éBeef Barley Soup (Instant Pot or stovetop) is a fantastic make-ahead or freezer soup, which makes it perfect for meal prep sessions. Plus, it’s comforting and so tasty!
Beef barley soup (Instant Pot and stovetop instructions included) is a classic for a reason. Comforting, richly flavored and easy to make. It ranks right up there with our favorite Chicken and Rice Soup!
This soup freezes well, making it ideal for meal prepping. There’s nothing better than knowing that a few containers of soup are tucked away in the freezer for easy dinners!
What you need for this Beef Barley Soup (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
These are the main components of this recipe (affiliate links included):
- Beef: Traditionally, beef barley soup is made with chuck roast, which is what you’re getting when you buy the ubiquitously named “beef stew meat”. That meat tends to be quite marbled (in other words, more fat). While that fat can certainly add flavor, it’s also higher in saturated fat. Instead, I opted for flank steak, which is a leaner cut, but still holds up well in this soup. Either will do!
- Barley: I used pearl barley, which is available in any grocery store. However, if your grocery store is like mine, it’s always a bit of a mystery as to where the pearl barley is found. Sometimes it’s by the rice and quinoa (which makes the most sense to me), but more often I find it in the cereal aisle with the rest of the Bob’s Red Mill products, or even in the baking aisle. Save yourself some time and ask a staff member. 😊
- Broth: I find that beef broth works best in this recipe, but chicken broth can be used in a pinch.
- Vegetables: Onions, celery, carrots and garlic form the base of this soup, and a good scoop of frozen peas finishes it off. No need to defrost the peas. They’ll heat up in the hot soup in no time.
- Tomato paste: If you buy a can of tomato paste, use a couple of tablespoons, then freeze the leftovers in one tablespoon portions to use another time. Since I often forget to do this before the tomato paste spoils, I prefer to buy tubes of tomato paste. Just squeeze out what you need.
- Seasoning: Thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and some minced parsley are all you need. Be sure to taste the soup before serving and adjust the seasonings (specifically, salt and pepper) if needed.
How to make Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup
Start by browning the beef in a couple of batches, using the Sauté mode on the Instant Pot. You want to do this in batches so that the beef browns rather than steams. Overcrowding produces steam every time!
Next, sauté the veggies, then stir in the broth and water.
Now here’s the REALLY IMPORTANT PART! Use a wooden spatula (affiliate link) or wooden spoon to scrape up any cooked bits that are stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. This is called deglazing the pan. And this will help you avoid that dreaded Instant Pot “Burn” message.
Add the beef and barley, and pressure cook on HIGH. Use natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release. Stir in the peas and parsley, and serve it up!
How to make it on the stovetop:
Similar to the Instant Pot method, start by browning the beef in two batches. Next, sauté the veggies and tomato paste, then add the broth, water and barley. I use the 6-quart Instant Pot (affliate link), but the 8-quart is a great option, too.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the soup is simmering. Cook until the barley and beef are tender, which takes 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in the peas and parsley at the end.
How to freeze Beef Barley Soup:
Cool the soup completely, then transfer to plastic or glass freezer containers, or freezer resealable (Ziploc) bags.
If using resealable bags, lay them flat on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, they can be store either flat or upright.
Defrost the soup in the refrigerator, then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
According to the USDA, when packaged and stored properly, cooked beef products can frozen for 2 to 3 months.