Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recipe for Comforting Ground Beef and Barley Soup (and Happy Birthday to Rand!)

This Ground Beef and Barley Soup is warm and comforting if you're tired of rich holiday food.

I love this time of year when one year is winding down and another is beckoning with possibilities.  If you're one of the many people thinking about losing a few pounds in 2012, the days between Christmas and New Years may be kind of a planning phase.  By now you've likely had enough rich holiday food, and you could be thinking about getting started on the South Beach Diet or even looking ahead to Phase One, but you're not be quite ready to take that step yet!  I'll be talking more about Phase One in the next few days, but in the meantime I recommend this warm and comforting soup as way to get you thinking about healthier food choices again as you contemplate the new year. 

I made this soup when I got home from California a few weeks ago and was coming down with one of those winter cold things you often get when you've been on an airplane.   I love making soup with whatever I find in the freezer or fridge, and this was one of those happy experiments that turned out to be a real winner.  The soup has both vegetable and beef broth for richness of flavor, and barley is one of my favorite comfort-food ingredients that's also very nutritious.

Today's the birthday of my brother Rand (who magically makes the new blog headers appear on Kalyn's Kitchen every month.)  Rand loves soup, and when he visits Utah during the winter I often try out my new soup creations on him.  Currently this soup is the one he's making over and over, but if I can entice him to come to Utah I do have a container of this ground beef and barley soup in the freezer that has his name on it.  (Happy birthday Rand, and thanks for all you do to make my blog look good!)

Start by browning the ground beef (beef mince if you're in Europe) in a small amount of olive oil.

I like ground beef in soup, but I don't like the flavor of beef fat so I like to rinse the cooked ground beef with VERY HOT water before I use it in the soup.

Another option for removing excess fat from soup with ground beef is using a Stock Skimmer like this one to scoop the fat off when the soup is cooking.  (If you follow the link and buy a skimmer from, Kalyn's Kitchen does earn a small commission.  I appreciate that, and I would never recommend a product unless I used it all the time myself.)

Put the rinsed beef back in the pan, then push it to the side, add a little more olive oil if needed, and saute the onions and garlic.

Add the beef stock and vegetable stock (or canned broth), dried parsley, and dried thyme and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

I chopped the vegetables into quite small pieces so they didn't overwhelm the barley.

After the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, add the carrots and celery and simmer for 30 minutes more.

Even though I rinsed the ground beef, there is now a little bit of fat on the top of the soup that I'll skim off with the stock skimmer.  Then add the barley and cook about 30 minutes more.  (You may want to add a little water at this point if you think it needs it.)

Cook the soup until the barley is done but still slightly chewy, then stir in the balsamic vinegar, season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and serve hot.

Comforting Ground Beef and Barley Soup
(Makes 4 - 6 servings; recipe created by Kalyn.)

1 lb. lean ground beef (use beef with less than 10% fat for South Beach Diet)
2 tsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 T minced garlic (or less if you're not that crazy about garlic)
6 cups homemade beef stock (or use 3 cans beef broth and a little water to make 6 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock (or 2 cans vegetable broth and a little water to make 4 cups)
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup pearl barley
1-2 T balsamic vinegar (add 1 T, then taste to see if you want to use more)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large dutch-oven type pan; then saute the ground beef until it's cooked through and lightly browned.  If desired, put the ground beef into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with VERY HOT water to remove the fat.  (This is optional, but I think it improves the flavor and it makes the soup lower in fat.  If you don't have a fine mesh strainer, you can skim off some fat when the soup is cooked.)

Put ground beef back in the pan, push to one side, add 1 tsp. more olive oil (if needed) and then saute the onions and garlic until they are starting to soften.  Add the beef stock, vegetable stock, dried parsley, and dried thyme and let soup cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes.

While soup simmers finely chop the carrots and onion.  After 30 minutes, add chopped vegetables to the soup and simmer for about 30 minutes more. Then add the barley and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. (Before you add the barley you may want to skim off any fat that's floated to the top, especially if you didn't rinse the ground beef.  You may also want to add a little more water at this point.)

When the barley is done but still slightly chewy, turn off heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, season soup with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and serve hot.

This soup freezes or reheats well, although the barley soaks up the liquid so you may want to add water when you re-heat it.  It's family-friendly, and uses ingredients you may often keep on hand, so you may want to make a double batch for winter meals.

South Beach Suggestions:
This soup would be phase 2 or 3 for the South Beach Diet, due to the carrots and barley.  If you wanted to make a lower-glycemic (and lower carb) version of this recipe, you could use 2 cups of celery and omit the carrots.

Ten More Comforting Soups with Barley:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Barley Minestrone with Canadian Bacon, Savoy Cabbage, and Rosemary  from Kalyn's Kitchen
Mushroom Barley Soup with Ham and Leeks from Kalyn's Kitchen
Turkey Barley Soup from Kalyn's Kitchen
Mushroom Barley Soup with Cannellini Beans and Cabbage from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Mushroom Barley Soup from Two Peas and Their Pod
Colombian Barley and Pork Soup from My Columbian Recipes
Spicy Barley Soup from Soup Chick
Hearty Vegetarian Barley and Lentil Soup from Eating Out Loud
Mushroom, Lentil, and Barley Soup from Lisa's Kitchen
Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale from TasteFood
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.) counter customizable free hit
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More to Chew On:


  1. Kalyn, I can always count on you for a new and yummy soup receipe. This will be on my dinner table tonight. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Julie; I hope you find it as comforting as I did!

  3. I could live off soups this time of year! Great tip for rinsing the ground beef if you don't like the flavor or are trying to cut the fat. This looks hearty and "healthy" comfort food!!

  4. I love the splash of balsamic vinegar at the end. Like using a parmesan cheese rind, adding vinegar is one of a soup maker's special secrets to bump up flavor.

  5. Thanks Kelley. I am always looking to eliminate saturated fat, and that trick of rinsing the ground beef makes a big difference.

    Lydia, the splash of vinegar really makes it good!

  6. Beef and barley soup is one of my favorites! LOVE my calendar!!

  7. This reminds me of a beef barley soup my mom made every winter when we were growing up. I'm sure Rand would appreciate a pot of this!

  8. Happy birthday to your brother!

    And thanks SO much for the calendar! I felt a little sad taking the one from last year down but this one is so cute!

  9. I love your soup recipes and this one sounds as great as many of the others. And, just when I was thinking about an easy beef soup. I'll be making it today, thanks!

  10. This looks so comforting and hearty. I have never thought to rinse the fat off of the cooked ground beef. Great tip! Happy Birthday to Rand.

  11. Jeanette, don't you love those soup memories from childhood. Now I just need to get Rand here to try it.

    Joanne, he's on vacation but I think he had a great birthday. Glad you like the calendar.

    Gary, thanks and so glad you like it.

    Dara, I really like to do that with beef; for some reason beef fat in soup really does not appeal to me.

  12. Happy Birthday to Rand!! And I can definitely see how this soup would make you feel better when you aren't feeling at your best.

  13. Happy Birthday to Rand!

    made this soup tonight and indeed it was warm and comforting and perfect to get us back on SBD Track! Sadly Only enough is left for the littlest of lunch tomorrow ~ it was big hit tonight!

    I have many people ask me how I've lost weight and what resources I've used...I've passed along your blog as my top weight loss resource! Happy New Year!
    Teresa in Texas

  14. Hi Teresa,
    So glad you enjoyed the soup! Congratulations on the weight loss, and thanks for the nice words about my blog as well.

  15. I made this last night for my husband and I, he LOVED it and even ate his veggies (the man is totally anti veggie) Thank you for the wonderful recipe!!

  16. This is the best soup I've had in a long, long time. I am definitely going to keep this in my recipe box forever! Thank you.

  17. I made this the other day, but I changed it up a little. I used 1/2 lb each of ground pork and hamburger. I used a homemade veg stock of leek, onion, carrot, celery and garlic. I added 1 can of tomato paste, about 1/2 Tbsp white pepper and a little bit more barley (nearly 1 cup). It was a thick, delicious soup (next time I'd cut the carrots by half - too much sweetness). It was delicious.

  18. Had to share this compliment from my husband as he sniffed at the pot while coming to a simmer before adding the vegies "mmm, when are we eating this?"

  19. Jovita, how fun. Hope you enjoyed it!

  20. This was a big hit for dinner! My husband said we should have this soup regularly. I added a full cup of Barley. Also, for those with Fresh & Easy grocery stores: they have a pre-chopped "stew mix" that comes with onions, carrots and celery. Made this super easy to make. :) Keep the great recipes coming, Kalyn!

  21. Can't wait to eat this~~ Simmering in the pot now~


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