Lamb Meatball and Barley Soup

Ground lamb and quick barley make this an easy hot soup to make for a cool night. The recipe calls for 2 hours, but refrigeration of the meatballs fills an hour of that time. The refrigeration allows the meat to rest and firm up before cooking. The lamb, mint and carrots bring a hint of sweetness to this otherwise savory soup.

I used 4 cups of frozen lamb stock that Paul made a few weeks ago from leftover leg of lamb, but chicken stock would work perfectly in this soup. Pearl barley may be substituted for the quick barley with extended cooking time (consult package directions).

Lamb’s distinctive taste and higher expense relative to beef as a red meat makes lamb a special occasion meal on most American tables. But ground lamb is cheaper than whole cuts of meat which makes this soup a cheaper way to enjoy the flavor of lamb. The fatty acids in lamb impart its deep sweet flavor. The diet of lamb determines the intensity of the flavor profile. Learn more about grass fed and grain fed lamb from America’s Test Kitchen and The Splendid Table.

Paul chose a Spanish Rioja to pair with the soup. The dry red wine tasted lovely with the sweet lamb meatballs in the soup.

Lamb Meatball and Barley Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


  • 1 Lb ground lamb
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 egg, scrambled
  • 1 Tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp dry mint
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups lamb or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry mint
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup, quick barley
  • Salt to taste


  1. Mix lamb with next six ingredients in a large bowl. Break lamb mixture into small, bite-sized meatball with your hands without too much compression and place on wax paper on a baking sheet. Place meatballs in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large enameled cast iron pot. Place meatballs in pot in batches. Brown all sides of meatballs and remove to plate lined with paper towels. Be careful not to burn.
  3. When meatballs are cooked, add mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery plus salt to pot and stir. When onions become translucent, add stock, bay leaf, and dried herbs.
  4. Bring stock to a boil. Add barley and stir. Return meatballs to pot, cover and simmer on low heat for 12 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf and serve in bowls.

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