Beef Mushroom Soup with Barley is loaded with a double dose of mushrooms, tender beef and barley. Almost a stew, it’s the perfect comfort food on a chilly night.
Beef Mushroom Soup with Barley
I’ve shared a tasty Beef and Barley Soup on the blog before, totally from scratch down to the beef broth. This is another beef and barley soup, but with loads of umami which makes it truly memorable. Plus you don’t have to make your own broth, which is a nice bonus!
What is Umami?
Umami is a Japanese word that translates to “savory taste, ” and joins sweet, salty, sour and bitter as one of the tastes our taste buds detect. It’s often described as meaty, full or savory taste and is attributed to glutamates, a type of amino acid and a few other substances.
Foods known to add umami to a dish include beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, soy, tomatoes, Parmesan, mushrooms, and more. You may be familiar with the word glutamate as it’s part of MSG (monosodium glutamate), the food enhancer with the bad reputation for causing headaches and allergic reactions. But it truly does the job for which it was created. Using foods to get your umami instead of a chemical prevents those nasty side effects!
This beef mushroom soup with barley contains beef, tomatoes, mushrooms, fish sauce, carrots, onion, and garlic. That’s a LOT of umami!
Tips for Making This Beef Mushroom Soup
This beef barley soup is layered with flavors, making it rich, hearty and delicious.
- My biggest tip is to watch the sodium and taste before adding any salt. Between the pancetta, broth, Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce, there is plenty of opportunity to make an overly salty soup.
- I recommend Pacific brand broth as it’s not overly salty. If you use something like Swanson’s brand, which I find saltier, you might want part to be low-sodium. I like using a combination of both beef and chicken broth instead of all beef.
- Feel free to use bacon instead of pancetta or just leave it out if that’s your preference.
- I used quick barley as that was all I could find in the market post Christmas, but regular barley would work well. The quick barley only takes 10 minutes to cook, so add it about 10 minutes before you want to serve. If using regular barley, just read the packaging for cooking times. You could also add pasta, white rice, or brown rice instead.
- I prefer using chuck in my soups and stews as it melts into tender beef as it cooks in the broth. Searing it first adds another layer of flavor via the caramelized brown bits, or fond, left on the bottom of the pan.
- If you don’t have fish sauce on hand, you can definitely leave it out or use soy sauce instead. Both provide some of that coveted umami!
Prep Time 30 minutesCook Time 2 hoursTotal Time 2 hours 30 minutes
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 cup boiling water (reserve both mushrooms and liquid)
- 3 ounces Pancetta, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds cubed stew meat, I recommend chuck
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup carrot, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup quick barley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste if needed
- Drain the mushroom water through a sieve into a bowl and set aside. Chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned.
- Add the beef and brown on all sides (may add a bit more olive oil if needed).
- Add the onions, carrots, celery and fresh mushrooms and cook until tender, 5-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, thyme, and tomato paste and cook until garlic is fragrant but not brown
- Add the broths and deglaze the pan by loosening up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the pancetta, beef, reserved chopped mushrooms, reserved mushroom water, bay leaves, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 2-3 hours.
- Add the quick barley about 10 minutes before you're ready to serve.
- When the barley is cooked remove the bay leaves, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.