A hearty beef and barley stew with lots of vegetables that is simple to prepare and incredibly rich and flavorful.
Beef and barley are a satisfying combination in this heart, rich stew full of tender beef and vegetables. This is a relatively quick recipe that can be on the table in an hour and makes for great leftovers.
Large, heavy-bottomed stock pot. An enameled cast iron pot is a great investment if you love stews and soups.
- Beef stew meat | Tougher cuts of meat work great in stews; keep simmering until the meat becomes very tender. You can even use cuts with bones like beef neck or oxtail in this recipe.
- Fresh garlic | You can use powdered garlic, too.
- Oil/fat | Any oil or fat you prefer works, even olive oil. I prefer lard or tallow.
- Tomato paste
- Beef bone broth or stock | Homemade beef broth or high-quality store-bought. You can also used mixed meat, chicken, or chicken feet bone broth.
- Canned tomatoes | Whole or diced, or if you have very ripe fresh tomatoes, you can use them too.
- Green bell pepper
- Pearled barley | *see note below on barley.
- Worcestershire sauce | Some substitutes: soy/tamari, coconut aminos, vinegar, fish sauce.
- Bay leaf
- Fresh thyme | Fresh is best, but you can use dried.
- Fresh parsley and thyme | An optional garnish.
❁ You’ll find the exact amount of each ingredient below in the recipe card. Make sure to select 'cook mode' to keep your screen from turning off as you make it. You can also print the recipe.
Different Types of Barley
The two most common types of barley you will come across are described below, along with the specific cooking times and instructions.
Either variety may be used in this recipe, and the main difference is how they were processed.
Hulled barley has had its outer, indigestible husk removed. Hulled barley has a darker and slightly tan color. To use hulled barley in this beef barley soup, soak it first in cool water for 1-3 hours and let the hulled barley cook for an additional hour.
Pearl barley has had both the outer husks and bran layers removed. It is typically lighter in color compared to hulled barley. Pearl barley is what I'm using in this recipe. It takes less time to cook and does not benefit from soaking before cooking, but it needs to be rinsed.
Is Barley Gluten-Free?
No, barley is not gluten-free. Barley, rye, and wheat are the three grains that contain gluten and cannot be eaten by celiacs or those with intolerances and sensitivities.
It's a simple stew of only a few steps. See the recipe card for the Instant Pot pressure cooker and Crock-Pot slow cooker steps.
Step 1: Add half of the beef stew meat and the diced onion into hot oil or fat over medium-high heat until the stew meat is just browned.
Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 60 seconds.
Add the tomato paste and stir until it darkens slightly, about 1-2 extra minutes.
Step 2: Add the sliced carrots, sliced
celery, beef bone broth, canned tomatoes, diced green pepper, barley, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, and 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme in the soup pot.
Bring the stew to a boil on high heat, then reduce it to low or medium-low, depending on your stove.
Allow the stew to gently simmer for 45 minutes, partially covered.
Hint: browning meat adds extra flavor into your stews and soups. The crusty stuck bits are called fond and should be scraped up and stirred into the stew. Consider deglazing the hot pan with a ½ cup of red or white wine after browning the meat.
Substitutions & Variations
- Make it gluten-free | Instead of barley, which is not gluten-free, use: potatoes, sweet potatoes, precooked rice, any beans, or lentils in this recipe.
- Different cuts of meat | Use tougher cuts of meat that benefit from long simmering times: beef neck, shank, oxtail, etc. You can use smoked dried beef too.
- Less meat | Need to make meat stretch? Cut the amount down in half and add more vegetables.
- More vegetables | Add more of the vegetables in this recipe or others that you prefer. Mushrooms are another fantastic addition.
Storage, Reheating, & Freezing
Like most stews, beef barley vegetable stew can be enjoyed for many days, and the flavors will only improve.
This soup will stay fresh and tasty for up to 5 days, covered, in the refrigerator.
To reheat stew: ladle your desired portion into a medium pot and heat it on low until it reaches the desired temperature. Stay close by and stir, adding a splash of water or stock as needed in case the stew has thickened too much in storage.
To freeze stew: stews make great freezer meals and they can be heated directly from their frozen state too. Ladle soup into plastic freezer-safe heavy-duty bags, silicone bags, or large silicone souper cube trays (my favorite, they're amazing). If using plastic, let the sup come down to room temperature first.
I'm slowly transitioning away from plastic for silicone. It's a food-safe, more sustainable choice while also being WAY more durable — you save money in the long run with how often these products can be reused.
Soups and stews can be popped out of the Souper Cubes once frozen and stacked neatly in your freezer for better organization.
Are you looking for other recipes like this beef barley vegetable soup? Try these:
❁ Top Tips: Level Up Your Soup Game ❁
Bland soup or stew? Missing something, but not sure what?
Try these tips in this order, and taste as you go as the soup is still simmering (not all at the same time):
→ Add an acid: vinegar, lime, or lemon.
→ Add a tablespoon of soy, tamari, or coconut aminos.
→ Add a teaspoon of fish sauce.
→ Add more salt.
→ Add a light or medium-colored roux (fat/oil and flour).
→ Add concentrated stock/bone broth.
→ Add a bouillon cube.
→ Add some tomato sauce.
→ Cook some tomato paste with butter and add to broth.
→ Add roasted garlic by blending it with some broth and adding it back.
→ Add fresh herbs.
→ Serve with a dollop of pesto and/or sour cream (where it makes sense).
- Large stock or soup pot.
- 1 lbs beef stew meat cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 tablespoons oil or fat olive oil, lard, tallow, etc.
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 large carrots sliced
- 2 ribs celery sliced
- 6 cups beef bone broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes 14.5 oz
- ½ green bell pepper diced
- ⅔ cup pearl barley
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- parsley + thyme for garnish optional
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Add half of the beef stew meat and the diced onion into hot oil or fat over medium-high heat until the stew meat is just browned.
- Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 60 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste and stir until it darkens slightly, about 1-2 extra minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery, beef bone broth, canned tomatoes, diced green pepper, barley, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, and 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme in the soup pot.
- Bring the stew to a boil on high heat, then reduce it to low or medium-low, depending on your stove.
- Allow the stew to simmer gently for 45 minutes, partially covered.
- Remove the bay leaf and thyme from the pot once finished simmering. Serve with freshly chopped thyme and parsley and enjoy!