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This Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup recipe is hearty and satisfying with tender pieces of beef, nutritious barley, and flavorful vegetables in a rich, savory broth that’s brightened with fresh herbs. Let the Instant Pot do all the work; this healthy, delicious soup tastes like it simmered on the stovetop all day!

overhead view of barley beef soup in bowls with fresh sliced bread

As a kid when my mom made soup it was usually an all-day affair. Or at least a three to four-hour event. (Mom’s soups were always amazing!)

I’ll admit, as much as I love cooking I don’t always feel spending the better part of an afternoon or evening doing it! At least not on a weekday.

This is one recipe where the Instant Pot comes to the rescue. It transforms what would otherwise be a very time-consuming soup to cook into something that requires just 20 minutes of hands-on prep time. That’s definitely manageable for any weeknight!

ladle of beef barley soup in instant pot

Now about this soup. It’s hearty and packed with savory flavor in a tomato-based broth. Chunks of beef are tender and juicy, and the pearl barley and vegetables cook perfectly. I know what you’re thinking – How though?! Beef stew meat and vegetables have different cooking times!

And you’re right. There’s a trick I discovered, and you can do it right in your Instant Pot.

You’ll be surprised at what it is: simply add the barley and vegetables, but don’t stir them. This does two things: 1) makes sure that the barley doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, and 2) helps the potatoes rest above the cooking liquid, so they don’t overcook.

Try this Instant Pot beef barley soup recipe to see for yourself!

beef barley soup recipe in instant pot

What is Barley?

Barley is a cereal grain that’s part of the grass family, along with things like rye, oats, wheat, and rice. It was one of the first cultivated grains, being grown as early as 10,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Barley also grows wild in parts of western Asian and northeast Africa.

Barley production worldwide is quite high; it’s the fourth most produced grain after corn, rice, and wheat. Much of this grain is used as animal feed. Additionally, a large portion of the barley crop goes to producing beer. But barley is still a significant foodstuff for humans.

Barley is commonly available as pearl barley (also called pearled barley) or hulled barley. Hulled barley is considered a whole grain because only the inedible outer portion is removed during processing. On the other hand, pearl barley has the outer hull removed as well as some (or all) of the bran layer.

Barley is nutritious, with a good variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, including vitamin E and beta-carotene. It’s also high in fiber, mainly a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, which forms a gel when combined with liquid.

You can read more about barley, including its history, usage, and health benefits on Healthline, Medical News Today, Tasting Table, and Wikipedia.

hands holding stoneware bowl of beef stew

Easy Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup Recipe

This healthy, satisfying soup is packed with flavor as well as nutrition! It’s full of tender pieces of beef, a variety of vegetables, and delicious and hearty pearl barley in a robust tomato broth.

Ingredients in Beef Barley Soup

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

beef barley soup ingredients
  • Olive oil – To brown the beef cubes.
  • Chuck steak – You can use any beef stew meat you like, or substitute with ground beef instead. I love chuck steak here because the marbling adds great flavor and helps the meat become very tender as it cooks.
  • Onion and garlic – For complex savory aroma and flavor.
  • Beef stock – Homemade or store-bought is fine.
  • Canned diced tomatoes – This adds body and texture to the soup.
  • Salt and black pepper – To season the soup.
  • Worcestershire sauce – For savory complexity and depth of flavor.
  • Pearl barley – This grain has a slightly nutty flavor and soft, chewy texture when cooked.
  • Carrot, celery and potato – These classic stew vegetables bump up the nutrition and pair perfectly with beef and barley.
  • Rosemary and thyme – These woodsy fresh herbs brighten and enhance the flavor of this soup.

Instructions

Instant Pot

cutting beef chuck steak for soup

Look for a beautifully marbled chuck steak. Trim off excess fat, and cut the meat into 1-inch cubes.

how to make beef barley soup in the instant pot
  1. Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the oil and beef. Cook until the beef is seared, about 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  2. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function.
  3. Stir in the beef stock, diced tomatoes with juices, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Add the pearl barley without stirring.
  5. Then add the carrot, celery, and potato without stirring (most of the potato will be resting above the liquid).
  6. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 20 minutes. Once it’s done cooking, let the pot naturally release its pressure for 15 minutes, and then carefully release the remaining pressure and open the pot. Stir in the rosemary and thyme.
hand stirring beef barley soup in instant pot with wooden spoon

Stir it up, and then serve it up. This thick, satisfying soup is like a beef barley stew!

Stovetop

You can easily cook beef barley soup on the stovetop if you don’t have an Instant Pot. Made this way, the cook time is approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes.

  1. Add the oil to a large soup pot over high heat. Once hot, add the beef in a single layer and let it sear, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the beef stock, diced tomatoes with juices, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring up to a boil, cover the pot, turn the heat down slightly, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the barley, carrot, celery, and potato. Bring back up to a boil, cover, and simmer until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the rosemary and thyme, and serve!

Storage

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Reheating

This soup reheats well on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Similar to pasta, barley in soup will cause the soup to thicken as it sits. When you want to reheat beef barley soup you may want to add a splash of water or beef stock to thin it out. Otherwise, it’s more like beef barley stew!

front view of stoneware bowls of beef barley soup with fresh herbs

Tips for Success

  • Carefully follow the cooking method in the recipe. The stir times might sound odd, but they’re specific for a reason. For example, the potato cubes should be sitting above the liquid so they cook perfectly and doesn’t overcook.
  • Ground beef substitute. Instead of cubed chuck steak, you can use 1 1/2 pounds of 90% lean ground beef.
  • Bump up the flavor at the end. There’s a really easy way to make the flavor of slow-cooked (or pressure-cooked) dish pop. Simply add a little acid right before serving! Either a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar is perfect here.
top view of bowls of beef barley stew with instant pot

Beef Barley Soup Recipe FAQs

Should Barley be Cooked Before Adding to Soup?

No, you don’t have to cook barley before adding it to soup.

Barley will cook and become tender and chewy as the soup simmers. Pearl barley typically needs 20 to 30 minutes to cook, and hulled barley usually requires 40 minutes to 1 hour.

In this soup recipe, the pearl barley cooks perfectly in the Instant Pot.

Do You Rinse Barley Before Cooking?

No, there’s no need to rinse barley before cooking.

homemade beef barley soup in bowls

More Instant Pot Dinner Recipes to Make

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Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Other Time35 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
This Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup recipe is hearty and satisfying with tender pieces of beef, nutritious barley, and flavorful vegetables in a rich, savory broth that’s brightened with fresh herbs. Let the Instant Pot do all the work; this healthy, delicious soup tastes like it simmered on the stovetop all day!

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chuck steak excess fat trimmed off and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic crushed
  • 7 cups beef stock
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 large carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 large ribs celery chopped
  • 1 pound potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Instructions
 

  • Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the oil and beef. Cook until the beef is seared, about 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  • Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function.
  • Stir in the beef stock, diced tomatoes with juices, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Add the pearl barley without stirring, and then add the carrot, celery, and potato without stirring (most of the potato will be resting above the liquid).
  • Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 20 minutes.
  • Once it’s done cooking, let the pot naturally release its pressure for 15 minutes, and then carefully release the remaining pressure and open the pot.
  • Stir in the rosemary and thyme, and serve.

Notes

  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Reheating: This soup reheats well on the stovetop or in the microwave. Similar to pasta, barley in soup will cause the soup to thicken as it sits. When you want to reheat beef barley soup you may want to add a splash of water or beef stock to thin it out. Otherwise, it’s more like beef barley stew!

 

How to Make Beef Barley Soup on the Stovetop

 
You can easily cook beef barley soup on the stovetop if you don’t have an Instant Pot. Made this way, the cook time is approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes.
 
  1. Add the oil to a large soup pot over high heat. Once hot, add the beef in a single layer and let it sear, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the beef stock, diced tomatoes with juices, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring up to a boil, cover the pot, turn the heat down slightly, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the barley, carrot, celery, and potato. Bring back up to a boil, cover, and simmer until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the rosemary and thyme, and serve!

Nutrition

Calories: 540kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 1195mg | Potassium: 1652mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 5330IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Beef Barley Soup, Beef Barley Soup Recipe, Beef Barley Stew, Instant Pot Beef Barley Soup

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easy beef barley soup recipe pin

This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on January 8, 2023 and updated with more information on January 17, 2024.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Fairly easy to make with a lot of flavor but was “sweet”. I added 1 tbs of apple cider vinegar for balance.

  2. 5 stars
    I made this for company the other day, and served it with a loaf of bakery sourdough bread. I also made the chewy brownies recipe from this site for dessert. It was the perfect winter meal!

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