beef + barley soup

beef + barley soup | The Clever Carrot

I had no plans to make this soup… it picked me.

That’s usually how my posts go. I was drafting a tutorial on how to cook brown rice (boring?) but when I went digging around for the rice, I got distracted by a little packet of barley. Oh, I remember this… total impulse buy due to super cute packaging labeled ‘ready in 10 minutes.’ Beef and barley soup it is.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t think of anything else to make at the time. There are several types of barley (see this article) and they are all very good for you. Coupled with flavorful veggies and tender meat, this soup is a brothy version of beef stew. The red bell pepper and butternut squash add incredible flavor and a festive punch of color too (anything stew-like can look a bit drab, don’t you think?) If you’re looking for a hearty, melt-in-your mouth soup, I think you’re going to like this one.

Oh, and get ready for a boring brown rice tutorial ;)

beef + barley soup | The Clever Carrot


  • When choosing beef, bypass the pre-cut cubes and go for a whole piece of beef chuck. It’s less expensive and has better marbling (which adds more flavor).
  • If you are making this in advance, skim away the fat only after the soup has been refrigerated. It will solidify and float to the top, making it easier to remove.
  • I like to serve this with hot pickled chili peppers (the vinegary kind that comes in the jar). It’s really, really good!
beef + barley soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 lb. beef chuck steak (whole)
  • 2 leeks, white & light green part only
  • 1 c. carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 10 oz. mushrooms (1 pack)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 c. butternut squash
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. rosemary leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp. flour
  • ¾ c. pearl barley (I used quick cook)
  • 2-3 quarts of good quality beef stock
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley + sprigs
  • hot pickled chili peppers
  • parmesan cheese
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over moderate heat.
  2. Cut your beef into bite-sized cubes. Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess as you go.
  3. Add the beef to the pot and brown on all sides (you might have to do this in batches). Using a slotted spoon, remove and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
  4. Roughly chop the first 6 vegetables and thinly slice your garlic.
  5. Saute the leeks, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Add the rest of the vegetables, garlic, and rosemary leaves.
  7. Add the beef back to the pot.
  8. Pour in just enough beef stock to cover, about 11/2- 2 quarts. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer (lid on) for about 1½ hours.
  9. Using a small ladle, skim away any fat on the surface. *See note below.
  10. Add the barley. Depending on what kind of barley you are using, cooking time will vary. I used the 'quick cook' variety which was ready in 10 minutes. Add more stock if necessary.
  11. Taste your soup. If the meat is very tender, it is ready.
  12. Add the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  13. Serve with parsley sprigs, hot pickled chili peppers, and parmesan cheese (if desired).
*If you are making this in advance, skim away the fat only after the soup has been refrigerated. It will solidify and float to the top, making it easier to remove.


  1. says

    What tantalizing photographs! I await the brown rice tutorial I love the stuff and have been eating it since I was a young teenager in the mid i960’s. Gotta have it. I enjoy foods with some real texture, and so barley is also high on my list of things I love. This soup looks wonderful, perfect for our colder weather.

    You are so right about purchasing the entire cut of meat. There are several reasons it is superior. Of course there is the marbling and resulting flavor, plus one knows just which cut one is getting. So often the ore-cut pieces are what is euphemistically referred to as “trimmings.” No thank you. With the pre-cut chunks one also runs up against an increased rate of spoilage due to a greater surface area of meat being exposed to the air over a greater amount of time. It’s so simple to cut the meat in one’s kitchen. I wish more cooks did it.

    And I smiled at your comment about refrigerating the soup and then skimming the fat. It really is such a good thing to do. I was just discussing the issue with my husband for an upcoming post on brodo di carne. I am an inveterate skimmer. I was always the one selected to watch the stock or brodo because I enjoyed standing over the stock pot, first skimming the scum, then the foam and finishing with the lightly spooning the tiny fat droplets. So dedicated was I that after 2 or more hours of lazy simmer with me at the stove top, once the stock or brodo had been refrigerated, there was but a 1/8 inch layer of fat atop an extraordinarily clear liquid. People always asked how I got such a lovely brodo or stock. The answer, as with so many things in life, is patience and attention.

    • Emilie says

      Sweet Adri,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave such lovely comments! I am glad to know that there is another serious skimmer out there. Patience & attention- agreed! It makes all the difference (as you know…)
      I was also taught that if you drop an ice cube into the stock pot, and swirl it around, the fat will stick to the ice and it can be easily removed that way as well. Who knew? ;)

  2. says

    Your soup looks autumn beautiful Emilie — full of color, warmth, and visual aroma ;-). You’ve loaded it up with some great ingredients too and you’re so right, there’s just something about barley and soup…the two words are virtually synonymous in my mind as well. So is the flour the key to keeping the beef tender? (I have a recipe for oven cooked beef that calls for flour as well and it turns out soft and juicy every time!).

    Looking forward to your brown rice tutorial — especially if you can share tips on enlivening the taste ;-).

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kelly!
      The flour helps to seal the beef, locking it all of its juices when it is initially browned. Although it plays a role in keeping the meat tender, it also helps to thicken the sauce or to give it body. Dredging meat in rice flour also has similar results.
      The real secret to tender beef (with this particular cut) is to cook it ‘low & slow’ so that all of the connective tissue can break down and tenderize :)

  3. silvia says

    I love everything about this post. The recipe is outstanding, the photography exquisite and the aqua crocker…wow, that is just divine! You sure have a special eye for pretty!

  4. says

    I can almost taste this! I adore barley, but the boys are less enthusiastic, so I rarely cook it. I think I’ll have to make a batch just for me! :)

  5. says

    This soup is a total “win,” even though I did not actually get to eat an entire bowl (yet). I made it today for a friend who is recovering from surgery. I wanted to make something comforting yet at the same time, healthy and this was THE perfect soup to make.

    Just a few notes from my kitchen. I deglazed my pan with a little white wine, because there was just too much lovely fond at the bottom. I also threw in a bay leaf because, well…it just seemed like the right thing to do!

    Finally…I’m not exactly a speed chopper, so prep took longer than ten minutes for me, but no matter. It was simply delish. On to my Pinterest board it goes!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Ann! Thank you so much for stopping by to comment- I lOVE your additions! The wine and bay leaf sound perfect (will have to try that next time). I hope you friend is feeling better and that she enjoyed this soup as well :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sheila! I got them last year at Marshalls…do you have a location by you? I checked to see if the sticker was still on the bottom for more info, but sadly it’s gone. I hope you can track them down! They’re dishwasher safe too ;)

    • Emilie says

      Hello! That’s wonderful to hear, thank you so much for the feedback. For dessert, I would serve an easy apple crumble with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I would prep the crumble ahead of time and simply bake it off when ready to serve! Hope this helps :)

  6. Christy says

    My girls and I made this today. They had fun chopping the veggies (which took about an hour) while I browned beef and chopped squash. We added bay leaves (2) and some sherry to “get the bits” from the beef. It is simmering now and we can’t wait to taste. It smells amazing!!

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