Hearty and delicious classic beef and barley soup, with vegetables, barley and lovely tender beef, thanks to pre-cooking the beef. A great dinner soup!
I love this hearty beef and barley soup for a dinner soup, especially with the cooler weather months. This version takes a little extra time pre-cooking the beef, but delivers wonderfully tender beef pieces in the soup. Well worth the time!
Loaded with vegetables, barley and of course, tender chunks of beef, this is a perfect dinner soup. I love to make mine almost stew-like, but if you want it not quite so thick, it’s super easy to just add more broth. Simply add a nice, crusty bread for dipping and enjoy.
Ingredients and Substitutions
✓ Beef – you can start with stewing beef cubes or simply cut a lower-end steak or beef roast into cubes yourself.
✓ Beef Broth/Stock – I am a big fan of Better Than Bouillon for all my broths. I love that you can just mix up as much or as little as you need for any recipe. It’s especially handy with this soup, as you may need to add a little more broth as the soup cooks. If you only have a carton of broth and don’t want to open another one, you can just add a bit of water to the soup instead of more broth.
✓ Pearl Barley – you will want to use Pearl or Pearled Barley for this soup, for best results. Pearl Barley has the outer husk coating removed, so it is softer and will cook more quickly in the soup.
✓ Red Wine Vinegar (for boiling beef) – red wine vinegar is recommended for best flavour and tenderizing of the beef. Substitutes would be white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or a mixture of red wine with white distilled vinegar (half and half).
✓ Red Wine (for Soup) – If you don’t have or want to use red wine in the soup, simply omit and skip right to adding the tomato paste with the vegetables.
Step 1: This soup start with simmering the beef cubes in water, with a bit of added red wine vinegar and salt. This step both flavours and tenderizes the beef that we’ll use for the soup. The beef will simmer for about 1 hour, so allow for the extra time. You can also do this step ahead and refrigerate the beef, if you like.
Step 2: The soup itself starts with sauteeing onion, celery, carrots and a bit of garlic. Next, we’ll add a bit of red wine and allow it to cook off.
Step 3: Add the tomato paste and cook it for a couple of minutes with the vegetables. (My tomato paste was frozen left-overs from a previous recipe :) Chop the cooked beef cubes to whatever size you’d like and add to the soup. Add 4 cups of the beef broth and stir together.
Step 4: Add the pearl barley and a bay leaf. Stir in and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer the soup, stirring every 15 minutes or so for a total of about 60-75 minutes, or until the barley and carrots are tender. As the soup cooks and the barley starts to absorb the liquid, you may need to add additional broth to the soup.
Step 5: When the soup is ready, remove and discard the bay leaf. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and some fresh, chopped parsley. Be sure to taste your soup and season as needed. Even though the beef broth tends to add plenty of salt to a soup, you may find you need a touch more, especially if you’ve used a low-sodium broth. Some freshly ground pepper is a nice addition, as well.
- You will want to check on and stir your soup as it simmers, about every 15 minutes or so. Check on the liquid level and add additional broth, as needed. You don’t want it to get too thick or the barley will settle onto the bottom of the pan and may scorch. That said, it is better to not add too much broth at one time, as you will want to control the thickness of your soup and if you add too much and it doesn’t cook off, your soup may end up thinner than you wanted.
- Be sure to taste test both the barley and the carrots near the end of cooking, to be sure they are tender. If not, cook a bit longer, as needed.
- Left-overs will keep well in the fridge or can be frozen as well. The barley will continue to soak up broth as it sits in the fridge however, so you may need to add additional broth to loosen it up again when re-heating.
Get the Recipe: Classic Beef and Barley Soup
For pre-cooking beef:
- 1 lb. stewing beef cubes
- 4 cups water
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup celery, finely diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced or thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup red wine, optional, can omit
- 1/3 cup tomato paste, 1/2 of a small can
- Beef, from above
- 4 cups beef broth, plus more, as needed
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 1 bay leaf
To finish soup:
- Dash Worcestershire Sauce
- 3-4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, as needed, to taste
- Pre-cook the beef: Combine the water, beef, red wine vinegar and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Drain, discarding liquid and reserving the beef. Allow to cool slightly, then chop into desired size for soup (or make ahead and refrigerate until needed).
- For the soup: In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery and carrots to the pot and cook, stirring, for 6-7 minutes. Add red wine to the pot and allow to cook until mostly evaporated. Add the tomato paste and stir in. Cook the tomato paste with the vegetables for about 1 minute. Add the beef broth, cooked beef pieces, pearl barley and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and allow soup to simmer gently for 60-75 minutes. Watch the soup as it cooks and stir regularly. As the barley cooks, it will absorb the liquid. You may find that you need to add additional beef broth to the pot as the soup cooks. You don't want the soup to get too dry or the barley will sink to the bottom of the pot and may scorch. Ideally, add a bit of broth more often, rather than adding a lot all at one time, so you don't end up with too much broth in the pot and a thinner soap than you want.
- Taste test the soup to make sure the barley and carrots are tender. If not, cook a little bit longer. If soup is too thick, add a bit more broth at the end of cooking to thin it as desired. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and parsley. Taste soup for seasoning and add additional salt and some freshly ground pepper, to taste.
More Hearty Soup Recipes to Love!
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!
I made this soup for our family’s annual Soup-er-bowl! We all make different soups, then we vote on different categories and have kitchen gadgets for prizes! This tied for “Best soup with meat” and
also tied for ” Best Consistency”. My nephew loved it and asked for the recipe – which I shared already! I have to say I was alittle worried about the beef being tender,but it was delish! Thank you!
So glad to hear, Lois :) Thanks so much!
I made this yesterday. I think it was probably the best recipe for beef and barley I have ever tasted. The step that pre cooks the beef in red wine vinegar was what made me try this recipe. I had never seen that method before. I used pot barley since I did not have pearl and cooked it separately for an additional 30 minutes. And I did not skip the optional red wine. Wow. This was so good. My husband and I absolutely loved it.
So glad you enjoyed it, Diane :) Thanks so much!
Could I substitute black eyed peas for the barley? Its all I have. Would it be the same time?
Hi Joe, I have to confess I’ve never eaten a black eyed pea, but that said, I’d say just go with what you have. I love the chewiness and nuttiness of barley in particular, that you might not get with the peas, but it will still be delicious, I’m sure :)
Hi Jennifer, I have a question. After cooking the meat why do you throw
the broth/liquid away. Wouldn’t there be flavour and nutrients in it? I know there is a good reason so I just wanted to know. I am going to make this recipe tomorrow using rib eye steak. mmmm Maybe I don’t need to cook the meat as long ????? I hope it turns out as good as yours looks. Will let you know.
Hi Betty, I can see why it seems we might want to hang on to the boiling liquid, but honestly, it’s not very appetizing when it’s done. It is full of the fat that cooked off the meat, as well as reduced and concentrated flavours from the salt and vinegar. You’ll be much better off with a good quality beef stock or broth as the base of your soup. And yes, the nice steak may need a little less boiling, but I’d still do close to an hour, I think. Do enjoy the soup!
This soup is making me all sorts of nostalgic as beef and barley soup was one of my dad’s favorites! I can’t help but look at your beautiful photos and think how much he would love this recipe!! Your soup looks super hearty, cozy and delicious! I’m definitely going to have to make (and devour) this one in my dad’s honor! ;) Can’t wait!
Thanks Cheyanne and I’m so glad it brought nostalgic memories for you :)