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.
Warm soups make me want to bust out my fuzzy socks, oversized sweaters, and drink warm earl grey tea lattes all day long. Needless to say, soups are some of my favorite types of food.
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.
Comforting Beef Barley Soup (Instant Pot)
A simple beef barley soup made in the instant pot (pressure cooker). The beef is tender, veggies are perfectly cooked, and the barley is al-dente. It's seriously the simplest, most delicious soup. And it's healthy too!
- 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
This is a great recipe! I cut a ton of corners, bc of time, and doubled the recipe. I sauteed the meat all at once, at the same time, sauteed onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a separate pan. Stirred veggies, no potatoes tho, in with meat and added the rest of the ingredients and pressure cooked for 40 min. (that may have been too long) and released the pressure immediately. I also sauteed the mushrooms separately because we prefer them that way. It turned out fabulous!!
Made just as directed but didn’t have mushrooms or potatoes. instead I put 1/2 peas and finely diced cauliflower in with the pearl barley. The texture of the barley was perfect. I also “cheated” with roasted garlic in a jar. I’m new to the instant pot world and was very pleased with the results using 15 min on my “soup setting” then nat. release for 15 and pressed the valve to let the rest of the steam escape before putting it on “slow cook.” Thank you for the excellent instructions!
So good! I am under the weather so I was looking for an easier way. I dumped the potato (chopped) and quick cook barley in and set for 15 mins on high on the Instant pot. It was perfect. Kids loved it. Thank you!!
My entire family loves this soup.
My entire family loves this soup. I changed the recipe a bit, excluded potatoes, added a big old soup bone, changed some of the proportions, and add ingredients nearly to the maximum fill line in the pot. I also put all the ingredients in at the same time and pressure cook on the stew setting for 40 minutes. It is delightful and nourishing on cold nights!
I’m just getting into the whole instapot realm of cooking. For this recipe, what size instapot was used? Seems like 6qt,, can’t wait to make it!!!
6 qrt is correct! So anything 6 or larger would work for this recipe 🙂
Made this in the instant pot just as written except no mushrooms. It turned out very well and I’ll make this again for sure.
So glad to hear you enjoyed it, Sherry!
This recipe is a keeper! I added the barley along with everything and pressure cooked for 20 minutes (manual setting)and it turned out delicious…even our 2 year old demolished it. Thanks for sharing!
I made this several times. It’s delicious. I use frozen hash browns instead of peeling and grating potatoes. I also throw it all in and use instant pot on manual for 20 min and slow release. It’s perfect!
How much shredded potato did you use?
My grandson took a bite and said “did you make this yourself?!?” Nine year old approved as well as the rest of the family! Delicious
I’m about to make this recipe for the first time – but I’ve never used my instapot as more than a slow cooker — I know, I’m behind the times. So — while you’ll probably see this message too late — I’m a little confused about what setting to do everything on in the instapot. Am I using sauté at first and then switching over to stew? Help! (Instapot novice!)
Hi Kim! You would use the sauté setting first, then the manual “high pressure” button to do the actual pressure cooking. Hope that helps!
Once you put the barley and potatoes in and set it to slow cook for instant pot…do you put the lid on? Or will it cook properly without.? Thx
I made this for dinner last night and my family loved it! I increased the amount of barley and I shredded two potatoes to thicken the soup. I was short on time so I added the shredded potato in with everything else at once, rather than after it had cooked. I didn’t have celery to add and it still was tasty. I had tomato juice in the fridge that needed to be used up so I used this as the base rather than beef broth.
Can you add the uncooked barley to the instant pot or should it be cooked separately?
Comforting Beef Barley Soup
This was such a winning recipe. I did add a bit of tomato paste with the veg, Worcestershire, and I small diced the potatoes instead of grating them.
Turned out beautifully and was exactly what I was craving. Thank you!!
On the recipe card, you don’t say when to add the barley. Is it with the other ingredients?
I add the barley at the end in the Instantpot. It is important not to stir it because the barley can stick at the bottom. I like my barley soft so I cook it longer. I do not add the potato and that is my choice. For the spices I use herbs de province. Yummy recipe, my family loves it.
To make it more clear, after dumping the rest of the ingredients, I throw in the uncooked barley and pressure cook it for 45 mins ( I like my barley soft) or to your preferred texture. I also like to put in a dash of Worcester Sauce for more flavour.
This was absolutely delicious. Very flavorful. The pressure cooker does make a difference, you can really taste the flavors. But the recipe was perfection! This will be my go-to recipe for Beef Barley Soup. Thank you for sharing.
This recipe was so good!!!!
Made this for my family. Big hit! I have had a hard time finding a beef/veggie soup that my family likes and this hit the spot.
*I did leave out the mushrooms and did not add mushroom powder. My kids aren’t mushroom fans. I followed the rest of the recipe the same for the instant pot.
Will definitely make this again!
AND-it made for great leftovers.
I made this soup tonight and my husband and I thought it was good but the meat didn’t have much flavor. Did I just not use enough salt & pepper?
Hi Ann! It probably just needed another pinch or two of salt and pepper. You could also swap the salt for an all-purpose seasoning blend instead. Just something that has garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs, etc! Also, I find good quality stock makes quite a difference in IP recipes (not sure if you made it in the IP.)
Left out the mushroom powder (didn’t have any) and the potato. Added a can of diced tomatoes. Natural release was more like 50 minutes because I got distracted. Husband is still raving about it 2 weeks later! Definitely a keeper!
This is the best mushroom beef barley soup I’ve ever had. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. I highly recommend this recipe especially if you have an instant pot to use.
This worked well in the instant pot. I cooked the potato in a skillet on the stove using leftover beef fat while the instant pot worked. Then I just stirred it in. I also used ground beef because it is what I had and that was good. The 5 and 3 year olds both ate it yay! We served it with a little shredded cheese and a bit of sour cream.
Rave reviews from the family. I skipped the potato. The barley provided all the starch we needed. Didn’t have mushrooms, dashed to Aldi after setting up the IP. Used plain white mushrooms. Essential to the dish. This will be lunch for a couple days. Yum!
I had to modify the recipe a little bit because I didn’t have any mushrooms or mushroom powder. I also used pot barley instead of pearl barley. The soup was fantastic! I had cut my beef into a small dice and next time I will try it with the mushrooms instead of the beef. I also added all the grated potato into the mirepoix along with the meat, etc. and cooked it on the soup/broth setting. This recipe is a keeper – thank you!
Hi there. When you say “allow the pressure to release” do you mean NR?
Hi Christine! Either quick release or natural release will work for this recipe, so I didn’t specify! I do always just a natural pressure release if time permits, I find the flavors are a bit better that way! Hope you enjoy the soup 🙂
I want to use diced potatoes in the crockpot. When should the diced potatoes be added to the crockpot? Thanks
THIS! This is my go-to recipe when I want a delicious and satisfying soup. It’s like having a warm hug in winter. It’s even better the next day.
I love the soup but previously made it in the slow cooker. Today I’m making it in my IP but I’m not clear about what to do after the 16 minutes. It says to make sure pressure is released, but I am not clear are you saying to manually release pressure or let it do it on its own which can take a few hours? Please advise. I am going to try to manually release it and see what happens because I want it for lunch on this cold day and that will be in just a few hours.
Thanks for sharing this recipe. It is my one of my hubby’s and my favs.