Make Ahead

Old-Fashioned Beef and Barley Soup

March  8, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This is comfort food for a winter's day. It's quick and easy to prepare, then it just sits on the stove and smells good for an hour or so. —plainhomecook

Test Kitchen Notes

If there was a soup-to-stew continuum, this wonderful beef and barley soup would sit at the last stop right before stews. The broth is thick and rich, with the wine adding a touch of bourguignon flavor. In fact, the taste is so rich and stew-like, I would consider adding mushrooms when I make it again (and I will make it again). Prep is straightforward and fills the kitchen with wonderful smells as everything simmers. This hearty soup is a definite go-to recipe for chilly days. —Chip Galusha

What You'll Need
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 glugs of olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into small pieces
  • 1 marrow bone
  • 8 cups beef broth or stock
  • 1 cup strong red wine
  • one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste (the stuff that comes in tubes)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Dice the onion. Peel the carrots, cut them in half lengthwise, then slice. Cut the celery in half lengthwise and slice it. Mince the garlic.
  2. Put a couple of glugs of olive oil in the bottom of a big, heavy stock pot. Heat it over medium heat until it shimmers, then add the onions, carrots, celery, and some salt. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme (crumbled between your fingers) and cook, stirring, for another minute or so, until it's nice and fragrant. Push all the veggies to the outside of the pan, then add the tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes until it's brown and sweet.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, for an hour and a half.
  5. Correct the seasoning and serve with crusty bread and a green salad.
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34 Reviews

Dionisia B. March 8, 2021
I really enjoyed this. Very hearty. I seasoned my meat with adobo so did not have an issue with blandness. Also browned the beef before adding the veggies.
carol S. February 17, 2021
Hello! Question...can I use meaty neck bones in this?
AlexRose January 12, 2021
Excellent recipe!! I made it as described (minus the marrow bone since the meat counter was out) for dinner tonight and it turned out delicious - so hearty and tasty! My batch was a little more liquid-y than the photo, but still made for a fantastic soup. If you want it to be thick like the photo, maybe just use a little less broth (maybe just 6-7 cups)? Strongly recommended and I will be making it again!
Goo October 31, 2020
Love, love, love this soup! I make it all winter long and great for a large crowd (around the fire pit!). I was concerned when removing gluten from my diet that I would have to forego this winter favorite but I now substitute Oat Grouts for the pearl barley...and you would never know the difference! #glutenfree
Goo October 31, 2020
Love, love, love this soup! I make it all winter long and great for a large crowd (around the fire pit!). I was concerned when removing gluten from my diet that I would have to forego this winter favorite but I now substitute Oat Grouts for the pearl barley...and you would never know the difference! #glutenfree
Rita C. December 29, 2019
I made this using the leftover prime ribs and meat from Christmas. I made it according to the recipe and it was simply delicious! Might add some mushrooms the next time. So good!
James N. November 12, 2019
Followed recipe exact except I added 2.5 lbs of meat.

Over all it was very bland.

2 gulps of olive oil ... be carful. Or else you’ll end up with it too oily. I would just cover bottom of pan very thinly. Not 2 glugs or whatever measurement that was.

I ended up adding a few (5-6) dashes of Frank’s red hot sauce, paprika, cayenne pepper, a generous amount of salt and pepper, as well as some fresh parsley.

Emily January 2, 2018
I followed this rather loosely, using up the leftover rib from Christmas. Didn't have a bone, and subbed chicken stock after reading somewhere it tends to have a purer flavor. So simple and tasty, definitely a keeper.
Donna December 6, 2017
Any one adapted this for the Instant Pot? I am dying to try this!
Martin June 29, 2017
I liked it. What I changed:
1. I don't like barley so I substituted it for potatoes
2. Added mushrooms, but probably won't again as they apparently only absorbed the taste of celery
3. No marrow bone as it's hard for me to find
4. Ditched the diced tomatoes as I wanted the meat to take center stage
5. No stock cause I am relatively new to stock and generally don't have it on hand
6. Dried thyme was substituted for dried basil as I had that on hand.
7. Had a lid on as I wanted a more soupy consistency. This was a mistake as it ended up being a lot of water. I will not use it at all next time.

Despite all these changes, this tasted really hearty. I will make it again, no doubt. Thank you!
Janice C. March 19, 2016
At last minute I decided to give it a try...and didn't have the wine so used a little soy sauce....Very tasty and will make this again.
whatshername February 1, 2016
i made this today/ Outstanding! No marrow bone, but followed the recipe exactly. My husband, who doesn't like soup/stew ate a whole bowl and raved! I did add mushrooms like others had suggested. They were a wonderful addition. Thank you for a great recipe that I will be using in my rotation!
Melanie January 13, 2016
Made this tonight and it was fantastic! No marrow bones at the market, and I wanted a little kick, so added a can of Rotel diced tomatoes w/green chiles. Yummy!
plainhomecook February 1, 2016
Mmmmm... I like the idea of the chilies.
Emilee January 5, 2016
I used beer instead of wine and omitted the marrow bone and it was delicious!
Alison November 9, 2015
this was really great! An easy but delicious recipe. I wanted something to usher in the first cold spell of fall, and had some barley on hand. My goal was the stew-ier version, so I added 8 oz of small cremini mushrooms, quartered, and upped the meat to 2 lbs. The meat wasn't chuck, as far as I can tell--leaner, looked like round cut into stew pieces--and I forgot to ask about a marrow bone when I was at the store. Otherwise, made it verbatim, and I am confident it will make additional appearances this year and forward.
plainhomecook November 9, 2015
Alison, I'm so glad you like it! I leave mushrooms out of this only because my little one doesn't like them, but I bet they were a great addition.
Transcendancing May 16, 2015
Great recipe, I made it with the intention of it being a stew and it's turned out beautifully. I also didn't have the wine and it didn't lack for it - I did add splash of red wine vinegar though.
Adrienne W. February 15, 2015
Making this soup today while the storm rages on the eastern end of long island. Ferry not running, some roads closed.
Transcendancing August 25, 2014
I made this tonight and it was delicious! I didn't add the extra canned tomatoes, and also cooked it for a little longer so the meat would properly tenderise. It was delicious and the extra time really made it - the soup itself came together beautifully in this thick broth. I didn't actually use the marrow bone because I had home made stock from marrow bones. I would be interested to try this without the tomato paste and emphasise specifically the beef flavour.
Kevin F. April 10, 2014
Made this last night, per instructions. Family loved it, even the little ones. This is being added to our rotation, especially for the cooler months. Thanks!
Kristy M. April 8, 2014
I have made this for years...both for myself and for my dog - sans the onion & garlic. He loves it! I do too.
Kristy M. April 8, 2014
I use a beef marrow shank to make it. He also gets the marrow bone after it is cooled and meat chopped off.