Beef with Barley Soup

Beef with Barley Soup
Drats.  The cold weather is here already; it has even snowed a little.  Paint me quiet and resigned.  Oh well, at least it is still warm somewhere in the world.

John has been out of town this week and is coming home tonight.  I thought that it would be nice to make one of his favorite soups, beef with barley, although I’m thinking that maybe he hasn’t really earned it yet.  He has been in Alabama and he actually had the nerve to text me, bragging, that it was 80-degrees and sunny.  He even put a happy little exclamation point at the end of his text. What kind of a husband does that to a wife who has to wear a down coat to stay warm outside in early October while walking from the hospital to the car after work?

Out of the kindness of my heart, though, I am making beef with barley soup for that man of mine because one day very soon he is most likely going to be shoveling the driveway. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk… (Not really, Honey, just kidding.  But wait!  You have a new slow blower, so you are probably excited for it to snow.  A man and his machines.)

Oh, and I just have to say that right now my house smells outrageously good because I am baking pumpkin streusel bread.  That’s for tomorrow’s post, however, if I manage to get all of the kinks worked out on the recipe.  There are some wonderful spices involved as well as sweet creamy butter.  I’m thinking that maybe the cold weather isn’t so bad, afterall.

This soup is rich and satisfying.  Add some crusty bread and maybe a salad to make a well rounded meal.  Or just take seconds or thirds on that bowl of soup.  It’s guaranteed to fill you up.

1/6/2012 Update: This recipe was spotlighted on the Tasty Kitchen Blog by Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. Wow! She made this soup look so elegant and gorgeous!

From reading the Tasty Kitchen Blog, I have found that a fair number of people are not familiar with pearl barley. It is barley that has had the husk and bran removed. The grocery stores in my area generally stock pearl barley with the rice and dry beans. It may also sometimes be found in the cereals or at health food stores. It is interesting that something so common in one area of the country can be so hard to find in another area. Here, in my state, pearl barley is as common as white rice.

Beef with Barley Soup
Beef with Barley Soup

Recipe by Terri @ that's some good cookin'


  • 1 pound beef cubes for stew
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, smaller ends cut into rounds, larger ends diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups water, if needed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Brown the beef cubes for three minutes in the oil, then add the onions and garlic. Lower the heat to medium low and cook until the onions are cooked and just start to caramelize. Stir as needed to keep onions and garlic from burning. Lower heat if necessary; drizzle a little more olive oil if needed to keep food from sticking.
  3. Add everything except the tomatoes to the pot and stir well. Increase the heat and bring the soup to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat as necessary to keep soup at a slow simmer.
  4. Taste to correct seasonings, then add tomatoes and simmer for another hour.
  5. Remove bay leaves before serving.


  1. says

    Judy–I haven’t made it in a crock pot, but it should work well. For richness of flavor I would recommend browning the beef and cooking the onions and garlic as in step 2, prior to putting everything (except the tomatoes) in the crockpot. Add the tomatoes at the end, maybe about 30 minutes before serving time. Tomatoes can interfere with barley cooking completely.

    Of course, if you are having a busy day and don’t have time to brown the meat, onions, and garlic; just toss them in the crockpot along with the other vegetables, barley, and seasonings. Let the soup simmer for probably 4-5 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low (This is just an educated guess!). Again, add the tomatoes for the last 30 minutes.

    Thanks for dropping by. Good question!

  2. JoAnne says

    I made this soup for dinner today. It was really, really good. Next time I make it, I will use a little less salt than what’s suggested. Thanks for such a great recipe!

  3. Karen says

    I made this soup tonight, with a couple changes. It seemed like it was missing something, so I googled and saw that celery and Worcestershire sauce give it a boost. So I added a finely diced celery stalk and a few shakes of the sauce. I also read that brown sugar smooths out the flavor, so I added about a tablespoon. Sounds weird, but it turned out great!

    I also didn’t see pearl barley, so I used regular Goya barley. Seems like it could use more, maybe because it’s not the pearl variety? Next time I’ll add another 1/4 cup or so and see how that comes out.

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve never made Beef Barley before and I needed a good place to start!

    P.S. You’re so right about stock/broth/bullion having different salt content and flavor. That’s why we need to taste as we go!

    • says

      Karen, those are some great suggestions. I’ll definitely give them a try the next time I make this soup. My husband, especially, will love the addition of Worcestershire sauce. I think if you tested his blood it would turn out to be half Worcestershire sauce. As for the Goya barley, I think that you probably got hulled barley, which is the whole grain form of barley. Pearl barley has the outer coating removed and cooks up faster and is softer or starchier.

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