Beef Barley Soup

This is the recipe the brave Southern husband fears above all others.

It’s not that it isn’t a fabulous version of beef barley soup…it absolutely is. Thick and filled with chunks of tender, super-slow-cooked beef, pieces of carrot and onion, laced through with fresh parsley and fresh-ground pepper and just a hint of tomato flavor, this is my favorite soup in the entire world. It is the perfect classic beef barley, and even better, it cooks in the slow cooker, so you can toss it together in the morning, go to work, forget it completely, trudge home 10 hours later, walk in the door, smell that gorgeous beef barley soup smell, remember tossing it together early in the morning, and smile a huge smile.

So what is there to be afraid of?

Well, this recipe makes a LOT. I’m sure it’s possible to cut it down — I haven’t actually tried, though, because along with bacon and macaroni and cheese and pizza from the Mason Jar, this particular beef barley soup may just be my favorite food on earth. And the first time we have it, the Southern husband is just fine. He even takes on the hardest part of the recipe, which is chopping up the meat into the small bite-sized pieces. Our tummies are full of warm, scrumptious soup and life is good.

Then we have it again. He’s still pretty much okay.

Still about 600 servings to go. And he begins to break down. Because I guess there actually are some people in the world who don’t like to have wonderful beef barley soup for lunch and dinner for days and days in a row. Yes, I know I could freeze it…but the thing is, I personally DO like to have wonderful beef barley soup for lunch and dinner for days and days in a row. This is why they say opposites attract. So a while back we made a pact. He would not get That Look On His Face when I made it, and I would only make in the colder months, and not too many times in a row. Which led to the following conversation last week:

Me: I’m going to make the beef barley soup this week!!

Him: Already???

Me: It’s October! It’s cold out! We’ve already had FROST!

Him (in long-suffering patient voice): Okay….

But trust me, aside from the fact that it makes a swimming pool-sized portion, it is the best beef barley soup you will ever, ever make, taste or have giant vats of leftovers of. It’s at its best when eaten on a chilly night out of your favorite Peter Rabbit bowl (see picture below). But it’s not bad for breakfast, either….


Beef Barley Soup
  • 2 pounds chuck roast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 packets beef boullion
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Combine everything but carrots and parsley in slow cooker and stir to mix. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  2. Just before serving, put carrots in microwave-safe dish with about ⅛ cup water. Microwave for 4 minutes. Add carrots to soup with parsley.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings (I usually end up adding a bit more salt and pepper).
  4. Serve. And serve. And serve.


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  1. Mrs. Mordecai says

    Oh, how I can relate! I love soup and my husband loves salad, so I try to please each of us seasonally. I can eat soup three meals a day. This one looks amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. I can't wait to try it!

  2. Alison says

    I was so excited to see the Peter Rabbit dish set while browsing Tastespotting! That really brings back memories! Soup looks delicious too!

  3. connie says

    I want to try this soup, but what is meant by four packets of beef boullion? I have beef bouillon in cubes. Will that work and how much should I use? Four cubes?

  4. Kate Morgan Jackson says

    Hi Connie — yes, a packet is equal to a cube, so four cubes should work just fine.

  5. Fun and Fearless in Beantown says

    This looks wonderful! I made my first slow cooker soup of the season last week…its not too early!

  6. Yolanda says

    I am going to give this a try. Due to health reasons, I am having to eat a lot more fresh dishes instead of processed as well as less meat. I love soup and this is an easy way to accomodate my health. I am going to make this "vegetarian" style and maybe about 15 minutes or 20 before dishing it up, I am going to add fresh sliced mushrooms.

  7. Ann says

    I made a double batch of this wonderful soup and added two 16 oz. jars of my own canned tomatoes mushed up slightly in the pot. I used Swanson's Beef Broth, but used one container of the full-sodium and one container of the low-sodium.

  8. jan says

    can you cook the carrots along with everything else? I would like to make this even easier, and thought the carrots might also taste better if they absorbed the meat flavor

    • Kate says

      You could – they will get very soft that way, and you are right that they will also absorb the flavor of the soup more. I like my carrots a little firmer and carroty tasting, which is why I do them at the end, but they will definitely be fine if you add them with everything else!

  9. Eileen says

    THANK YOU so much for posting this recipe!!! I made it this morning and came home from work to a house that smelled divine! I on the other hand, do not have a drop left. I have 3 sons at home with BIG appetites. Have to make another batch to share with my mom and my father-in-law! Thanks again :)

  10. Barb says

    Can you slow cook a whole roast with everything insteads of cutting it into bite size pieces then shred the meat after it cooks for the 10 hours? The reason I ask is my roast is usually frozen solid and I usually just toss it in the slow cooker before work and it cooks while I’m at work. I know I should take it out the night before, but I usually forget. So was wondering if I can do the same when making the soup?

    • Kate says

      Hi Barb,

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it should probably be fine since it is in the slow cooker for so long and all the moisture is trapped. It will probably be a bit of a job shredding it into the smaller sized pieces you need for soup, but I’m guessing the end result will be fine. If you try it, will you leave another comment telling us how it came out?

  11. deb devo says

    Could you explain to me why you put carrots in just at the end and don’t cook them all day in the crockpot with everything else?

  12. deb devo says

    sorry – found the answer on the carrots in the comments…..could you instead tell me what SIZE crockpot you used?

  13. Marylou Eisele says

    Made this today and had it tonight for dinner. It was absolutely delicious!!! Thanks so much for a wonderful recipe which is a real KEEPER!!!!

  14. Dawn says

    Found this recipe on Foodista a few days ago and decided to make it tonight since it’s a perfect cold weather meal. Absolutely delicious and so simple! I used an Angus chuck roast and though I’ve never made beef barley soup, I was surprised that the recipe did not call for browning the meat before adding to the crockpot.

    So fabulous, I will definitely be making this again and again this winter. Perfect meal for suffering through this polar vortex!

  15. ginny says

    This soup is cooking now and my house smells delicious. I am cooking my soup in my iron pot simmering for about 4 hours. I hope it turns out as I am still slow cooking. Have you ever cooked it this way

    • Kate says

      Hi Ginny! I’ve never cooked this soup on the stovetop, only in the slow cooker, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t turn out just fine! If you get a chance, come back and leave another comment telling us how it came out! :)

      • ginny says

        It turned out great.. I added some mushrooms (because I love mushrooms) really only took three hours to cook and the meat melted in your mouth as if I cooked in a crock pot. I must say I love my cast iron pot.

        • Kate says

          I’m so glad! I feel the same way about my cast iron skillet. So glad to know there is an alternate way to make my favorite soup! Happy New Year to you and yours. :)


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