European Oxtail & Barley Soup

Delicious oxtail soup with barley and vegetables is a traditional staple across Eastern Europe, Germany, and other countries. This is my version of my mother’s recipe.

A clay bowl full of oxtail soup. There are whole chunks of oxtail in a rich broth with barley and diced vegetables.

Why You’ll Love My Oxtail Soup Recipe

  • Simple Ingredients | You will likely already have most of these ingredients.
  • Satisfying | Between the meaty, collagen-packed oxtail, the barley, and the abundant root vegetables, this soup is incredibly filling and satisfying.
  • Versatile | It is straightforward to omit or replace certain ingredients to make this recipe yours or to make it work with what you have.

I grew up eating soup like this back when oxtail was still cheap. And you can find variations of traditional oxtail soup recipes like this across the Slavic and Central European countries.

There are many similarities!

For a twist, try my authentic Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans recipe too.

If you love hearty soups and stews like this one, try my beef barley stew.

Equipment

  • Heavy-bottomed pot
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board

Oxtail Soup Ingredients

We will use whole vegetables and diced vegetables to make the most flavorful soup. Take careful note of the recipe instructions below.

All of the ingredients needed to make this oxtail soup full of vegetables and pearl barley.
  • 1 whole oxtail | cut up into pieces
  • 1/2 cup of pearl barley | or hulled barley soaked for 3 hours prior — remember that barley is not gluten-free. If you need a gluten-free soup, replace the barley with beans, cooked rice, or leave it out.
  • 1 onion | diced small
  • 1 onion | unpeeled and cut in half
  • 2 large carrots | chopped small
  • 2 large carrots | washed and left whole
  • 2 celery ribs | chopped small
  • 2 celery ribs | washed and left whole 
  • 2 tablespoons lard | or whatever oil or fat you prefer
  • 2 quarts water | approximately
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt | or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 8 oz can of tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme | or 1 teaspoon dried, lemon thyme is especially lovely here

❁ You’ll find the exact amount of each ingredient below in the printable recipe card. Make sure to select ‘cook mode’ to keep your screen from turning off as you make it.

Instructions (Step-by-Step With Photos)

How To Cut Up An Oxtail:

The trick is to cut between each vertebrae with a sharp chef’s knife. See this 60-second video below.

Oxtail pieces browning in large pot.

Step 1: Heat the lard/oil in the stockpot. Brown the oxtails in the oil, one layer at a time, without overcrowding. Set aside the oxtail pieces as you brown the meat in batches.

Raw carrots and celery swimming in broth.

Step 2: Put all the oxtail pieces back into the stock pot. Add the bay leaf, the whole peppercorns, the WHOLE 2 carrots, the WHOLE 2 celery ribs, and the WHOLE onion that was unpeeled and cut in half. 

The chopped and diced vegetables should be kept aside!

Add the water. Bring water to a boil on high heat before lowering the heat to the lowest setting.

Skim off any scum and foam that rises to the surface in the first 30 minutes.

Cover the pot, but leave it slightly ajar, and let this simmer for an additional 1.5 hours.

Whole vegetables and oxtail pieces swimming in broth.

Step 3: After the 1.5 hours have passed, open the lid and remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or tongs. Keep the liquid simmering.

After 2 hours, the flavor of these vegetables is spent, but they have helped you create a more flavorful stock for your oxtail soup.

You may eat them, compost them, or feed them to your animals. 

You’re welcome to puree them and add them back into this soup if you wish as a way to thicken the soup.

Barley and diced vegetables being added to broth in stock pot.

Step 4: Add the raw chopped carrots, celery, and onions to the simmering liquid.

Add the barley, the can of tomatoes, and the fresh or dried thyme. Taste for salt and adjust.
Let this simmer for another 45 minutes, and adjust for salt and pepper one last time at the end.

Oxtail should be tender and falling off the bone.

A clay bowl full of oxtail soup. There are whole chunks of oxtail in a rich broth with barley and diced vegetables.

Storage, Freezing, & Reheating

Like most soups, oxtail barley vegetable soup 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 soup: 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 soup has thickened too much in storage.

To freeze soup: soups make great freezer meals and they can be heated directly from their frozen state too. Ladle soup into plastic freezer-safe heavy-duty bagssilicone bags, or large silicone souper cube trays (my favorite, they’re amazing). If using plastic, let the soup come down to room temperature first.

Soups and stews can be popped out of the Souper Cubes once frozen and stacked neatly in your freezer for better organization.

Looking for other recipes like this oxtail soup? Try these:

A clay bowl full of oxtail soup. There are whole chunks of oxtail in a rich broth with barley and diced vegetables.

European Oxtail Barley Soup

Variations of this oxtail soup are eaten across Europe. This version with barley is popular in the Slavic coutries.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Eastern Europe
Servings: 6
Calories: 105kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1 whole oxtail cut up into pieces
  • 2 quarts water or as needed
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 large onion unpeeled and cut into half
  • 1 large onion diced fine
  • 2 large carrots washed and left whole
  • 2 large carrots chopped small
  • 2 ribs celery washed and left whole
  • 2 ribs celery chopped small
  • ½ cup pearl barley rinsed, or if using hulled barley, soak it for 3 hours prior to cooking
  • 1 8 oz can tomatoes or 1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions

  • Heat the lard/oil in the stockpot. Brown the oxtails in the oil, one layer at a time, without overcrowding. Set aside the oxtail pieces as you brown the meat in batches.
  • Put all the oxtail pieces back into the stock pot. Add the bay leaf, the whole peppercorns, the WHOLE 2 carrots, the WHOLE 2 celery ribs, and the WHOLE onion that was unpeeled and cut in half.
  • The chopped and diced vegetables should be kept aside!
  • Add the water. Bring water to a boil on high heat before lowering the heat to the lowest setting.
  • Skim off any scum and foam that rises to the surface in the first 30 minutes.
  • Cover the pot, but leave it slightly ajar, and let this simmer for an additional 1.5 hours.
  • After the 1.5 hours have passed, open the lid and remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or tongs. Keep the liquid simmering.
  • After 2 hours, the flavor of these vegetables is spent, but they have helped you create a more flavorful stock for your oxtail soup. You may eat them, compost them, or feed them to your animals. 
  • Add the raw chopped carrots, celery, and onions to the simmering liquid.
  • Add the barley, the can of tomatoes, and the fresh or dried thyme. Taste for salt and adjust.
  • Let this simmer for another 45 minutes, and adjust for salt and pepper one last time at the end.
  • Oxtail should be tender and falling off the bone.
  • Serve hot with crusty sourdough bread and enjoy.

Notes

Remember that barley is not gluten-free. If you need a gluten-free soup, replace the barley with beans, cooked rice, or leave it out.
Storage, Freezing, & Reheating
Like most soups and stews, oxtail barley vegetable soup 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 soup: 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 soup has thickened too much in storage.
To freeze soup: soups make great freezer meals, and they can be heated directly from their frozen state too. Ladle soup into plastic freezer-safe heavy-duty bagssilicone bags, or large silicone souper cube trays (my favorite; they’re amazing). If using plastic, let the soup come down to room temperature first.
Soups and stews can be popped out of the Souper Cubes once frozen and stacked neatly in your freezer for better organization.

Nutrition

Calories: 105kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 0.5g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 0.2mg | Sodium: 74mg | Potassium: 356mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 8173IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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