Eastern European Oxtail Barley Soup

Oxtail soup on a white bowl

Jordan Lye / Getty Images

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 10 servings

Oxtail barley soup is a hearty offering that can be enjoyed winter or summer as a soup or main course with a salad and rye bread. It spans the boundaries of Eastern European countries and can be found in most kitchens.

Oxtails are beef tails and are a delicious meat source. You can eat the meat right off the bone or debone the cooked oxtails and add the meat back to the soup. This is a prime candidate for a slow cooker or pressure cooker.


  • 2 pounds oxtails (rinsed and patted dry)
  • 3 quarts water (cold)
  • 1 cup barley (not quick-cooking; rinsed)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 ribs celery (sliced 1/4-inch thick)
  • 1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon beef base (or 1 1/2 teaspoons salt)
  • 4 carrots (sliced 1/2-inch thick)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with juice)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, you must brown the oxtails on all sides. There should be enough natural fat, so additional oil is unnecessary. Remove oxtails and discard any rendered fat in the pan.

  3. Add water and oxtails to the pan. Bring to a boil, skimming off any frothy foam that comes to the surface.

  4. Add barley, bay leaf, peppercorns, garlic, celery, onion, and beef base. Bring back to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

  5. Add carrots and tomatoes, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until carrots, barley, and meat are tender.

  6. Remove meat from bones and return to soup.

  7. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Recipe Variation

  • For a defatted version, cool soup in an ice bath and refrigerate. Skim off accumulated fat from surface and heat.