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two bowls of beef barley soup
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4.91 from 21 votes

Best Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

Hearty beef barley vegetable soup is the ultimate comfort meal-in-a-bowl. Deep rich flavors and loaded with healthy grains, veggies and protein. Delish!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings (change as needed): 6
Author: Cheryl


  • 1 pound - 1 1/2 pounds (450-680 grams) chuck roast, Note 1
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 large carrots, Note 2
  • 4 celery ribs
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth, Note 3 (about 1 litre)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup barley, Note 4 (rounded cup)
  • 2 teaspoon Worcesterchire sauce
  • 2 tablespoon from Au Jus or Demi Glace gravy mix package, Note 5 (or brown gravy package)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach (optional)


  • PREPARE THE VEGETABLES: Shortcut method: Peel carrots and cut into large chunks. Cut celery and onion into large chunks. Place carrots, celery and onions in food processor. Pulse a few times until vegetables are chopped into small pieces. Alternatively, dice carrots, celery and onions with a knife.
  • SAUTE BEEF AND VEGETABLES: Heat oil on medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Dry beef with a paper towel sprinkle beef with salt and pepper (and a touch of flour as well if you like) and brown it on both sides, about 4 minutes. Remove from pot and cut browned beef into bite-sized pieces. Add remaining oil if necessary. Add vegetables and sauté for 5-7 minutes, scraping up the brown bits on bottom of the pot. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
  • ASSEMBLE THE SOUP: Add chicken and beef broth, water, thyme, barley, Worcesterchire and 2 tablespoons from the gravy base package. Add bite size beef. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer the soup for 1 hour. If not as soft as you like, cook another 10-15 minutes.
  • FINISH THE SOUP: Add baby spinach (if using) and stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed or a bit more soup base from the package to achieve the thickness and depth of flavor desired. Serve immediately with lots of bread for dipping. 


  1. Beef options: Instead of beef chuck, you can use blade steak (pretty much the same thing), rump roast, shoulder steak, bottom round, top round or tri tip. Any beef stew meat that cook low and slow to become tender. If you don't like beef, use chicken. 
  2. Vegetable options: In addition to carrots, onions and celery, try parsnips, celery root (celeriac), mushrooms, green beans. Butternut squash would work well if you add it half way through.
  3. Broth options: I use a combination of chicken and beef broth. Use either one, a combination or even vegetable broth in a box, can, or powder or paste (with water as per package directions).
  4. Barley options: Pearl barley or pearled barley is the most commonly sold barley in a grocery store. You can also use hulled barley (less processed), but you will need to cook it longer or quick cooking barley which only needs 10-15 minutes cooking. Note that barley is not a gluten-free grain. Instead of barley, you can also use farro, a high fiber, high protein whole grain.
  5. Gravy powder substitute: You can skip the powdered gravy and have a soup with less body or add a cornstarch slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 4 tablespoons water to the simmering soup. Add a little at a time to thicken the soup to your desired consistency (note the soup will also thicken standing around).
  6. Optional add-ins
    • Add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste with a pinch of sugar for added depth.
    • Add 1-2 cups/250-500 grams beans such as white kidney beans, cannellini, chick peas, pinto beans or red kidney beans would be a nice addition.
    • Add fresh herbs at the end like chopped cilantro
  7. Instant pot beef barley soup instructions: 
    • Press SAUTE on instant pot or pressure cooker. Add olive oil.
    • Brown beef in 2 batches. Turn setting to OFF. Cut beef into bite-sized pieces and return to instant pot.
    • Add remaining ingredients (except spinach), using only 7 cups broth and no water (you need less water for this method). 
    • Place on lid and set valve to SEALING position. Set to MANUAL OR PRESSURE for 20 minutes using + and - button.
    • Once cooking time is finished, do a natural release for 10 minutes, then open valve carefully for final quick release.
    • Add baby spinach if using and stir to wilt. 
  8. Slow cooker beef and barley soup instructions:
    • Pan sear the beef in a pan with a little olive oil over medium high heat until browned. Remove and cut into small pieces.
    • Place beef in slow cooker with the remaining ingredients except baby spinach.
    • Cook on low 7 - 8 hours then stir in baby spinach if using
  9. To Make Ahead and Store Leftovers: Store in fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The barley will expand further in the fridge and soak up the broth. If soup is too thick, add additional water or broth to thin it out if you like. Freeze soup in zipper lock bags or containers when cooled for up to 3 months. 
Nutrition values are estimates and include the baby spinach. Values will depend on how much beef is used. 
Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 1733mg | Potassium: 802mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 8691IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 4mg