A hearty with super tender beef and lots of healthy veggies, this Beef Barley Soup is slow-roasted to create lots of fabulous flavor!!
This Slow Roasted Beef Barley Soup is one of those hearty, soul-warming soups that's perfect for a chilly fall or winter evening with a cheery fire in the hearth. Pair it with a simple green salad and some warm crusty bread and you've got a meal that will create delicious memories (and requests for repeats)!
What is Barley?
If you're not familiar with Beef Barley Soup, you might be wondering what barley is. Barley is a delicious ancient whole grain that's rich in fiber and nutrients. It has a mild, nutty taste and an appealing pasta-like texture. You can usually find barley in the same area where you find rice and grains or near the dried beans. Sometimes grocery stores will also sell it in a specialty section with other grains and unique flours.
You might frown on me for this, but I'm a little lazy and, if I can avoid extra steps in the kitchen, without compromising flavor, I'm all over it! And browning beef on the stovetop is NOT one of my favorite things to do. I hate the mess it makes and it does take a good bit of extra time.
That being said, if it's a recipe in which the flavor is greatly enhanced by "browning the beef", I'm okay with it. This Beef Barley Soup recipe, I'm happy to say, does not need that extra step. There are so many other ingredients that add layers of flavor that you won't miss the messy, time-consuming browning step.
How do I know? I have actually tried it both ways and found that it's just not necessary for this particular recipe. The results, both with browning and without, are wonderful... super tender beef and an amazingly flavorful broth studded with carrots, onions, bell peppers and sweet corn.
- Bacon. Everything's better with bacon, right? Just a few strips of bacon are sautéd until crisp then removed from the pan. Chopped onion, shallots and bell pepper are sautéd in the bacon fat until softened. Sautéing the aromatics always adds flavor but sautéing them in bacon fat doubles the flavor!
- Shallots. Shallots are members of the onion family but have a sweet, delicate unique flavor that enhance everything from salad dressings to recipes like this Beef Barley Soup.
- Purchased pesto. Pesto adds amazing flavor with just a scoop from a jar. Pesto includes basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Check out tips for buying (and storing) pesto below.
- Worcestershire sauce. This condiment is a magical combination of ingredients that can add tons of flavor to soups and stews.
- Dark Beer. A bottle of dark beer not only adds a nice hearty flavor to this beef soup and brings out the richness of the meat and veggies, but also gives it a beautiful rich caramel color. See the Café Tips on buying ale below.
- Italian seasoning. I love Italian seasoning as it combines a wonderful array of herbs in one jar. Italian seasoning generally includes basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. The exact quantities of each vary by brand. It definitely doesn't have to be limited to Italian cuisine. We go through a lot of it here at The Café since it's a wonderful flavor booster so I purchase it in bulk online.
- Tomato paste. This beef soup recipe includes a six-ounce can of tomato paste which adds rich, smooth flavor and adds to the deep, beautiful hue as well.
- Brown sugar. I love using a bit of brown sugar in soups like this as it helps round out all the other flavors and balances the acidity from the tomatoes. Don't worry, the soup doesn't taste sweet!
- Fresh rosemary is added to this soup at the beginning and also at the end. The first addition combines with the other ingredients during the slow roast to create a delicious, complex flavor. The rosemary that's added at the end, is a wonderful finishing touch that adds a layer of fresh flavor.
- Slow roasting. This Beef Barley Soup is slow-roasted in a 300˚F oven. Slow roasting gives all the ingredients in this recipe a chance to marry and meld. It also helps make the beef super tender. There's actually a scientific explanation for this: tenderness in meat comes from the melting of collagen which is the connective tissue protein. When the collagen melts, it turns into gelatin which is a rich liquid giving the meat fabulous flavor and silky texture. For collagen to melt, it has to be heated and cooked at low temperatures for a long period of time. That's why slow-cooked meat (like the beef in this Beef Barley Soup) has a wonderful tenderness that you won't get with quick cooking.
- The onion and bell pepper that are included in this beef soup are diced very small. As the soup cooks, the tiny-diced onion and pepper "melt" into the broth, helping create even more fabulous flavor. I use my Vidalia Chop Wizard to chop these veggies into a nice small dice, lickety-split. It's my favorite and most simple kitchen tool.
Why chicken broth?
If you check out the ingredient list, you may notice that the recipe includes chicken broth. But this is a beef soup recipe, why wouldn't you use beef broth? If you have a beef broth that you love or a stash of homemade beef broth, go ahead and use it. I haven't found a commercial beef broth that has great flavor. I tend to agree with Kenji Lopez over at Serious Eats. He says, "most boxed or canned beef broth contains almost no beef at all, instead relying on yeast extracts to provide it with a savory aroma and flavor." He also points out that "In most recipes we've tested, boxed chicken broth will provide far better flavor than boxed beef broth."
Put this on you "must-make" list!
I took this soup to a lunch a few weeks ago with a group of friends. There were lots of rave reviews and inquiries if this Slow-Roasted Beef Barley Soup recipe "was on the blog?".
I said, "not yet, but soon". So here you go! When you serve soup and get requests for the recipe, send them right to The Café... I'll be waiting!
Café Tips for making this Slow-Roasted Beef Barley Soup
- I like to purchase a chuck roast for this Slow-Roasted Beef Barley Soup. I used to use stew beef for soup recipes like this but have had several butchers tell me that you can never really know what cut of beef that stew beef is made from. They tell me that whatever they have left over at the end of the day, they turn into stew meat. So it might be a nice cut of chuck but it could also be another cut that's not as tender. So I just buy a chuck roast, trim off any excess fat and cut it into whatever size pieces I want. In this particular recipe, you want to cut it into ½-inch pieces.
- I often shop at Sam's Club or Costco and the packages of chuck roast are much larger than 2 pounds (the amount needed for this soup). I freeze whatever is leftover in 2-pound packages, which is a perfect amount for most stew and soup recipes, like this Italian Vegetable Beef Soup, this Pasta Beef Soup or this hearty Beef Bourginoun Soup.
- There's a bottle of dark beer included in this recipe. Don't skip it! It adds a rich, hearty flavor, the kind you get from a soup or stew that's been simmering all day. If you don't regularly purchase beer, you can often buy just one or two bottles at larger grocery stores. I use a dark Guinness Stout for this recipe. Other good options would be Duck Rabbit Milk Stout or Bell’s Kalamazoo (my son, Nick is my beer advisor, an expert and my go-to guy for beer advice). Most of the alcohol is evaporated during the cooking process.
- This recipe calls for pesto. Of course, there's nothing like homemade pesto, so if you have that, by all means, use it in this recipe. I don't usually have the time to make my own pesto so I often use prepared pesto. When purchasing pesto, look for a brand with a nice green hue. You want the main ingredients to be basil and parmesan cheese.
- I like to buy the large jars of pesto that are sold in the refrigerator section at Costco and Sam's. The flavor is great for cooking and it stores well in the freezer. I store it right in the jar that it comes in. When I want to use it, I let it thaw just a bit (10 minutes), then scoop out what I need and pop it back in the freezer. It can also be divided into smaller portions and frozen that way. Some people like to use ice cube trays to freeze the pesto. Once frozen, the cubes can be popped out and stored in a plastic freezer bag.
- This recipe calls for "tiny corn". If fresh corn is out of season, I really like to use canned Steam Crisp Shoepeg Corn. This corn has sweet, tiny, crisp kernels that are delicious when fresh corn is not available. Steam Crisp Shoepeg Corn can be found in the canned veggie section at most grocery stores.
- Don't undersalt this soup. There are lots of ingredients and you need the salt to bring out all the flavors.
- This Beef Barley soup recipe makes a large batch but it rewarms well for quick meals on the run and it also freezes well. It's a wonderful meal to have stashed in the freezer for busy days or to pass on to a friend in need.
- Sometimes this soup will get a little thick after it sits in the refrigerator as the barley will absorb some of the broth. You can always add more chicken broth to thin it out.
Thought for the day:
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
1 Chronicles 16:25
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations, and ideas for variations.
- 3 slices smoky bacon 2, if using thick-cut bacon
- 1 large sweet onion diced small
- 1 medium shallots finely chopped (about ½ cup chopped shallots)
- 1 large yellow bell pepper diced small
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 11 ounce bottle or can dark ale see Café Tips above in the post
- 2 pounds well-marbled chuck roast cut into ½ inch pieces trimmed of fat and cut in ½-inch pieces
- 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 6 ounces tomato paste (1 small can)
- ¼ cup basil pesto
- 2 medium bay leaf
- 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces carrots sliced about ¼-inch thick
- ⅔ cup pearled barley
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 cup tiny corn canned or frozen, see Café Tips above
Preheat the oven to 300˚F.
Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven (5-7 quarts) over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and has rendered most of the fat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.
There should be about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat left in the pan. If there is more, remove and discard any extra. If there is not quite 2 tablespoons add a little extra virgin olive oil.
Reduce the heat slightly and add the onion, shallots and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion is soft and slightly transparent,
Add the chicken broth, ale, diced chuck roast, reserved bacon, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, pesto, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cover. Place the soup pot or Dutch oven in the preheated oven and cook for 1½ hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and add the carrots and barley. Cover again and return the pot to the oven for another 1½ hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and add the fresh chopped rosemary and the corn. Cover and allow the soup to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
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