Homemade Beef Barley Soup (Instant Pot + Slow Cooker)
A simple beef barley soup made in the instant pot (or slow cooker.) The beef is tender and the veggies and barley are perfectly cooked. It’s seriously the simplest, most flavorful soup!
Feelin’ all the cozy feels with this hearty beef barley soup.
And my instant pot beef barley soup isn’t just some boring old soup. I’m talking about the kind of soup that hits all the perfect warm and cozy notes with spoonfuls of flavorful broth, tender chunks of beef, veggies, and tender barley. It’ll stick to your ribs, give your insides a big huge, and leave your belly extra happy.
What I love about instant pot beef barley soup:
What makes this soup recipe 1000x times better is that we’re making it from start to finish in the instant pot. So with just 40 minutes of cook time, you’ll have a soup that tastes like you’ve been slow-simmering it all day long. And yes, you sure can cook this recipe all day long and make beef barley soup in the slow cooker if that’s more your jam.
What do you need to make beef barley soup at home?
- Beef: you’ll need stew meat for this recipe. My grocery store sells pieces that are about 1 – 1 ½ inch pieces. Keep in mind that the smaller your pieces are, the less time this soup will take in the instant pot. If they’re too large, feel free to chop them down a bit!
- Mushrooms: I like to use baby Bella mushrooms for this recipe. However, button mushrooms would also work here.
- Mirepoix: Mirepoix is the base of the soup. It’s a combination of onions, celery, and carrots.
- Garlic: You can use as little or as much garlic you like for this recipe. I typically go a bit heavier than most, and we love a good flavorful broth.
- Beef broth: I suggest using low sodium beef broth for this recipe. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have beef broth on hand, you can substitute it with low sodium chicken broth (or stock) and add a tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce. I’ve done this plenty of times with great results!
- Seasonings and sauces: I recently started adding a dash of tomato paste to my soup, and I love the flavor profile it adds to this soup. Along with that, you’ll need bay leaves, dried thyme, and mushroom powder. The mushroom powder is optional, but it’s an umami flavor bomb if you have it on hand! Just ½ teaspoon takes this soup to new heights!
- Pearl barley: is a grain that has had the tough fibrous outer hull removed from it.
- Potato: Just a big old russet is what you need here! Remove the peel and shred the potato in your food processor.
How to make beef barley soup in your instant pot:
- Start by generously seasoning the stew meat with salt and pepper. Heat a splash of oil in the instant pot on the saute setting. When hot, add a batch of the meat and brown it evenly on all sides. Take your time here. The browning and fond that develops at the bottom of the pan give this soup a hearty and rich flavor. Remove the meat to a plate when it’s done. You’ll treat the mushrooms the same way; brown them, and remove them to the same plate.
- Add another splash of oil to the instant pot and saute your onions, carrots as celery. When softened, add the garlic and tomato paste. You want to allow the tomato paste time to bloom in the oil before adding the remaining ingredients. Then, add everything but the potatoes, cover, and cook.
- When the instant pot timer goes off, allow a natural pressure release. Then, place the instant pot back on the saute setting, stir in the shredded potatoes, place the IP lid on top (not locked, just placed on top) and let the soup continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the potato has cooked through. Taste and adjust with additional seasonings. If the soup is too thick, you can thin it with additional broth.
Why did you change this recipe? I’ve made it with different instructions before.
The honest answer? I was a noob with the instant pot when I first shared this recipe and didn’t really have a full grasp on timings and such, so I went based on the manual. After using my IP for the last several years, I’ve learned a few tricks. This new method does have a plus (and a minus.)
- PLUS: it saves time. The previous version didn’t have pearl barley added until the potatoes were added and an additional hour of slow cooking was required (even for the IP!)
- MINUS: I do find that the soup becomes significantly thicker when you add the barley and let it cook with the meat. However, I’ve adjusted the broth with an additional cup for pressure cooking. And if you still find it’s thick, it’s an easy fix. You can add additional broth towards the end and thin the soup out to your liking.
Shortcuts to make Beef Barley Soup even faster:
- Use store-bought mirepoix. If you look in the prepared foods section, they often sell a 3-cup container of prepared mirepoix, so it’s ready to cook.
- Use store-bought shredded potatoes. You can usually find these in the breakfast refrigerated section of your grocery store. Thawed shredded hash browns would also work for this recipe.
PS – Up until recently, I’ve always used diced potatoes in my beef barley soup but the shredded potatoes is a little trick I picked up from The Food Charlatan and it’s seriously the best thing in this soup!
This recipe was originally shared in Sept. 2016 and updated with new pictures, texts, and minor recipe adjustments in Jan. 2021.
- 1 ½ pounds stew meat, cut into 1¼ inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 10 baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 3 cups mirepoix (just a combination of chopped onion, celery, and carrots)
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 7 cups low sodium beef broth (or vegetable)
- 1 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon EACH: dried thyme AND mushroom powder (opt.)
- ⅔ cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 1 large potato, peeled + shredded (using a food processor or grater)
- SAUTE: Season the stew meat with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or in the instant pot over medium-high heat. Add ½ the stew meat and brown on all sides for about 2-3 minutes total. Remove meat to a plate and repeat with the second batch and the second tablespoon of oil. Add the mushroom to the pot and brown the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes or until they start picking up the brown bits left behind by the meat. Remove the mushrooms to the same plate as the stew meat.
- VEGGIES: If needed, add a little more oil to the pot and the mirepoix mix. Cook the veggies for 4-5 minutes or until the onions soften and become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds before adding the tomato paste and letting it brown for an additional 30 seconds.
- INSTANT POT: Add the stew meat, mushrooms, bay leaves, dried thyme, mushroom powder, water, beef broth, and barley to sautéed veggies in the instant pot, cover and hit the manual button (high pressure), and cook for 16 minutes. Allow the pressure to release before removing the lid. Hit the saute setting on the instant pot, covered (use the IP lid and just place it on top, don't lock.) Add the shredded potatoes allow the soup to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Season with additional seasonings to taste and thin soup with additional water or stock if it gets too thick. Serve warm with chopped parsley on top and a loaf of crusty bread or crackers.
- SLOW COOKER: to make the soup in the slow cooker, add the softened veggies, stew meat, mushrooms, bay leaves, dried thyme, mushroom powder, water, beef broth, and barley to the slow cooker and allow the soup to cook on the high setting for 3 hours or on the low setting for 6 hours. Add the shredded potatoes to the slow cooker during the last 1 hour of cooking. Season with additional seasonings to taste and thin soup with additional water or stock if it gets too thick. Season with additional seasonings as desired. Serve warm!
UPDATE: As of 01/2021 this recipe has been updated to include the tomato paste and mushroom powder as well as minor recipe adjustments to make this soup faster. These ingredients are optional, however, I do find that the soup tastes better with them. If you’ve made the previously shared IP version and prefer that recipe, you can make it by omitting the mushroom powder and tomato paste and adding the barley and shredded potato at the end (after pressure cooking) using the slow cooker function for 1 hour.
- Sometimes I like to spice things up by adding a little pinch of red pepper flakes along with the dried thyme too but this is purely optional.
Other instant pot soups you might like:
- Winter Lemon Chicken Barley Soup
- Very Best Cuban Black Bean Soup
- Instant Pot Cajun Butternut Squash Soup
- Easy Cheese Bean and Rice Enchilada Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Wild Rice Soup