Beef Barley Soup for the Soul

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(Beef Barley Soup – recipe in post)

Spring is here! I know because it was warm – then it snowed – then it got into the mid sixtees, and the birds were singing – then it poured. Oh, and my alarm woke me up an hour before I was ready to get out of bed. What’s up with that? Also, the clock in my car is finally right… that’s going to take some getting used to.

But Spring is here! I went disc golfing and my fingers didn’t get frost bitten! I napped on the back deck like a cat in a patch of sunlight! I turned my first shovels full of dirt in the garden! I began complaining that it was too hot!

It’s hard to believe that just days ago it was cold, windy, and bitter. The weather was bad, and I was under it, playing limbo with the thermostat.

Seeing this, The Boyfriend took it upon himself to make me a pot of soup. Not just soup, though. The best, heartiest, most feel-good lentil soup I’d ever tasted. I’m not sure which made me happier – the soup, or who had made it for me.

That night we sat on the couch, curled under the blankets and ‘mmm’ing over our bowls.

As if things could get any better, as we put the leftovers away he turned to me and asked “what should our next soup be?”


Those are the words every girl wants to hear, right?

Well, here it is: our next soup! I realize that I will always be tempted to call any fresh, homemade soup ‘the best’ of it’s kind, but this truly is the most delicious beef barley soup I’ve ever had. Perhaps because of the collaboration of love that created it. Or because The Boyfriend spoils me, and insisted on steak intead of stew meat.

Either way (and whichever cut of meat you choose) I can assure you that this soup will not disappoint.

Beef Barley Soup for the Soul
(Makes about 5-6 hefty servings)

1 TBSP olive oil
2 lbs. beef stew meat (or other lean cut of beef), cubed
1 cup red wine, cream sherry, or beer
1 large onion, diced
4-5 large carrots, sliced or diced
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
1 large roma or small heirloom tomato, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
4 cups beef or vegetable broth (I suggest low sodium so you can control how salty the soup is)
2 cubes beef boillon (or 2 tsp. ‘better than boillon’ paste – again, I recommend low sodium)
1 cup hulled barley
1 tsp. dried basil (or 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1 tsp. dried parsley (or 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1 tsp. dried oregano (or 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1/2 tsp. dried sage (or 1 tsp. fresh chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Cube all of the meat and toss with a heafty pinch of salt and pepper. Add meat to the hot oil one batch at a time – you don’t want to over-crowd the bottom of the pan, or else the meat will steam itself instead of searing.
Sear the beef until well browned, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan, and repeat with another batch of meat. Continue until all of the meat is browned. Set aside.
To the pot, add the onion, garlic, and carrots. Saute 1-2 minutes, then pour in the alcohol to deglace the bottom of the pan.
Return the meat to the pot, add the rest of the vegetables (and all of the herbs if using dried). Pour in the stock and boillion, stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook 45 minutes.
Uncover, stir in the barley, and let cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the barley is tender. If the soup is to thick for your liking, add a little stock or water.
If you’re using fresh herbs, stir them in at the end of cooking. Season with salt/pepper to taste.

Garnish with more fresh herbs, serve with a slice of rustic bread, and enjoy!

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Best Beef Barley Soup Boyfriend ever.

So… what will our next soup be? Let me know in the comments what your favorite soup is!


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40 Responses to Beef Barley Soup for the Soul

  1. Katherine Martinelli March 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    What crazy weather! This soup looks incredible any time of year! And your photos are gorgeous as always.

    • Willow March 13, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Thanks, Katherine! Yeah, the whether here in MI can be flip-floppy to begin with, but especially so over the last few days. Now it’s just rain, which seems more like actual springtime. :P

  2. Elly McCausland March 13, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I love soups like this that are half stew, half soup. I also absolutely adore barley. Basically, I want this for lunch. Now.

    • Willow March 13, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      I hear you – I’m so regretting that I let The Boyfriend take the leftovers to work the next morning!

  3. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes March 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    The weather was CRAZY here too this past weekend; 25 degrees, then 65 degrees, then snow and after rain!

    What a sweet boyfriend and a good cook to boot :) I am SO jealous, the day that I started to day dream about pulling on my wellies and venturing up to the garden to see what i could dig my hands into- the VERY next day we recieved 8 inches of snow….at least I can start my seeds indoors :)

    • Willow March 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      I have had no luck this year with my seeds – I have a few that are doing okay, but usually I have such a green thumb. I was doing everything right, and when that didn’t work I made adjustments – more water, less water, warmer, coolor, more sun (grow lights), less sun… I may have to try again outside once it gets a little warmer. :(

    • Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes March 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Here let me send you some postive thoughts to your greenthumb and seeds – okay sent, did your thumb catch the positivness? :)

    • Willow March 21, 2012 at 2:17 am #

      Thanks – I think it’s working! :D

  4. Eva Toneva March 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Amazing dish and presentation, Willow! :)

    • Willow March 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Many thanks, Eva!

  5. Cara March 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    The Boyfriend is definitely a spoiler, and rightly so! These soup is gorgeous and I love the visual of seeing you curled up on the deck, sunbathing as you nap :) haha.

    • Cara March 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

      These soup? I should sleep more. THIS soup.

    • Willow March 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Haha – I’m with you! More sleep would be incredible right now. Actually, I’m extra tired because I got up early to make The Boyfriend a latte before work… we spoil eachother pretty equally, I think.
      I’m missing the sun, right now… it’s been raining for awhile, but looks like there might be some rays this afternoon. Fingers crossed, because I want to return to my sunshiny cat-napping! :P

  6. Nikki March 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Im always on a soup kick… my boyfriend isnt a fan.. more for me! lately im loving the thai coconut curry soup.. with seafood especially. mmmm.

    chicken soup is still my first love though.. no noodles though; they are just filler in my eyes

    • Willow March 14, 2012 at 1:59 am #

      Mmm – coconut curry sounds right up my ally, but I’m not sure what The Boyfriend would think. One of my favorites recently was a curried sweet potato soup, which I’ll definitely have to share sometime.

      I agree! I love noodles in some soups – like ramen – but what are they doing getting in the way of my chicken? Haha!

  7. Eileen March 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    That soup looks super tasty & filling–just right for the rainy weather we’re having. I love your blog title as well–heck yeah, cooking for friends! :)

  8. Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen March 14, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Soup is my true love! This one is perfect to feed to my crowd of big hungry guys. Thanks for posting this Willow!

    • Willow March 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      No problem! Definitely a good fill-you-up kind of soup. :)

  9. Miss Red March 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    your photography and lighting are magical. everything looks delicious!

  10. Kat March 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    This soup is making me drool profusely, and I swear I can smell it from the photograph. Food lovingly made by someone else always tastes so much better to me than if I make it. And it sounds perfect for this early spring.

    • Willow March 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Haha – thanks! I agree… food always tastes better when made with someone elses care and attention. I could probably replicate my parents recipes to a T and they still would be missing that special something. :)

  11. Amy's Cooking Adventures March 16, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    This looks like the ultimate comfort food! Definitely want to give this a try!

    • Willow March 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

      It was extremely cozy! Let me know what you think if you do. :)

  12. Debs @ The Spanish Wok March 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Nice soup recipe, thanks.

    You are welcome to join in my food blogger event THE SOUP KITCHEN, here all bloggers are welcome, hope to see you participate soon.

    • Willow May 10, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      Thank you so much for the invite – somehow I missed your comment until just now, but I will definitely participate in the future if I can!

  13. beef barley soup May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Wow, what a nice soup you shared to us.
    It really look so yummy!

  14. stacymick February 14, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    i just finished a big bowl of this and it’s super delicious! thank you for sharing

    • Willow February 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Wonderful, I’m glad you liked it!

  15. Allison March 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    I made this in slow cooker and it was fantastic. did beef in morn, veggies around lunch, and barley mid afternoon. was ready at 6pm and delicious!

    • Willow March 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      That’s awesome! Glad you like it. :)

  16. Raina September 27, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Is there anything you can substitute for the alchohol? We don’t keep any in the house.

    • Willow Arlen September 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      Hi Raina, that’s a great question! You can feel free to swap the alcohol for more beef or vegetable broth. That said, I like to have a bottle of something on hand just for cooking with — the alcohol cooks away, and it adds a lovely depth of flavor. Hope that helps!

  17. Barbara January 23, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Can I get the Nutritinal facts for the soup. I am on Weight Watchers and need to track my point. Recipe sounds so good.

    • Willow Arlen January 23, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi Barbara! I don’t include nutritional information with my recipes because it’s just not possible to be 100% accurate 100% of the time — everyone will have slightly different ingredients in their kitchen, and I wouldn’t want to lead anyone astray. However, I know a lot of people use sites like — it’s free to create an account and plug in your ingredients/amounts to get an accurate estimate of calories, fat, protein, etc.. I also know people who use MyFitnessPal, which is a free app and works the same way. There are others, too, but I’ve heard good things about both of those. That way you can find out the nutritional info for any recipe you make, even if you make changes or substitutions. I hope that helps!

  18. Michelle November 25, 2019 at 6:00 pm #

    Best soup, my toddlers love it, we love it. I typically used pearled barley for the kids but I love it with the hulled barley. Sometimes I make two pots, half and half. So good. I’ve probably made this over 30 times in the past few years. My go to for beef barley. 👌🏼

  19. Melanie January 18, 2020 at 5:28 pm #

    I love this recipe — make it all the time! Has anyone tried it in an Instapot? Would love guidance!


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