Beef and Barley Soup

Ahhh… The perfect soul-warming soup. Hearty and delicious, this hodgepodge of meat, vegetables and grains will keep you going through those dark, dreary days of winter (does it really have to start getting dark at 3pm??). These days, this Beef and Barley Soup is my savior.

I based this recipe off of Beef, Barley & Mushroom Soup from Hungry cravings but made some changes as usual. I reduced the amount of meat (beef is super expensive), barley and broth. My batch of soup was still huge so I can’t imagine how much that recipe made with it’s THREE QUARTS of broth… wow. Anyway, I also added some potatoes because I had them laying around.

In the future I’ll make these changes:

1. leave out the wine – it didn’t make the huge flavor impact like it does in the Goulash and it adds quite a bit to the recipe cost
2. cut my potatoes smaller – they barely fit on the spoon and were hardly bite-sized.
3. spring for a better quality beef broth. I used the cheap stuff but for about $1.50 more I could have gotten a much richer and flavorful end product.
4. Perhaps add a thickening agent to make this more of a stew than soup… just for mouthfeel, the soup is already super hearty.

Even the way it was, the soup was WAY better than what you can get in a can… and about the same price.

Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup -

Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

Beef and Barley Soup

A hearty Beef and Barley Soup will fill you up and keep you warm through the winter without breaking the bank. 
Total Cost: $13.81 recipe / $1.73 serving
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 8


  • 1 lb beef stew meat ($4.87)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil ($0.08)
  • 1 med onion ($0.35)
  • 3 cloves garlic ($0.06)
  • 1 cup or 1 lb. chopped carrots ($0.39)
  • 1 cup or 1/2 bunch celery ($0.69)
  • 8 oz button mushrooms ($1.49)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.19)
  • 1/2 cup red wine, optional ($1.27)
  • 3 extra lg cubes beef bouillon ($0.69)
  • 6 cups water ($0.00)
  • 1 cup uncooked barley ($1.99)
  • 2 whole bay leaves ($0.05)
  • 3 sprigs thyme ($0.48)
  • 4 medium 1.5 lbs. red potatoes (optional) ($1.16)
  • to taste salt and pepper ($0.05)


  • Cut the stew meat into smaller chunks (1 inch or smaller). Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and cook stew meat until it is brown and crispy on the outside surface. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Dice the onion and mince the garlic as the meat is cooking.
  • Add the onion and garlic to the pot to cook in the vegetable oil and meat drippings. Cook until softened (2-3 min). Wash, peel and chop the celery and carrots as they cook. Add the celery and carrots and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  • Wash and slice the mushrooms as the carrots and celery are cooking. Add the mushrooms and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated out of the pot. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes more allowing the tomato paste to caramelize. Add the wine to the pot. Stir the wine allowing it to dissolve anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the cooked meat back to the pot along with 6 cups of beef broth (bouillon + water), bay leaves, thyme and dry barley. Bring the mixture up to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 45 minutes with a lid in place.
  • During the last 5-10 minutes of the simmer time, wash and chop the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the pot and allow to cook 15 minutes more. The potatoes, meat and barley should all be tender by this time. Because potatoes draw salt out of soups, give it a final taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems.
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Beef and Barley Soup -

Step By Step Photos

beef stew meat
This is what the stew meat will look like in the package at the store. It is generally sold in 1 or 2 pound packages.

cut beef stew meat
The meat was in HUGE chunks so I cut them smaller. That means more bites will have a chunk of meat in them!

cooked stew meat
Cook the stew meat in vegetable oil over medium/high heat until it is brown and crispy on the outside. The meat will most likely give off a lot of water at first but once this evaporates, it will begin to brown and crisp up.

browned stew meat
The brown, crispiness is what adds a lot of flavor to the soup. This reaction is called the maillard reaction and is often used in cooking. Plus, it just smells GREAT! Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

onions garlic carrots celery
Cook down your onion and garlic in the pot with left over vegetable oil and meat drippings (no picture of this step). Once those are softened, add your chopped carrot and celery. For soups, I usually end up using half a bag of carrots and half a bunch of celery so I always prep and freeze the rest for my next batch of soup. This time, I’m using the frozen left overs!

sliced mushrooms
Wash and slice the mushrooms while the carrots and celery are cooking (2-3 min). Add them to the pot and cook them down until most of the moisture has evaporated from the bottom of the pot.

tomato paste
Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes more so that it can caramelize on the bottom of the pan.

frozen wine
If you’re using wine, add it now and allow it to dissolve all of the bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan (otherwise, the broth will take care of this in the next step).

add the rest
Add the meat back to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients except the potatoes (broth/bouillon/water, barley, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper). Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

dry barley
This is the barley I used, btw. My neighborhood grocery store didn’t have barley in bags with all of the other dry beans and grains so I had to buy the organic kind out of the bulk bins. This was undoubtably more expensive at $3.99 / lb. I bought 1.5 cup and came in just under a pound – ouch.

red potatoes
At the end of the 45 minute simmer, wash and chop the potatoes. Add them to the pot and cook for another 15 minutes or until they are softened.

final seasoning
The soup is pretty much done now but give it a taste and adjust the salt, pepper and what ever other seasonings you’d like. Also, remove the thyme stems and bay leaves.

Beef and Barley Soup -