Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe – Like Mom Used to Make

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Updated by Heather in October 2022.

Bobbie Laughman added this recipe to back in February 2012. I’ve updated it slightly with new images and my family’s adjustments.

Here is a link directly to the recipe for printing, but our adjustments are written out below. Using the Print Friendly option, you can delete images and paragraphs by clicking on them.

When my family makes the recipe with leftover pot roast, we’ll use Better than Bouillon to make stock and then start on step 4 by adding the tomatoes and skipping the two-hour simmer since the beef is already cooked.

We also kick up the seasoning a bit. We use a small handful of cloves; the original calls for one garlic clove. We use two large onions and increase the other seasonings to either roughly two teaspoons or a tablespoon, as we play fast and loose with measurements. Sometimes we get crazy and throw in some rosemary for good measure.

I have noticed that finding any cuts with bones, much less marrow bones, in them can be hard now unless you go to a butcher.

I found soup meat at the butcher, which fit the bill perfectly.

Also, barley isn’t easy to find in most grocery stores in the South. I found it in Lidl over with the dried beans. Maybe it’s easier to find in high-end stores, but we’ve got a family of eight, and with four teenagers, high-end isn’t in our regular budget.

Here are some more pics from today’s batch.

Have you ever caught a whiff of an unexpected scent that suddenly sent you back in time? Figuratively speaking, of course. The sense of smell is a huge memory trigger, and if there’s a smell that says “home” to me, it’s the comforting aroma of simmering Vegetable Beef Soup the way our mom used to make it. Packed with veggies and beefy bits, it’s a hearty full-meal soup perfect for cold winter days. Serve it alone or paired with fresh-baked bread. It’s sure to warm the spirits as well as the tummies.

I didn’t get recipes for all the dishes my parents and grandparents used to make, but I’m thankful this is one I made certain to get written down before my chance had passed. When I asked her for the recipe, Mom said she’d give it to me the next time she prepared it because she didn’t think she’d remember everything unless she was doing it. So, she made the soup, telling me everything she did so that I could write it down. Some amounts were approximations, so I’ve had to work at it to get it to taste right. Mom always made it the day after we had a big pot roast, saving the leftover meat and all the meat juices to throw in the soup – which pretty much explains the nearly complete lack of beef gravy in family meals of our childhood. Chicken gravy? Yes. Beef? No. The meat stock always got saved for soup. But that’s okay: this soup is totally worth the trade-off.

To allow for room to stir and reduce the chance of boil-overs, I suggest a 6 to 8-quart pot with a heavy bottom*. Thin-bottomed pots will cook unevenly and are more likely to scorch and ruin your soup. (I make the mistakes so you don’t have to – just a public service I provide. Oh, and don’t try to pass off the burned soup as “Smokey Vegetable Beef Soup” – that doesn’t work, either.)  I prepare this in my 8-quart Tramontina stock pot, which I use for practically everything. Crockpot directions are also given, but you’ll need to make a smaller batch if your slow cooker doesn’t hold at least 4 1/2 quarts.

When I was working to standardize this recipe so that it could be made as a standalone rather than as a follow-up meal after pot roast, I decided to use beef shank cross-cuts because I could obtain them at a fair price, and they’re great at yielding a lot of flavors if you cook them right. Some stores label these “soup bones.” Feel free to use whatever cut of beef is cheapest – the long, slow cooking of soup-making is great for tough cuts of meat.

Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe

Yield: 5 quarts

Vegetable Beef Soup

Vegetable Beef Soup on a black background with sourdough break on a cutting board with a butter knife, butter, and a ladle
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes


  • 2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 to 2.5 pounds beef shank cross-cuts, or any cheap cut of beef, preferably something with marrow bones
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes (about 4 cups worth)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon whole celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons pearled barley (not quick-cooking barley)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • 16-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (the one I used had green beans, peas, corn, carrots and lima beans - 4 cups worth. Use fresh veggies, if you prefer.)


    1. Set your soup pot over medium heat and add the olive or vegetable oil.
    2. Once it’s hot, add the meat, turning to brown it really well on all sides. While the meat is browning, open the can of tomatoes.
    3. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
    4. Do not drain the tomatoes – add the whole can. Use a large fork or wooden spoon to smash up the tomatoes against the pot's side. Use your spoon to scrape up the browned bits created from the bottom of your pot.
    5. .Add the water, bay leaves, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Be sure you’re just simmering, not boiling. Long cooking at a slow simmer helps to break down the collagen and tenderize the meat, while boiling can make the meat tough.
    6. Remove the meat to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it off the bones and either chop it up or pull it apart into bits. Discard gristle. Skim fat from the liquid, if desired. (I don’t usually, unless the meat was particularly fatty.)
    7. Now, add everything else. If needed, add water to bring the volume up to 4 quarts. Stir to mix well, then turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil quickly. Reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. I always tilt the lid slightly. (Because I’m paranoid about boil-overs, even on very low heat. Don’t mind me. Move along.
    8. Simmer for at least one hour. Two is better, in my opinion, so the veggies are quite tender, and the flavors can mingle and have a chance to get to know each other. Remember to remove bay leaves and bones before serving. This recipe makes 4 quarts of soup: enough for dinner with some left for the freezer. Make plenty and freeze a bunch for easy meals later on.

Like soup recipes? Here are some more good ones:

vegetable beef soup recipe
Old image kept for posterity
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5 thoughts on “Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe – Like Mom Used to Make”

  1. A couple of follow ups to the advice for avoiding “smoky” beef veggie stew: When reheating my beef veggie soup, I learned that putting cold soup in the pot and turning the burner to high causes the soup on the bottom to stick and burn.( Really fast. As in, I just washed the tupperware container and then went to stir the soup fast.) On the same day, I learned a related lesson (because I had company coming over and nothing else to serve them): if you haven’t stirred the soup a lot before you realize it’s sticking (i.e., I could tell when I started stirring that it was stuck), you can salvage most of the soup by ladling it out from the top down and without stirring. Then each time you stir you can pick out any stray scorched bits. (My Mom was one of my guests and I asked her after we ate if she could tell it had started burning. She said no, and I know she doesn’t lie when I ask those kinds of questions.)

    (Wow. There seems to be a correlation between my low coffee intake and my use of parenthesis.)

    • @SouthernFriedTech

      Yes, I must admit that most times when I’ve burned food it was because I had the heat too high, and I knew I’d started with it all the way up and just failed to remember to turn it down. The first time I burned this soup, tho, it was because I had a thin-bottomed pot, and I’d left it cooking while we made a “quick trip.” Well, the trip would have been quick, except our recently purchased used car wouldn’t start when we tried to head home, so we got home over 4 hours later, to the sound of the very sensitive smoke alarm and the lovely aroma of soup that had all the liquid boiled away, and the meat & veggies burnt black at the bottom of the pot. It took me a good week or two until I finally managed to soak, scrape and scrub it clean enough to use again.

      This was similar to events that started the fire that destroyed my parents kitchen less than 2 years later (a burner was turned on accidently, without anyone knowing, in that case)


  2. It sounds fabulous! My husband doesn’t go for soups with tomatoes AND he doesn’t consider soup “a meal.” (He really is missing out, I know, Right?!?!) I just can’t eat that much by myself….

    I will have to make this for a pot luck!

    • @deneicer1

      It’s not overly tomatoey, really. And some soups are really not meals, but this one can be – or, you can serve a small portion as part of a meal, of course. My husband doesn’t care at all for vegetable soup, so when I make this, most of it gets frozen in pint or quart size containers to reheat when he’s not around for a meal.

      You can always just make half a batch. Or a quarter batch.


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