A long metal spoon with a wooden handle is tucked into a bowl of beef barley soup with sprigs of parsley and a kitchen linen tucked beneath the bowl.

When the chill of fall and winter sets in, there’s nothing quite like a hearty bowl of Beef Barley Soup to warm you up from the inside out. This classic comfort food is packed with tender chunks of beef, flavorful veggies, and whole-grain barley to help warm you from the inside out. Grab your apron, and let’s get cooking!

Overhead of a large black bowl of beef soup on a wooden serving board with a black grooved decorative edge on a light counter.

What ingredients do you need for beef and barley soup?

Here’s what you’ll need to whip up a pot of hearty Beef Barley Soup:

  • Olive oil
  • All-purpose flour—we’ve had good luck with gluten-free all-purpose flour, too
  • Beef stew meat—cut into small, bite-size pieces if large
  • Onion—yellow or white will work
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic cloves
  • Button mushrooms
  • Tomato paste
  • Beef broth
  • Dry red wine—can sub in extra beef broth
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Medium pearl barley

How do you make beef barley soup on the stovetop?

Now, let’s dive into making this soul-warming soup step by step:

  1. Brown the beef: Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Toss the beef in the flour, and then add it to the pot and cook until it’s nicely browned on all sides. Remove the beef cubes from the pot and set it aside.
  2. Sauté the vegetables: In the same pot, add the carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté the veggies for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. 
  3. Combine remaining ingredients: Return the browned beef to the pot. Add the pearl barley, beef broth, wine, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, dried thyme, salt, and pepper. Give everything a good stir.
  4. Simmer: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beef and barley are tender and the soup has thickened.
  5. Adjust seasoning: Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Serve: Ladle the hot Beef Barley Soup into bowls, garnish with fresh parsley if desired, and enjoy!
Overhead of a long metal spoon with a wooden handle scooping into a bowl of rich beef soup.

Can I use another cut of beef?

Absolutely! While stew meat works great and is super convenient, you can use other cuts of beef like chuck roast or sirloin, which will also become tender and flavorful as they simmer in the soup. Just cut them into small, bite-sized pieces before cooking.

Should I soak barley before adding it to soup?

Unlike some grains, barley doesn’t require soaking before cooking.

A steaming bowl of beef barley soup in a large black serving bowl on a kitchen linen with fresh sprigs of flatleaf parsley nearby.

Can I use quick-cooking barley?

When shopping for barley in the grocery store, you’ll see two kinds—traditional and quick-cook. Traditional pearl barley takes longer to cook but adds a wonderful nutty flavor and chewy texture to the soup. This is what we’re calling for in this recipe.

However, if you’re in a hurry, you can use quick-cooking barley, which takes about 10-15 minutes to cook. Just adjust the cooking times listed in the recipe to follow what the package instructions for your quick-cook barley say. Be aware that the beef piece will be fully cooked but may not be very tender. The long cooking time of the traditional barley also helps tenderize the meat.

Should the barley be cooked before adding it to the soup?

No need to pre-cook the barley! It cooks right in the soup, absorbing all the delicious flavors and becoming tender as it simmers.

Top view of a bowl of stew with grains, mushrooms, beef, and carrots on a wooden serving board resting on a light counter.

What sides do you serve with it?

Beef Barley Soup is a complete meal on its own, but a slice of crusty bread or a simple green salad on the side can make it even more satisfying. We love serving this with our Quick Gluten Free Bread or Homemade Garlic Bread

Can beef barley soup be frozen?

Absolutely. This soup freezes beautifully! Allow leftovers to cool completely, then transfer them to airtight containers or freezer bags. Remember to leave some room for expansion. Pop those in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy it again, simply thaw it in the fridge and reheat it on the stovetop.

Protip: Pack it for lunch!

Freeze single servings of this soup in freezer-safe canning jars (we like wide-mouth pint jars) for easy grab-and-go lunches. Just pop the frozen jar in your lunch box before work. When it’s lunchtime, take off the metal ring, cover the jar with a paper towel, and microwave the soup in the jar until warm.

Close view of a spoonful of hearty stew on a dark background, steam rising from the tender beef and rich broth.

Is this soup gluten-free?

Nope! Barley is a gluten-containing grain, which might cause issues for folks with gluten allergies or intolerances.

Don’t worry—you can easily make this soup gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and swapping in brown rice for the barley. Brown rice has similar cooking times as barley, so you don’t need to adjust the recipe otherwise.

A long metal spoon with a wooden handle is tucked into a bowl of beef barley soup with sprigs of parsley and a kitchen linen tucked beneath the bowl.

Beef Barley Soup Recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Our beef barley soup is rich, hearty, and perfect for cold weather. This warm and satisfying recipe is loaded with veggies, whole grains, and tender beef.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 large carrots, sliced into thick rounds
  • 4 large stalks celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine, or additional beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked medium pearl barley

Instructions

  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until hot.
  2. While the pot is heating, toss stew meat with flour and shake off extra. Add to pot and sear on all sides until just brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and heat. Add in onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until just softened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add in the tomato paste, broth, red wine, Worcestershire, bay, thyme, salt and pepper. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release all the deliciousness left from searing the meat. Add back in the meat.
  5. Bring to a boil, and add in the barley. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45-60 minutes, or until the barley is cooked and the meat is tender. Remove bay leaves and adjust seasoning before serving.

Notes

  • This soup freezes beautifully! Allow leftovers to cool completely, then transfer them to airtight containers or freezer bags. Leave enough room for expansion once frozen! Then pop them in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge and reheat on the stovetop when you need a hearty, warming meal!
  • We also love freezing single-servings in freezer-safe canning jars (our faves are wide-mouth pint jars) for super simple lunches! Just grab a frozen jar, pop it into your lunchbox before work, then reheat it at lunchtime. We remove the metal rings, cover the jar with a paper towel, and pop it in the microwave until warm. Easy-peasy!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 359Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 825mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 41g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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34 Comments

  1. Just tried this recipe: it’s delicious!

    (When I wanted to find the recipe a second time, I couldn’t remember the web address or name of recipe, so I typed in “Zombie beef and barley stew”…and found my way back to your page).

    Thanks for an awesome – and memorable – post!

  2. LOL! You guys are amazing 🙂
    It takes a lot of guts to admit to being a member of the Living Impaired community, and we all love and appreciate you for it, with every inch of our non-beating hearts. <3

    BTW, have you read The Zen of Zombie yet? Totally death-changing 😉

  3. Best.Post.Ever. I love Halloween! You guys look great. I can tell you’ve been eating only real humans, it’s important to eat clean, whole, people. It’s not a diet it’s a deadstyle!

    1. Good! There were plenty of laughs while we were taking the pictures, too. Zombie face is fantastically hard to master.