Beef and Barley Soup For Two

Usually I never make such a small soup recipe but while looking through Cooks Illustrated “Dinner for Two” magazine I chose this soup to try first.  This is a very fragrant soup with a taste to match! This recipe actually would serve 4 people.


Barley is a major whole grain food and is one of the first cultivated grains in history. There are numerous possible health benefits associated with this plant-based food. It is favored for its nutty flavor and chewy, pasta-like texture. It comes in two forms; hulled and pearled form.

Quick-cooking barley has been pre-steamed and is rolled thinner than pearl barley so the cooking time is about 30 minutes shorter. Both are equally nutritious. Did you know that half of the barley grown in the world is used for animal feed and another 30 percent is sprouted and ground for malt, an ingredient in beer?


I have one other soup recipe using barley, Split Pea and Barley Soup which is excellent too.

Beef and Barley Soup For Two, Adapted

  • 8 oz. chuck shoulder ranch steak (what I found at my grocery) or (beef blade steak)
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin (I did not add – I’m not into mushrooms)
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme minced, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used low sodium)
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking barley (Quaker Oats) or pearl barley (adjust cooking times)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced or 1 tbsp. dried

Cut away any gristle from the steak, usually in the middle and trim any noticeable fat. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium saucepan and brown beef on all sides 5-10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms if using to the fat. Cook for 8-10 minutes on medium low, stirring occasionally so the vegetables don’t stick. Stir in tomato paste, garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, just for 30 seconds or so. Stir in beef and chicken broth and soy sauce scraping up any browned bits – you will have some too! Add beef and bring to a simmer; cook for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the barley and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the beef and barley are tender. Stir in the parsley and season to taste.

Comment: The barley continues to soak up liquid even under refrigeration. There was no broth left… I needed to add 16 more ounces of beef broth to the soup, then I adjusted the seasonings. Cook’s Illustrated was a little off with this recipe and I did not add the 6 oz. of mushrooms which would have made the soup extremely thick!

For future reference I would add an additional 8 oz. of beef broth, 8 oz. of chicken broth, a tsp. extra soy sauce, a little more tomato paste and more thyme to taste. Adjust any other ingredients as desired. The soup is really worth making and reminded me of Beef Bourguignon when I first made it and before the barley expanded a lot more. 

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22 thoughts on “Beef and Barley Soup For Two

  1. Beef barley is one of my favorite soups Judi and this one sounds delicious. I would be adding twice the mushrooms LOL! I don’t know if I could make that small enough batch. I still cook for an army but have a big freezer that stays full.


    • Thanks Julie – every year Cook’s Illus. comes out with “Dinner for Two” recipes. Very handy when you don’t want to make a bunch of any recipe. This is a good “freezing” soup but be sure to make the adjustments with the liquids and seasonings. With all of the mushrooms you would be adding you would need a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like beef barley soup but haven’t had it in ages. Thanks for adding your comments, it is always nice to know what adjustments need to be made to some recipes.


  3. Oh my favorite type of soup Judi. I love barley in soups, and with that beef, it had to be a meal in itself. The ingredients sound amazing, with all the herbs and seasonings too. I try to make different soups during the week for our lunches….would love to make a big pot of this delicious soup and freeze it. Thanks for sharing your lovely soup.


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