Beef Barley Soup ~ crock pot and stove top recipe

beef barley soup

Beef Barley Soup is classic comfort food that you can make on the stove or in the crock pot ~ it makes a hearty and delicious one pot meal, and this recipe freezes beautifully, too!

chunky beef barley soup in white mugs with spoons and napkins

beef barley soup follows in a long line of comforting soups here at tvfgi ~

my Italian White Bean and Sausage Meatball Soup, and Stuffed Pepper Soup are just 2 of the most recent.

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.

Beef Barley Soup in white mugs with spoons, napkins, and rolls

the secret ingredient in my beef barley soup

It’s sherry. A drinkable sherry, mind you, none of that cooking wine stuff. A bottle will keep well in your pantry and I promise you’ll use it often to give  restaurant quality flavor to lots of recipes.

what is sherry?

  • Sherry is 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 it’s 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 ‘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.
Beef Barley Soup in white mugs

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 buttered crackers on the side. This soup brings back those memories…

What type of beef is best for beef barley soup?

  • I like to use London broil, or chuck roast.
  • You can use pre cut stew meat, but be sure to cut it down into smaller pieces.
A bowl of Beef Barley Soup

what goes well with beef barley soup

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.

Irish Oatmeal Soda Bread ~ an authentic Irish quick bread made even more delicious with oat flour!

Is beef barley soup gluten free?

  • Barley contains gluten, but you can make this soup gluten free by swapping out rice, or quinoa. Swap out the flour for your favorite gf thickener.

Variations on beef barley soup

  • Use lamb in place of beef for a rich version.
  • Replace the beef with mushrooms for a vegetarian version.
beef barley soup
3.75 from 28 votes

Beef Barley Soup

Beef Barley Soup is classic comfort food that you can make on the stove or in the crock pot ~ this recipe freezes beautifully, too!
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Calories 207kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb London broil, steak, or 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


  • Sprinkle the beef generously with salt and pepper. Toss it in the flour and make sure to coat all sides of the meat.
  • 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.
  • In the same pan saute the leek, shallot, onion, celery and carrots for several minutes until the onions start to soften.
  • 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.
  • Add the barley and let cook for another 30-40 minutes, until the barley is tender.
  • Finish with the Worcestershire sauce, and more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
  • Note: if you use the pearl onions, add them in at the end and just let them heat through.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 298mg | Potassium: 619mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2230IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 3mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Lisa Carroll
    September 19, 2020 at 6:30 am

    This looks amazing and perfect for this fall weather we are experiencing here in Kentucky. I am gluten intolerant, what can I substitute for the barely that would give the soup the same consistency?

    • Reply
      September 19, 2020 at 6:50 am

      I haven’t tried this but maybe Arborio rice, which has lots of starch. Also buckwheat groats, or maybe even quinoa.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Will this freeze well?

    • Reply
      October 8, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Yes, it should do fine in the freezer.

  • Reply
    Bee - Bites 'N Pieces
    January 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    5 stars
    Great recipe! I featured it in a recipe roundup!

    • Reply
      January 17, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you!

  • 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 !

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