beef barley soup

When the winter winds arrive without invitation, I can’t say that I mind so much.  Nesting has always been one of my chosen hobbies.  The first thought that comes to mind is… it’s time to make some hearty soup.  I have fond childhood memories of arriving home from school on a wintry day greeted by the welcoming aroma of my mom’s homemade cooking.  Her beef barley soup, which she referred to simply as vegetable soup, was a household favorite.

My good friend, Eileen, and I have known each other since we were in kindergarten together.  Just a few years.  We shared our similar “soup” memories and realized that our moms’ barley soup was each delicious, with a few distinctive differences.  We put our heads together and came up with a beef barley soup that Anne and Louray would certainly have loved!  Now, all these years later (way too many to count) it has become a standout in my soup rotation.

Be sure to use a pot that will hold at the very least eight quarts.  When browning the beef, it is essential that you do so in batches.  If there is too much meat in the pot at one time, the end result will be steamed beef.  The browning process adds a depth of flavor that you don’t want to miss!

A note on pot herbs… you may have difficulty in finding a quality pot herb in your local market.  At times, they appear as though they’ve been hanging out on the shelf way longer than they should.  And if you feel the need to make this soup on a somewhat warmer day, go for it!  You just won’t find a pot herb on any shelf.  It’s so easy to make your own.  It will be better and fresher.  Just follow my suggestions here.

You will notice that the fresh carrots and frozen vegetables are added after the soup has simmered for quite some time.  This gives the beef ample time to become tender without turning the veggies to mush.  Speaking of carrots, I cut mine on the larger side giving the soup some extra texture.  If you prefer to use all fresh vegetables, go for it.  The final outcome would be that much better!  Also, another possibility to consider would be to add some fresh or frozen corn.  It is a wonderful addition to this soup.  I choose not to add corn due to dietary restrictions within my family.

Be sure to cook your pasta separately.  I learned the hard way that if you cook it right in the soup, you’ll end up with beef barley stew instead of beef barley soup!  Don’t let the pasta soak up all of that wonderful broth.  Also, you’ll be able to control the texture of your pasta this way… especially if you prefer al dente.  Happy slurping!


beef barley soup

Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 8 quarts


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut to bite sized pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced (7 ounces)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, cored and chopped (16 ounces)
  • 2 - 46 ounce cans beef broth
  • 2 - 14 ounce cans stewed tomatoes, roughly chopped (with juice)
  • 1 large or 2 small soup bones
  • 1 pot herb
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 carrots, sliced (12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounces frozen sweet peas
  • 4 ounces frozen cut green beans
  • 4 ounces frozen baby lima beans
  • 4 ounces pasta (baby shells or similar)


  1. In a stock pot or dutch oven of at least 8 quart capacity, heat the oil and butter over medium high setting. When ready, add only enough beef to the pan so that the pieces aren't touching. When all sides are browned, remove to a plate and continue with the remaining beef.  When complete, add first batch to pot, along with the celery, onion and cabbage. Sauté until vegetables slightly soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. Add the beef broth, stewed tomatoes, soup bone, pot herb and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat so that soup gently simmers. Partially cover pot and let simmer until beef is tender, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. While soup is simmering, partially cook the frozen vegetables in microwave or on the stove. Also, cook the pasta according to package directions for slightly less time.

  3. When beef is tender, add carrots and barley. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes; then add partially cooked vegetables. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove soup bone, pot herb and bay leaves. At this time, if soup is too thick, you can add water or additional beef broth. Place small amount of pasta in bottom of bowl and ladle hot soup over pasta. Enjoy!

  5. NOTE:  If freezing portions of soup, wait until soup cools slightly before adding pasta to containers.

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