Beef, Barley, and Leek Soup

I have pleasant memories of tinned beef barley soup served to me with buttered saltines, on a TV tray in front of the Wonderful World of Disney on Sundays. Specific, eh? While now I don’t think tinned soup is very good, there were a lot of things I liked about the soup; the tiny pieces of tender beef, the super simple veggies, and the filling nuttiness of barley. So, when I was planning #FilltheFreezerDay, which this recipe is a part of, I wanted to do a beef barley soup.

To step it up a notch from the tinned version, I used a nice cut of marinating steak, cubed tiny and marinated overnight, and in place of the white onions I used shallots and leeks. Next time I make this, I think I’d like to add some nice crimini mushrooms for added flavour. This soup is made in a slow cooker, and is crazy thick when it’s done because the barley will soak up all sorts of liquid. It is easy to portion into freezer containers, and when you heat it up, you add water, more stock, or if you’re in the mood for something creamier, a bit of milk or cream.

Beef, Barley, and Leek Soup


  • One very large marinating steak (it was probably 2 pounds of meat) cut into tiny little pieces. I marinated this  in Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar in a airtight container overnight in the fridge before I piled the ingredients into the slow cooker
  • Some celery, cut up – I used four stalks
  • Some carrots, cut up – I used four stalks
  • Chopped up leeks – use the white part only and clean them well – dirt really likes to hide in these suckers. I used two.
  • Shallots, peeled and chopped finely. I used about four but they were very large
  • A few cloves of garlic, to your taste, minced or pressed
  • About a cup of pearl barley, dry, perhaps a bit less depending upon how much barley you want in your soup
  • About 2 litres of stock. I used vegetable because I was out of beef stock, but you should try and use beef stock if you can
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prep your steak the night before. If you don’t have a whole night, try to marinate for at least an hour.
  2. In a frying pan, dump the beef and its marinating liquid in and sauté the beef on fairly high so that it browns up. Add in the garlic and the chopped shallots and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes or until you feel the shallots are done enough. Yo do want to get some nice brown crispy bits, so worry less about cooking it through (its going in a slow cooker) and more about getting some nice flavours going on.The marinating liquid will likely bubble and caramelize up a bit.
  3. While its cooking, get your slow cooker set up and dump n the celery, carrots, leeks, and about 2/3 to 1 cup of barley. For every cup of barley it makes 4 cups of cooked barley, so plan accordingly . Turn it on to “high” if you have a high setting.
  4. When you’re happy with the doneness of the meat, scrape it all into your slow cooker and stir that mixture up. Add a few tablespoons of stock (a “glug”, if you will) to the pan you just emptied, and let that come up to a boil, and scrape up any of the yummy brown bits on the bottom of your pan. Dump them into the slow cooker too.
  5. Pour enough stock into the slow cooker to cover or float the veggies, barley, and meat, and then dump in at least three cups extra. The barley is going to suck up a tonne of liquid so you don’t want it too dry.
  6. Add some salt and pepper, and then ignore your slow cooker for at least 4 or 5 hours.
  7. Taste test the soup. Let it cook longer if the barley or the meat is too chewy. I found I had to cook my batch for about 7 hours and the meat was perfect.

If you’re freezing this, let it cool enough to handle and ladle it into freezer containers. It will be likely thicker than you would like, but when you thaw it later, you can add more of your preferred liquid – this saves a bit of space in the freezer.

Serve with a light green salad and some nice crusty bread.