Beef and Barley Soup is one of my husband's favorite soups and it's so easy to make in your Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi! You only need a few basic ingredients and about an hour to make a delicious pot of healthy and hearty soup! The tender chunks of beef melt in your mouth, the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, and the pearl barley has a slight chew to it. It's so delicious and a perfect soup on a cold day served with some crusty bread.
I always like to add a little twist to recipes and this pressure cooker beef and barley soup is no exception. Whenever I made soup just for myself, I try to use up what I have in the fridge and, while testing this recipe, I had an apple that I really needed to use. So, I threw it in there and WOW!
It's the best beef and barley soup I've ever made or had. The flavor is subtle and you don't necessarily taste the apple, but it adds a touch of sweetness to the soup that is simply amazing. I also like to garnish with raw apple dices and the texture and flavor is incredible. I really hope you enjoy this beef and barley soup recipe!
I used the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper to make this recipe, but it works exactly the same in an Instant Pot or any other brand of electric pressure cooker. You can also make it in a slow cooker or stove top. See the section below that talks about different cooking methods for details.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don't recommend doubling the recipe, even in the 8 qt Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot, it might be above the max fill line and the barley does expand quite a bit. You can make 1 ½ batches, though, and shouldn't have any problem in the 8 qt size. Anything smaller than that, I would stick to a single batch. In the 5 qt Ninja Foodi, you can make a full batch, just decrease the liquid to 4 cups instead of 6 and add some more broth at the end, if needed.
You can double the recipe if you want to make it on the stove. Just make sure to pick a pot large enough to accommodate the expanding barley.
Yes, absolutely. Simply let it cool completely. I recommend refrigerating overnight and then packaging it up into an airtight container.
I used pearled barley in this recipe because it's what is found in most grocery stores. However, you can use hulled barley instead and increase your PC time to 20 minutes.
Hulled barley is considered a whole grain, while pearled barley is not. Pearled barley has the outer shell (hull) removed and oftentimes another layer called the endosperm.
Hulled barley only has the hull removed and is considered slightly more nutritious. Hulled barley will not absorb as much liquid, so you may want to start out with only 4 cups of beef stock or broth instead of 6.
Ingredients & Substitutions
I used packaged beef stew meat in this recipe, which can can vary in cut from beef chuck to sirloin, or even round steak. Because you will cut the beef into small bite-sized pieces, you can use any kind of beef you have on hand. You can even use ground beef instead of beef chunks.
I recommend using less expensive cuts of beef when making soup, especially when pressure cooking it, because you can get all that great beefy flavor without spending a fortune.
You can also skip the beef and make a vegetarian barley soup by increasing the vegetables and using vegetable broth instead of beef broth.
You can also substitute chicken in place of the beef. Pork would work, as well. I would use chicken broth in place of the beef broth and I recommend using cut up chicken thighs for the best flavor and texture and, if you wanted to try it with pork, you could use cut up pork shoulder or another cut of pork. If using pork shoulder, I would remove most of the fat so your broth isn't too fatty after cooking.
If you have never had barley before, I really suggest giving it a try. I used pearled barley, which is easy to find in most grocery stores. What I love about barley is that it retains some chew after being cooked and gives a great texture to soup.
You could substitute rice for the Barley, but white rice cooks quite a bit quicker. If you wanted to use wild rice or brown rice, you can keep the same cooking times, but if you wanted to use white rice, I would decrease the cooking time to about 3-5 minutes. As long as you cut small enough beef cubes, this should be plenty of time for it to tenderize.
You can also substitute quinoa in place of the barley and you would want to decrease the PC time to 3-5 minutes.
You can use any kind of vegetables that you like in your beef and barley soup. I kept it very simple and only used onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms. I cut my base vegetables smaller than the soup vegetables, but that is completely optional. I like to include my soup base vegetables in the very beginning so they cook along with the beef and barley to give extra flavor to the beef broth.
I then add the larger cut vegetables after the first PC time so they don't overcook. If you wanted to add things like green beans, spinach, broccoli or any other quick cooking vegetables, I would add them in when I add in the larger vegetables OR you can skip the second PC time and simply use the sauté mode to simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your desired texture.
I chose not to add tomatoes to this recipe, but I know a lot of people like them in their beef and barley soup. You can add canned or fresh diced tomatoes at the beginning of pressure cooking. If you want a thicker stew-like consistency, add some tomato paste at the end to thicken. You can also add a can of tomato sauce, but I recommend adding it on top just before pressure cooking and don't stir it in. This will help prevent the water notice.
I also used an apple in this recipe, which isn't very common, but I was thrilled with the outcome. It adds just a hint of sweetness to the broth that really pulls it all together and it makes for a delicious homemade soup!
You can also add potatoes to this recipe and I would cut them in bite size chunks and add them in when you add in the larger soup vegetables.
To really pull out the beefy flavor in the meat and to create a flavorful beef broth, I recommend seasoning the beef 1-2 hours early (even the day before is fine) with salt and pepper. I keep the seasonings pretty simple in this recipe; a bay leaf (optional), salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.
I also use a bit of Worcestershire sauce which adds to the beefy flavor.
As far as the liquid goes, you can use any kind of beef broth or beef stock or use some water with beef bouillon. I used beef broth from a box, but homemade bone broth would be amazing in this recipe. Just remember to adjust your seasonings when using different types of stocks/broths. For example, if you are using dry bouillon cubes, you may want to cut back on the salt, because they tend to contain more sodium than beef broth in a box.
Stovetop or Slow Cooker Instructions
The only changes you need to make when switching from pressure cooking to slow cooking or stove top cooking is in the time it takes to simmer the soup and in the liquid amounts.
Pressure cooking has very little evaporation because the pot is sealed, while simmering on the stove or slow cooking will have continuous evaporation during the cooking process.
So, the first change I would make is to increase the beef stock or broth to 8 cups instead of 6.
The second change will be the time it takes to cook. If slow cooking on high, I would allow for 7-8 hours on low and 5-6 on high. On the stove, I would plan on 1-2 hours of simmering time.
The third changes is when to add the ingredients. With pressure cooking, the barley and beef chunks are added at the same time. However, with stove top beef and barley soup, I would simmer the beef for about an hour and then add the barley and simmer another hour. If you are using a cut of beef that is pretty tender, then you can add both at the same time and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until the beef is tender and the barley is cooked to your liking.
Other than that, the instructions are going to be the same. Here are my cooking suggestions.
Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup
One thing to keep in mind with slow cookers is they don't always cook the carrots and celery on the low setting, so if you want to use low slow cook, I would suggest par cooking the larger soup vegetables.
If your slow cooker has the ability to sear and sauté, then you can sear the meat and sauté the vegetables right in the slow cooker. If it doesn't, then you will want to do this step in a pot or a large skillet on the stove.
Heat the slow cooker or pan on the stove with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and sear on all sides until brown. Add in the finely diced ½ onion, 1 carrot, finely diced apple and 1 celery stalk and cook until the vegetables are very soft. Add in the barley and lightly toast.
Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the beef broth and scrape the bottom to get any of the brown bits off and into the liquid. Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker. Add in the remaining ingredients; larger cut soup vegetables, remaining seasonings, and the 7 cups of beef broth.
Slow cook on low for 7-8 hours or until the beef is tender, the vegetables are the texture you like, and the barley is cooked. I have also seen recipes where the vegetables and beef are cooked on low for about 4 hours, and then the barley is added.
Serve & Enjoy!
Stove Top Beef & Barley Soup
Making this soup stove top will take a little more time than pressure cooking AND you will want to add your barley a little later in the recipe so it doesn't overcook. You will also want to add additional broth if needed.
Heat a large pot with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. Season the stew meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Add in the smaller cut vegetables (onion, celery, carrot, and apple) and sauté until soft.
Deglaze the pot with the beef broth (I recommend using 8 cups for this recipe) and simmer until the beef is tender. This can take 30-60 minutes, depending on what type of beef you are using.
Add in the barley and cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. You will want your liquid at a low boil to cook the barley. Then add in the larger cut soup vegetables and reduce to a simmer. Cook another 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Serve & Enjoy!
Pressure Cooker Beef & Barley Soup Directions
If you are using stew meat, then make sure they are in bite sized pieces about 1" cubes or so. If using chuck, round, or sirloin cut into 1" cubes or 2"x1" pieces and season with 1 teaspoon of fine grind sea salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. You can do this up to a day in advance and store covered in the refrigerator.
Cut ½ of an onion, 2 mini peppers, 1 medium carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1 apple into ¼" dice to help flavor the soup broth.
Cut the remaining onion, 2 carrots, and 2 stalks of celery into larger pieces about 1-2" to use for the soup vegetables.
Quarter or slice the mushrooms. I quarter them for more texture in the soup.
In the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot, turn the sear/sauté on high and heat about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. When the pot is hot, add in the seasoned beef cubes and brown on the one side.
Add in the finely diced vegetables and stir. Add in the barley and stir.
Add in the diced apple, remaining seasonings, bay leaf, and Worcestershire sauce and continue to sauté on high until the beef is brown and the vegetables are soft. This takes about 5 minutes or so.
Next, add in mushrooms and the beef broth and make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to remove anything that may be stuck on from sautéing. I like to use a wooden spoon or another non-stick safe utensil if using the ceramic coated pot.
Put the pressure lid on and make sure the valve is in the seal position. Set the pressure on high for 15 minutes. When the time is up, do an immediate pressure release by turning the valve to vent.
When the pin drops and it's safe to open the lid, open and remove the pressure lid. Give it a stir and add in the soup vegetables. Place the lid back on and turn the valve to seal. Set the pressure on high for ZERO minutes. Press Start.
It will take 6-8 minutes for the pressure to build and this time is what cooks your soup vegetables.
Once the pot builds the pressure it will immediately switch to keep warm and you can immediately release the pressure.
You can also skip the second pressure cooking cycle and use the sauté setting to bring the soup to a boil until the vegetables are cooked the way you like them. This is preferred if you want your soup vegetables on the smaller side because they might overcook during the zero pressure cook time.
Stir and taste the broth for seasonings. I sometimes like to add a little more black pepper. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
I also like to add the inner leaves of the celery into the soup just before serving and some diced apple in the bowl as a garnish is amazing!
Serve & Enjoy!
More Pressure Cooker Soup Recipes
One of my favorite things to make in my Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker is soup and stew. Here are some of my most popular soup and stew recipes. Or, for a complete listing of all my soup recipe PLUS tips for making soup in your pressure cooker, go to this link: Ninja Foodi Soup Recipes
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup in the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot
- Pressure Cooked Beef Stew in the Ninja Foodi
- Mexican Pork Stew
- Vegetable Lentil Soup
- Vegetable Beef Soup ~ Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot Recipe
- Pressure Cooker Taco Soup ~ Ninja Foodi Recipe
- Ninja Foodi Potato Soup (Pressure Cooker Recipe)
- Cheeseburger Soup (Ninja Foodi or Stovetop)
Pressure Cooker Beef & Barley Soup Recipe
- Pressure Cooker
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1¼ pounds beef stew meat
- 1½ teaspoons fine grind sea salt divided in recipe
- 1 teaspoon black pepper divided in recipe
- 1 onion any kind, divided in recipe
- 3 stalks celery divided in recipe
- 3 large carrots divided in recipe
- 2 mini peppers (orange and yellow) or 1 small orange bell pepper
- 1 Medium apple any kind
- ¾ cup pearled barley
- 8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms or white button
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 6 cups beef broth
- Trim the stew meat into 1-2" cubes if necessary or if using a whole piece of meat, trim and cut the meat into bite size cubes. Season the beef cubes with 1 teaspoon of fine grind sea salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Finely dice ½ onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, mini peppers or bell pepper and 1 apple. Cut the remaining onion, carrots, and celery into larger pieces to be used as the soup vegetables. Quarter or slice the mushrooms.
- Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in the inner pot of your pressure cooker using high sear/sauté. Add in the seasoned beef and brown on the one side. Add in the finely diced vegetables and apple. Stir and sauté until the vegetables are soft and the meat has browned. This takes about 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the dry barley and stir. Sauté for another minute or so to lightly toast the barley. Add in the mushrooms.
- Add in the remaining salt and pepper, bay leaf, onion powder, garlic powder, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
Deglaze and Pressure Cook
- Pour in 6 cups of beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any bits that might be stuck on.
- Put the pressure cooker lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes. When the time is up do an immediate release of pressure.
- Remove the lid and stir in the larger cut vegetables. Put the pressure lid back on and set pressure cook on high for zero minutes. When the time is up, immediately release the pressure.
- Taste the broth for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf.
- Serve & Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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