Beef Barley Soup ~ crock pot and stove top recipe

Beef Barley Soup ~ put another log on the fire and cozy up with a steaming mug of this classic comforting soup.  You can simmer it on the stove, or let the slow cooker do the work.

VINTAGE VIEW ~ this hearty beef barley soup is from TVFGI archives, first published in 2013. As part of a new series on the blog I’m reviving some of the best recipes that you may have missed over the years ~ I’ve updated the recipe and notes, and shot new photos.   I even made it crock pot friendly, this time, too.

Beef barley soup is a classic old world dish, and it’s been simmering away in pots for centuries, probably as long as people have been making soup. It just makes sense ~ the little white pearls of barley add lovely texture, as well as extra nutrition and satisfying bulk, all important things when you’re trying to make dinner out of a pot of soup. Barley’s natural starch thickens the soup as it cooks, too. This one is so satisfying and chunky we should really call it a stew.

One of the things that makes this soup so enticing is that it contains a good dose of Sherry.

The finer points of Sherry ~

  • It’s an aged fortified white wine from Spain.  Fortified just means it has a higher alcoholic content than regular wine.
  • Sherry is old school, just like this soup ~ my great-grandmother would always have a nip of Sherry in a tiny glass after dinner, and over time it got the reputation for being a ‘little old lady’s wine’.
  • But smart Millennials have rediscovered it, and it’s now trending again.
  • I love the flavor, and I keep a couple of different bottles above the stove for cooking.
  • Sherry has the reputation for being sweet, but most of it is actually dry, and the flavors can be very complex.  Here’s a great guide, if you want to know more.
  • You can use any type of dry Sherry for cooking, but avoid actually ‘cooking Sherry’ which contains additives.
  • A generous pour of Sherry gives this broth a rich restaurant quality flavor.  Use it in soups, stews, gravies, etc.

One of my warmest food memories is walking home for lunch from elementary school and sitting down at the kitchen table with my mother over a bowl of soup.  Canned, of course.  With Saltines on the side.  And Beef Barley was one of my favorites.  This soup brings back those memories… minus the Saltines.

This hearty soup is a meal in itself, that goes without saying, but in case your family is craving a little something to go with, I recommend my super easy one hour WHOLE GRAIN OAT ROLLS…they’re a favorite around here, and mercifully easy to make, like under an hour, from start to finish!

If you’re yeast-phobic, try my IRISH OATMEAL SODA BREAD.

Beef Barley Soup

Category: main course, soup

Yield: serves 8-10

Serving Size: one bowl

Calories per serving: 443

Beef Barley Soup


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb London broil, steak, chuck roast, cut in bite sized pieces (if you use pre-cut stew beef, cut it into smaller pieces)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced, or 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery, sliced, leaves and all
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 1 32-oz box good quality beef stock, I like Swanson
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions (optional)


  1. Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper. Toss it in the flour and make sure to coat all sides of the meat.
  2. Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed soup pot with about 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat it on medium high until you see it shimmer. Brown the beef on all sides, working in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Add a little more oil as necessary for the rest of the meat. Remove to a plate.
  3. In the same pan saute the leek, shallot, onion, celery and carrots for several minutes until the onions start to soften.
  4. Add the Sherry and let it cook for a minute, scraping up the brown bits as you stir. Add the meat back to the pan, along with the beef stock and bay leaves. Bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and let barely simmer for an hour.
  5. Add the barley and let cook for another 30-40 minutes, until the barley is tender.
  6. Finish with the Worcestershire sauce, and more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
  7. Note: if you use the pearl onions, add them in at the end and just let them heat through.
  8. If you refrigerate the soup before serving it will thicken as the barley absorbs the liquid, you can thin it down with extra stock or water as you reheat.
  9. For crock pot ~ cook as above, but after adding the Sherry, meat, and stock to the pan, transfer to a crock pot. Add the barley and cook on low for 6 hours. Season with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper just before serving.

Make it your own ~

  • Make it gluten free ~ omit the flour and substitute rice or quinoa for the barley.
  • No reason you couldn’t substitute chicken and chicken stock for the beef.  Or lamb, for that matter.
  • Sliced mushrooms make a nice addition to this soup.



Don’t forget to pin this Beef Barley Soup!

Beef Barley Soup ~ put another log on the fire and cozy up with a steaming mug of this classic comforting soup. You can simmer it on the stove, or let the slow cooker do the work. #soup #beef #comfortfood #beefsoup #beefstew #barley #onepotmeal #crockpotsoup #slowcookersoup #bestbeefbarleysoup #fallsoup #wintersoup #maincourse



  • Reply
    February 17, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Yummo, Sue ! Have you figured out how to adapt this recipe to the Instant Pot? Oh PLEASE let me know when you do. Meanwhile, I’ll just make it as directed. And thanks SO much for the primer on Sherry and how it is made. Who knew? I’ve always used sherry–especially in seafood recipes. But now I find out I’ve been using knock-off sherry?!
    I especially loved learning about southern Spain’s sherry making , as hubby and I will be right there this coming April.
    Thanks to you, we will now what to look for in a fine sherry !

  • Reply
    Chris Nault
    November 30, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I could have eaten the soup right off the page, it looks that good. I need a few ingredients first.

    • Reply
      December 1, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Haha, I know the feeling, hope you like it Chris :)

  • Reply
    Carol Maga
    November 30, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Sue, wine question. Can I use Merlot or Burgundy? Thanks, looks yummy!
    A fan, Carol

    • Reply
      November 30, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Absolutely Carol, that would work perfectly.

      • Reply
        Carol Maga
        December 1, 2017 at 2:19 pm

        oh great ==looks like something Mom and Gram made. The photos are memories, thanks!!

        • Reply
          December 1, 2017 at 2:25 pm

          You’re welcome Carol :)

          • craig
            February 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm

            Can you please explain to me how exactly you fold the bottoms of the rolls ?

          • Sue
            February 12, 2018 at 3:48 pm

            Hi Craig ~ you just pinch the dough together at the bottom of each roll, it rounds out the top, and then you place them seam side down to bake.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I am enjoying your recipe revival, lovely soup, and thanks for making it crock pot friendly. Looks delicious and filling.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2017 at 7:29 am

    OMG, I haven’t made beef barley soup for the longest time! Your recipe looks too good to pass up! I’m pinning this delicious looking bad boy for later!

    • Reply
      November 30, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Christina, it does seem like a forgotten type of recipe, doesn’t it?

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    November 30, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Love barley in soup and especially with hearty beef and vegetables! So hearty and delicious. Perfect for this time of year :)

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    November 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    That looks like a super yummy and delicious soup for the cold winter days!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Are there any good alternatives to sherry (or other liqueurs such as Madeira)? My wife does not like the taste of sherry.

    • Reply
      November 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Yes, you could use Marsala, Madeira, regular wine, even cognac!

      • Reply
        November 29, 2017 at 1:42 pm

        Thanks Sue. I’m sorry for asking the question in a confusing way. What I meant to say is “are there any non-alcoholic alternatives to sherry or things like Madeira that (sort of) duplicate the taste of sherry?”

        • Reply
          November 29, 2017 at 3:13 pm

          Oh, I see…funny thing you should ask because I did read that cider, or cider vinegar is a substitute. In the case of the vinegar it would need to be watered down. Obviously not the same, but Sherry has a distinct flavor and is hard to duplicate in a non-alcoholic way. Remember, too, that the actual alcohol in Sherry cooks off pretty completely in a long cooking soup like this.

  • Reply
    Jamie | A Sassy Spoon
    November 29, 2017 at 11:45 am

    YUM. This looks so cozy and delicious. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving Room for Dessert
    November 29, 2017 at 11:45 am

    This makes me want to brag my fuzzy slippers and a fleece blanket and pile up on the couch with a bowl of this luscious soup! Still drooling over those dinner rolls :)

  • Reply
    Jessica (swanky recipes)
    November 29, 2017 at 10:33 am

    It just started to cool down here in New Orleans and I can’t get enough soup right now! This homemade version with fresh vegetables is just what I like in my soup, yum!

    • Reply
      November 29, 2017 at 10:42 am

      Same here, Los Angeles is slow to cool down, but the minute it does, I’m all over cozy soups!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 10:08 am

    My favorite dish to prepare for the winter time is a warm fuzzy soup and this looks just like something I would crave on the cold days! It’s so fulfilling and I love the fresh ingredients! Really something special! :)

    • Reply
      November 29, 2017 at 10:42 am

      warm and fuzzy ~ that’s just the right way to describe it :))

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I need this soup in my life, it’s been in the low 40’s and I’m freezing at night!! Let’s hope I can find frozen pearl onions at the store this morning.

  • Reply
    Suzy | The Mediterranean Dish
    November 29, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Sue, this is so my kinda comfort food! Love it!

  • Reply
    Joyce W
    September 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Husband loved it, I will definitely make again- thanks

    • Reply
      September 16, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks Joyce!

  • Reply
    December 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

    This soup is great — I’ve made it twice now and we’ve eaten every last drop. Luxurious is the right word for it.
    I would recommend par-boiling the carrots before you throw them in the broth, though. Both times, I’m thinking I’m just about done cooking and ready to eat, and then I’ve had to wait 45+ minutes for the carrots to get soft! So either figure that into your time frame or soften them up in another pot while you’re getting the stew together.

    • Reply
      December 9, 2013 at 10:16 am

      For this soup I cut my carrots in a pretty small dice so that they will cook quicker than usual. Glad you liked it, you’re reminding me to make it again, it’s really cold here this week!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Love the soup! Love your recipes, love your photography! Who makes that gorgeous mug? I’d love a set!
    I make quick rolls in the food processor…toss it all in, rest, shape and bake….
    13 rolls
    Prep: 25 min. + rising Bake: 15 min.
    2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup warm water (120° to 130°)
    2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons butter, melted, divided
    3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 3 0z.
    2 teaspoons honey
    1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
    In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add water and 2 tablespoons butter; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir in cheese and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
    Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 13 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place in a greased 9-in. round baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
    Bake at 375° for 11-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine the honey, garlic salt and remaining butter; brush over rolls. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 13 rolls.
    Nutrition Facts: 1 roll equals 131 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 169 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat.

    • Reply
      October 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Ooooh Pauline, thanks for the recipe, I’m going to try it. The cheddar cheese sounds like a great addition. The mug is by Sandy Kreyer, I’ve been buying her dishes forever, and actually she is advertising on the site right now, on the right sidebar! You can find her on Etsy…

  • Reply
    August 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Looks delicious. I love any soup with barley in it.

  • Reply
    Jan Janzen
    August 30, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I make fresh soups year-round. Along with some type of homemade bread or rolls. I will definitely try this one!

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    January 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I have some barley in the pantry just waiting for this soup! Mmmm, rolls and soup again :)

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    January 17, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Bookmarking this for when the weather cools – not really appropriate with ice cream!

  • Reply
    Joy Bee
    January 17, 2013 at 4:30 am

    I used to love canned beef and barley soup too. This sounds amazing, I’m definitely gonna make this as soon as we have a chilly day. Can’t wait to see the bun/roll recipe they look delicious.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Soup like this always tastes to me like good old-fashioned home cooking. The kind that makes you sigh with happiness.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    did your husband enjoy his soup out of a flowery mug as well? :)
    this is the perfect cold-weather soup, sue. i love me some barley.

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    January 17, 2013 at 2:59 am

    Oh my, this looks perfect, just perfect, like it would cure just about anything that ails you! We’ve got snow headed our way, this would be so yummy on a cold night!

  • Reply
    Debby Foodiewife
    January 17, 2013 at 4:48 am

    Next to cream of mushroom soup, this is one of my favorite soups of all time I just love barley. So, now I have to make a pot, this weekend. Beautiful!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Great looking soup… but, your cups steal the show for me! An old or new find?

  • Reply
    belleau kitchen
    January 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    beef and barley… perfection in a cup!… perfect for your ‘chilly’ days eh? can we have a recipe for those bread rolls please, they look stunning!

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    January 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I can’t get enough of soup recipes when it’s winter time. I haven’t had beef barley soup in so long. What a yummy recipe. My husband would love the chunks of steak!

  • Reply
    Patricia Reitz
    January 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Yummo – it’s been cold and raining here for days so soup is always welcome when we want to fight off a chill.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ saving room for dessert
    January 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    You are such a tease! The soup looks very rich indeed. I can almost smell it by just looking at your lovely photos. Yes I will be back to see about those beautiful dinner rolls – boy they look good!

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