Homemade Beef Barley Soup (Instant Pot + Slow Cooker)
A simple yet comforting beef barley soup made in the instant pot or slow cooker! The beef chunks are tender, and the veggies and barley are perfectly cooked. It’s seriously the simplest, most flavorful stick-to-your-ribs kinda 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, melt-in-your-mouth tender chunks of beef, veggies, and al dente barley. It’ll stick to your ribs, pack on the protein, give your insides a big hug, and leave your belly extra happy!
What makes this soup recipe 1000x times better is that we’re making it from start to finish in the instant pot. With around 60 minutes of total 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.
Ingredients for beef barley soup recipe:
- Beef: you’ll need stewing beef, or a beef chuck roast cut into 1-inch pieces. My grocery store sells pieces that are about 1–1½ inch pieces. Keep in mind that the smaller your pieces are, the less time this soup will take in the instant pot. If the beef cubes are too large, feel free to chop them down a bit. This helps ensure all the ingredients require the same cook time in the instant pot.
- 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 as you like for this recipe. I typically go a bit heavier than most, and we love a good flavorful broth. I use about 6-8 cloves garlic!
- 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. Barley is a fiber-rich food that is great to include in your diet.
- Potato: Just a big old russet is what you need here! Remove the peel and shred the potato in your food processor.
- Fresh parsley: adds a bit of color and freshness to the soup recipe.
* 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!
How to make instant pot beef barley soup:
- Generously season the stew meat with salt and black pepper. Heat a splash of oil in the instant pot on the saute setting on medium-high heat. When hot, add a batch of the meat and brown it evenly on all sides for a couple of mins. The browning process develops a layer of fond on the bottom of the pan. Which will ultimately aid in providing more flavor for our soup. 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, and celery. When the vegetables have 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 the instant pot, and let it come up to a simmer before it starts the pressure cooking.
- When the instant pot timer goes off, allow a natural pressure release. You can do a manual quick release, but because it was a hot liquid, you might end up getting splatter. For this reason, I suggest natural pressure release. Then, place the instant pot on the saute setting, stir in the shredded potatoes, place the IP lid on top (not locked, just placed on top) 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 until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Serve it up. Ladle the soup into your favorite bowl and serve this with a slice of the best garlic bread.
Additional tips and tricks
Use store-bought mirepoix to cu todwn on prep time. 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.
Since this recipe is made in the instant pot it’s difficult to suggest substitutes for the pearl barley as the cooking time on these ingedients varies from the beef stew meat.
I like a good salad, maybe a shaved brussels, apple and manchego situation, or a kale crunch salad. Garlic bread is always a welcome side! My no knead focaccia or jalapeno cheddar bread would be delicious dipped in this!
I like to use a dutch oven. Follow directions 1 and 2. Then add everything but the barley and potatoes and let the soup simmer, covered, on low heat for 1 hour. Test the meat for doneness, it should be almost there. Then add the rinsed barley and shredded ptoatoes and continue to simmer the soup, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Honey Lemon Chicken with Green Beans
- Rustic Shepherd’s Pie with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes and Peas
- Hungarian Mushroom Soup
- Mini Moroccan Meatball Soup
- Homemade Minestrone Soup
- 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.