This beef and barley soup prepared in Persian style, with beans, lentils, herbs and spices is the real deal! Topped with sour cream and amazing mint-fried onions, this is quiet different.
Beef and Barley Soup
There are a zillion recipes for beef and barley soup. Most of them are slight variations of one another. But the soup here is a refreshing change and is loaded with taste, flavor and is so nourishing.
Persian style soups are popular because they are so flavorful and are a complete meal. They are typically made with a variety of beans, herbs, spices and other aromatics.
The fried onion topping along with sour cream or whey topping (kashk) as we have in the Persian noodle and bean soup (ash-reshteh) is addictive and takes the soup up a notch.
- Onions: I peel large yellow onions and slice them thin using my mandolin slicer.
- Stew Beef: Good cuts of beef for soup are chuck round, chuck shoulder, chuck roast, chuck-eye roast or short ribs. Cut the meat into small ½ inch pieces. Alternative meat options are lamb, goat or veal.
- Cooking Oil: I use olive oil for shallow-frying or sautéing onions and meat. However, if you want to fry the onions as we do it for koshari, then be sure to use high smoke point oils.
- Kidney Beans and Chickpeas: Dried beans or canned beans are both fine. Check the recipe to see when to add either of these.
- Lentils: Brown or green lentils will work.
- Rice: Jasmine rice, medium grain or short grain rice will work.
- Herbs: We need parsley, cilantro and dill. Use fresh herbs when possible or opt for dried herbs. Check recipe for how to use dried herbs.
- Spinach: Fresh or frozen spinach will be fine.
- Sour Cream or Kashk (liquid whey):
- For this soup I prefer sour cream. And you can also opt for lemon juice or vinegar.
- But traditional Persian soups are topped with kashk, a creamy fermented yogurt product that is sour and has a cheese like flavor.
- Kashk is available as a liquid or in a dry form that can be reconstituted.
- You can make a homemade substitute by blending together rich yogurt/sour cream/creme fraiche with parmesan cheese and feta cheese.
- Turmeric and Dried mint: These are available at most grocery stores and online. And you can find these in bulk quantities at Indian and middle eastern stores for a good price.
- Tomato Paste
- Garlic cloves
- Salt and Pepper
How to Make It
Brief overview below. *Full recipe at the end of blog post.
- Onions: Sauté onions in oil until golden brown. Stir dried mint in half of it and set aside.
- Beef: Brown meat lightly with the remaining onions and stir in grated garlic.
- Beans: Add spices, salt, beans, lentils, water and cook for an hour.
- Grains: Next add barley, rice and cook for half hour.
- Greens: Add tomato paste, spinach, herbs and simmer until meat and beans are well done.
- Season: Adjust soup consistency and seasonings to your taste.
- Serve: Top the hot soup with sour cream and mint-fried onions.
How to Serve It
- Fill a large soup tureen with the beef and barley soup.
- Top with sour cream and mint-fried onions. Serve extra fried onion topping, sour cream, lemon juice and vinegar on the side.
- Alternatively you could top it with plain fried onions and prepare simple mint-oil to serve on the side.
What to Serve Along
This soup can be enjoyed all by itself. But if you want, you can serve the following along with it.
- Serve it with flatbreads: Persian barbari, easy skillet flatbreads or pita bread.
- Or with bread rolls: Honey wheat rolls or Zaatar Parmesan Rolls.
- Add a fresh salad such as Shirazi Salad.
- Beverage options are Doogh and Ayran.
Cook the beans and barley for a longer time for a thick and creamy soup. Or cook it for a shorter time to retain their shape/texture but with a thinner soup consistency.
- The onions should be sliced very thin and fried crisp. Try using a mandolin slicer for reliable results. Stir and flip the onions often for even exposure and browning. Use sufficient oil and heat it to an optimal temperature.
- For more flavor, cook the soup using stock instead of water. Or simply add some bones for excellent flavor and consistency.
- Instead of rice, you can try small pasta or broken noodles.
This beef and barley soup is egg free, nut free and soy free.
- Vegan: Skip the meat and increase the beans, lentils and barley. Use only water or vegetable stock for cooking the soup. Substitute sour cream or kashk with vinegar, lemon juice or vegan sour cream.
- Dairy Free: Do not use sour cream or kashk. Use lemon juice, vinegar or dairy-free sour cream.
- Gluten Free: Substitutes for barley are buckwheat, quinoa, corn, sorghum, brown rice, wild rice or increase the other ingredients.
- Chop the herbs and other vegetables ahead. Soak and cook the beans earlier. The cooked beans, chopped herbs and spinach can be frozen as well.
- You can even cook the soup a day ahead. It actually tastes better the next day.
Storage and Leftovers
Leftovers can be safely refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. Portion the soup in smaller containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in microwave or on stove top, adding water as needed. Serve with toppings.
This is a healthy and filling soup that is made with a variety of beans, herbs, grains and also has high quality protein from beef.
The beans provide soluble and insoluble fiber along with vitamins and minerals. And barley and beans are good sources of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber.
Furthermore, spinach and herbs enhance the phytochemical and antioxidant profile of this soup. This fiber-rich soup is heart healthy, good for your digestive health and is also suitable for those on a diabetic diet.
More Persian Recipes
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Beef and Barley Soup (Persian Style)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions yellow, large, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried mint crushed
- ½ lb beef stew meat cut into ½ inch pieces, see note
- 3 cloves garlic grated
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons salt adjust as needed
- ¼ cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight and drained, see note for canned versions
- ¼ cup dried kidney beans soaked overnight and drained
- ¼ cup green lentils or brown
- 12 cups water or lamb/beef stock, start with 8 cups and adjust
- 1 cup pearl barley
- ¼ cup medium grain rice or small pasta
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste add 1 tablespoon more if desired
- 2 cups chopped spinach fresh or ½ cup frozen chopped spinach
- 1 cup chopped parsley see note for dried herbs
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup chopped dill
- 1 cup sour cream crème fraiche or ¼ cup vinegar/lemon juice
- Heat oil in a large cooking pot (5 to 6 quart) and sauté onions over medium heat until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer half the fried onions to a small bowl and stir in the dried mint and set aside. Tip: You can fry the onions separately following the method used for koshari. If you opt for this, then just add the mint to some hot oil and stir into the soup or serve on the side.
- To the remaining onions in the cooking pot add the meat and cook to evaporate any juices and let it brown lightly. Add grated garlic and stir couple minutes.
- Then add turmeric, black pepper, salt, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and water or stock. Raise the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat, cover and let it simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Next add barley, rice and continue to cook another 30 minutes, stirring in between.
- Add tomato paste, spinach, parsley, cilantro and dill. Cover and let it simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
- The soup is ready when the meat and beans are well done. For a thicker soup consistency, blend some of the ingredients and stir it back into the soup. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.
- Serve it hot topped with sour cream and mint-fried onions.
- Meat: Good cuts of beef to choose are chuck round, chuck shoulder, chuck roast, chuck-eye roast or short ribs. Alternative meat options are lamb, goat or veal.
- Canned Beans: If using canned beans, add it about 15 minutes before adding barley and rice.
- Dried Herbs: Use about one-fourth in volume of fresh herbs. Soak the dried herbs in water for 20 minutes and discard the water before adding herbs to the soup.
- Fried Onions: If frying onions as in Koshari, then you will need more oil, and use high smoke point oils for that.
- Readymade Crispy Onions: Asian stores have fried shallots and American groceries have fried onions in cans.
- Make Ahead: Chop herbs and vegetables ahead. Soak and cook the beans earlier. The cooked beans, chopped herbs and spinach can be frozen as well.
- Storage and Leftovers: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months. Reheat before serving, adding water as needed.
- Kashk: Traditionally, Persian soups are topped with kashk, a creamy fermented yogurt product that is sour and has a cheese like flavor. More information in the blog-post above.
- Slow Cooker or Instant Pot: This soup can be cooked in either of these.
- Nutrition facts: Does not include sour cream. The suggested amount of salt is just a guideline and may need to be adjusted.
- For more information on ingredients, variations and serving suggestions, scroll up the page to the blog post.