Beef and Barley Soup Worthy for a Meal

It is still Winter, so we are not yet parting with hot beverages and comforting soup. Today I am sharing with you a hearty filling soup worthy for a meal, a delicious Beef and Barley Soup.

It’s SOUP time!

This week soup is Beef and Barley Soup. Thick, hearty and filling soup that will keep you warm and cozy on cold days. I love how this soup could be a meal in its own. It is almost like a beef stew, but even better because there are grains in the soup which makes it filling to be a meal. Serve this with bread or salad (or both) and you got yourself a meal.

What is Barley

Barley is a cereal grain. It has multiple uses like for bread, beverages, stew, soups and other dishes. It has a lot of fiber, vitamins an minerals.

Types of Barley

There are different types of barley, but for the purpose of just an overview, lets just focus on the common ones that are being sold in stores. Hulled and pearl barley are the ones you can easily find in stores.

  • Hulled Barley is minimally processed to only remove the tough inedible outer hull. This has a darker brown color and cooks in about 40 minutes in medium heat.
  • Pearl Barley (not a whole grain) has been polished or “pearled” to remove some or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull. This cooks more quickly than whole gran barley. It has a whiter color and cooks in about 25 minutes in medium heat.
  • Quick Cooking Barley (not a whole grain) – This is a type for barley flake that cooks in about 10 minutes, hence the name “quick cooking”. It has been partially cooked and dried during the flake-rolling process. If using this type of barley, at it in the last 10 minutes of cooking or when the meat or vegetables are almost or fully cooked.

About This Recipe

  • Ease in Making the Recipe: The process of making it is easy, but there is still a bit of a wait before you can serve it. This is because you need to cook the beef until fork tender, and for me it took about 1 hr to get it tender. It depends on the cut of the beef you are using. Also, cooking barley takes more time as compared to quinoa or couscous, that also add up to the time. I suggest that you plan ahead when you make this soup. I like making this 1 day ahead so I am not rush if I need to serve it immediately. If you cannot make it a day ahead, allocate at least 2 hrs to get it done. make it in the morning when you plan to serve it for lunch, or make it in the afternoon so that it is ready for dinner.
  • Ingredients: The ingredients are simple, and even if you do not have it, you can easily find it in the grocery. A lot of the ingredients are seasoning and spices which you can swap for other herbs and spices that you like. The main ingredients are beef and barley of course. Cut the beef in smaller bite size pieces so it cooks faster.
  • Texture, Taste & Flavor: It taste like a soup stew. It is thick and very flavorful from all the seasonings and spices.
  • Make-Ahead: Yes you can. In fact I recommend making this 1 day in advance so you do not rush the process. Sometimes waiting for the beef to cook makes me feel anxious especially when I need to serve the food immediately. When I am cooking food that requires cooking meat to get tender, I like making them ahead of time. Just like most stew, this also freezes well. Transfer in a freezer safe container and freeze for 1 month. Never last longer than 1 month for me because this is not really a big batch, just enough for me to have 2 more serving kept in the freezer for future serving.
Beef and Barley Soup By SweetnSpicyLiving

Ingredients for Beef and Barley Soup

As I mentioned above, the ingredients are simple and easy to find. Let’s check them out.

  • Beef – use lean beef chunks. You can buy this already cut into chucks or you can buy a large piece and cut them yourself. As your butcher for the beef cut used for stew and soup. You want to get the tender part as possible to lessen the cooking time. The less tender beef part is cheaper, if you plan ahead this will work as well and you save a bit more.
  • Barley – There are different types of barley in the market. The cooking time depends on the type of Barley you use, just like oats. Check the packaging so you can adjust the cooking time. Pearl Barley cooks in 30 minutes, but not really the best choice in terms of nutrients. This type of Barley is highly processed and a lot of nutritional value is lost by converting it to pearl barley. The good selling point of it is that it cooks faster and so they are great for soup and stews. If you are looking to a more healthy type, go for the Hulled or Hulless Barley, they cook longer but they are more nutritious.
  • Beef Stock – You can also use vegetable stock, store-bought or homemade will work. When using store-bought, check the sodium level or taste it before using so you can adjust the salt in the recipe.
  • Canned Tomato – You can use chunky or chopped, doesn’t really matter as it will disintegrate during the cooking. You can also use herbed canned tomato, this adds a lot of flavor.
  • Tomato Paste – This will help enhance the flavor and taste, and will also produce a thick soup.
  • Vegetables – I used carrots, potato and celery. You can also use diced sweet potato, mushroom, spinach or kale. This is very flexible, choose the vegetable that you like.
  • Aromatics – I used garlic and onion which is often a must for me when making stew style soup. They add really nice flavor. You can use red, white or yellow onion.
  • Olive Oil – or any flavorless oil will do. This is just to saute the ingredients and to brown the beef.
  • Seasonings and Spices – I used the basic salt, peppers and herbs. I like using Italian seasoning because this is already a mix of different herbs. If you do not have one, use a mix of Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme etc.
  • All-Purpose Flour – Use for coating the beef and also helps to thicken the soup

Winter is not brutal in Vancouver, a bowl of hot and filling soup is always something that I welcome to my home. If you haven’t tried barley soup before, I encourage you to give it a try, you might end up liking it the way I did. But if you don’t like it, no worries as I have other soup recipes to choose from like Egg Drop Corn Soup, or Minestrone Soup, Creamy Mushroom Soup, Creamy Tomato Basil with Parmesan Soup or Butternut Squash Soup. Still cannot find anything you like? Stay tuned for the nest weeks to come as I continue my soup series, I will be making more so I hope you’ll find something you like.

Ingredients for Beef and Barley Soup

Start by coating the beef with flour and adding some seasoning. Sear in a hot pan along with celery and onion. Searing will produce a nice browning of the beef. Once this is done, add the vegetables and pour the stock and cook until the beef is tender to you liking. Cooking time vary depending of the type of beef and the size. I recommend cutting them in small bite-size size pieces for faster cooking. Mine takes 1 hr to cook. Halfway through the cooking time (30 minutes) I start adding the Barely because Pearl Barley takes about 30 minutes to cook. This makes it in-sync with the cooking of the beef. By the time the beef is tender, the barley is already cook. You can add more broth as needed until the beef and barley are cooked to your liking.

A Small Batch Recipe

All of my soup recipes are small batch. First, because I am only cooking for one. Second, because I want to try different soup every week so that I don’t get bored with what I eat. It’s been working great so far and I am loving the portion of the soup. On the average, my small batch soup are 2-3 servings. Making Soup is not as strict as baking dessert, so if you want to make it into a bigger batch, feel free to increase the ingredients. It is a lot more flexible not only in ingredients but also when adjusting the taste. You can still adjust the taste even though it is already cooked.

Because my soup  are small batch, I did not use the entire piece of vegetable. This is why I put weight measurement because measuring chopped vegetables by cups will not give a close if not exact measurements. Don’t get yourself stressed with the weight measurement, making a soup is not as sensitive as making a cake. Measurement especially vegetables doesn’t really have to be exact. Use them as a guide to give you idea, but definitely feel free to adjust as needed. You can even omit vegetable you don’t like and replace it with something else. I always put this reminder in all my soup recipes so that you will be aware that you don’t really need to buy kitchen scale to make any of my soup. In fact, I only use my kitchen scale the first time I made my soup just to get the measurement for the blog. Next time around, I always go with my own estimate when adding spices and seasonings. Now, let’s get down to business and make this soup. Let’s get started! 


  • 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 200 grams lean Beef – cut into small chunks (this can be doubled for a more meaty and filling soup)
  • 1 tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
  • 50 grams Onion – chopped
  • 20 grams Celery sticks – chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Salt (gradually add, start at 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes (optional, if you do not like it spicy, use only 1/8 tsp or remove it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoon granulated Sugar
  • 2 cloves Garlic – minced
  • 30 grams Carrots – diced
  • 150 grams Potato – optional
  • 1/2 cup canned diced Tomato
  • 3 tablespoon Tomato Sauce
  • 4 cups Beef Stock ( allocate extra 1 1/2 cup as needed)
  • 1/4 cup Barley

Optional Ingredients:

Fell free to use other vegetables in making this soup

  • Potato – add small potato to make a more filling thick soup. If you do not want a too soft and mushy potato, add it after 30 minutes of cooking the beef. You can do the same or carrots.
  • Green Pea – add texture and color to the soup – Add at the end of the cooking time as this cooks fast. The remaining heat should be enough to cook the green pea
  • Kale or Spinach for a hearty doze of greens – Add at the end of the cooking time as this cooks fast. The remaining heat should be enough to wilt and cook the vegetables

Note: Ingredients measurement are not strict, feel free to adjust as needed.


  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper then coat with all-purpose flour. Set aside.
  2. In a heated pan, add oil. Sear the beef until nicely brown. Crack some pepper while searing. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. In same pan, add oil and onion. Saute until fragrant. Add all the seasoning and spices, celery, carrots and potato or any additional vegetable you are using. Saute for few minutes then add the diced tomato and tomato paste. Stir until combined. Add in the seared beef. Pour the beef stock. Simmer until beef is fork tender. The length of the cooking depends on how tough the beef that you are using, mine takes at least 1 – 1 1/2 hour. Add more beef stock as needed.
    • If you prefer a not too soft vegetables, you can carrots and potato (if using) after 30 minutes of boiling the beef
  4. When the beef is almost tender, add the barley. The barley is done when it has tripled in volume and is soft yet chewy.
    • The timing of when to add the barley depends on the type of barley you are using. I used pearl barley which could take about 25 – 30 minutes to cook. So I would normally add it either after 1 hr when the beef is almost tender. If you are using quick cooking barley that only requires about 10 minutes, add it when the beef is already tender. Adding the quick cooking barley too soon will make it too mushy and over cook.
  5. Season and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

Serves 2-3

This soup can be serve as is, or with salad or with bread, like this corn bread.

Enjoy! If you make this, share and tag me in Instagram #SweetNSpicyLiving. I would like to see your creations too.

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Categories: Cooking, Soup

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