline, there are some impressive health benefits proving we should all try to add more barley to our diets.
This hearty grain comes in many forms from the pearl variety pictured above, to ground barley grits and flour. Pearl barley is a bit more processed than whole grain barley as it has been ‘polished’ to remove some of the outer layer, including the hull. You can find pearl barley in the rice and grain section of your grocery store.
Pearl barley is great in soups and stews, and many other comfort foods. It’s a terrific addition to risottos and pilafs and can be served as a side dish just like rice. Loaded with fiber, barley can help increase gut health, lower cholesterol and may even help prevent diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease.
What goes in Beef Barley Soup:
- boneless chuck roast – pick a roast that you can easily trim away the fat. You’ll need 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of beef.
- salt and pepper – for seasoning the beef
- vegetable or olive oil – for browning the beef and sautéing the vegetables
- fresh thyme leaves
- paprika – sweet or hot Hungarian paprika works well
- crushed red pepper flakes – optional
- tomato paste
- low-sodium beef broth – or substitute beef stock or chicken broth, if desired
- canned diced tomatoes – do not drain
- pearl barley – rinsed and drained
- soy sauce – just a touch to enhance the beef flavor
- fresh parsley
Have a loaf of hearty, crusty bread on hand for serving. You’ll want to soak up every drop!
How to make Beef Barley Soup
First prepare the beef:
- Trim all the visible fat and silver skin from the chuck roast. Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large heavy bottom soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and heat until shimmering.
- Add the beef and cook until well browned. Stir and continue cooking until browned on all sides.
- Remove the browned beef to a bowl and keep warm.
PRO TIP: It’s important to properly preheat the oil as you are trying to sear the beef, not braise it. Add only about one-third to half of the beef taking care not to overcrowd the pan.
The single most important step to build rich flavor is to properly brown the beef, creating little crusty bits in the bottom of the pot. Don’t stir until the beef is a little crusty!
Next, sauté the vegetables:
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the now empty pot and heat until shimmering.
- Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic, thyme leaves, paprika, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant.
- Deglaze the pot with a little beef broth, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. This ‘fond’ or foundation is the flavor-maker!
Finally, add the remaining ingredients:
- Add the cooked beef to the pot along with the remaining broth. Stir in the canned tomatoes and barley.
- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beef is tender. Cooking time may vary depending the size of the beef chunks.
- Stir in the soy sauce and parsley.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Skim any fat pooled on top and serve!
NOTE: If you don’t have pearl barley on hand, feel free to substitute diced potatoes for the barley.
Also, ground beef would be a good stand-in for the chuck roast, if desired. Brown lean ground beef (90% and above) then drain the fat while sautéing the vegetables.
For another filling and flavorful soup, don’t miss our 5-star Hearty Beef and Gnocchi Soup Recipe. It’s so good with pillowy soft gnocchi in every bite!
Can you freeze Beef Barley Soup?
Yes you can! Cool completely then seal in an airtight container. The soup will keep for two to three months in the freezer.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then heat gently in a pan covered with a lid. Add a splash of beef or chicken broth if needed. The barley will be softer, but still a little chewy.
Can Beef Barley Soup be made in a slow cooker or crock pot?
Absolutely yes. I recommend using all the same steps to brown the beef and sauté the vegetables. Instead of adding everything to a soup pot, add all the components to the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low until the meat is tender, about 7 to 9 hours. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours. Skim the fat from the surface and discard before serving.
Our Beef and Barley Soup recipe can also be made ahead. Prepare the beef and vegetables as directed. Store in the refrigerator in sealed containers, then proceed with the recipe as directed. Enjoy!
To make Beef Barley Soup in a pressure cooker or instant pot:
Use the sauté function to brown the beef and vegetables. Add all remaining ingredients as instructed. Put the lid on the instant pot and turn to the locked position. Set vent to sealing and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
Allow a natural release of pressure for 15 minutes. Turn the vent to release the remaining pressure before removing the lid. Serve and enjoy!
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Beef Barley Soup
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 cups low-sodium beef broth, plus more if desired for thinner soup
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
- ⅔ cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Remove all visible fat and any silver skin. Cut into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom soup pot. Warm over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the beef and cook until browned on one side. Stir and continue cooking until the beef is well seared and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer browned beef to a bowl using a slotted spoon; cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining beef and transfer to the bowl, keep warm. (For the best flavor, sear the beef over high heat so it browns and forms crusty bits on the bottom of the pot.)
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the now empty Dutch oven. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and the onion starts to brown and caramelize, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme leaves, paprika, red pepper flakes and tomato paste to the vegetables. Sauté for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Add one cup of broth to deglaze the bottom of the pot scraping up any browned bits.
- Add all browned beef, remaining broth, tomatoes and barley to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium/medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.
- Add the soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow the soup to rest for a few minutes. Using a large spoon or ladle, skim off any fat pooled on top, if desired. This may not be necessary if your roast was well trimmed and not overly fatty. Stir in the parsley, check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the broth.
- Use diced potatoes in place of barley, if desired.
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