Aromatic Beef Soup with Mushrooms and Chard

Hovering over a warm bowl of soup, lapping up its warmth and inhaling the steamy aroma, is one of the best ways to take the chill out of a cold day. This is especially pleasurable if the soup smells so good that the aroma wafts out of your house and onto the street so even the neighbors know something good is cooking. Imagine a pot simmering with tender chunks of beef, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds. A soup like this is hearty, nourishing and guaranteed to make the neighbors jealous.

You could actually call this soup faux pho, since it’s not quite the real thing but is inspired by the Vietnamese soup, pho. This soup is a little less brothy and little meatier than real pho and makes the cooking process simpler by calling for fewer ingredients. Some of the ingredients, however, might still seem unusual for soup. Cloves, fennel seeds and cinnamon aren’t typically thrown into a soup pot, but the subtle flavor and amazing aroma they add sets this recipe apart from other beef soups and stews. The delicately flavored broth, combined with tender shreds of beef, thinly sliced mushrooms and ribbons of Swiss chard, is the kind of goodness that warms you right to the core.

The broth does takes some time to make, but it couldn’t be easier. Throw beef short ribs into a pot with water, add just a few other ingredients along the way, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. That’s it. Like most soups, the flavor in this one becomes even richer overnight, so consider making it a day ahead. Garnish if you like with slices of jalapeño pepper or fresh basil.

Enjoy a bowl of Aromatic Beef Soup with Mushrooms and Chard after a long day, but don’t forget that soup isn’t only for dinner. Warm some up for an energizing breakfast or fill a thermos for lunch. Your body will thank you for it!

Servings: 6


  • 3 pounds beef short ribs
  • One 6-inch piece of ginger, peeled or unpeeled
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 12 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of Swiss chard (about 4 stalks), leaves only (save stems for another dish.

Optional garnishes:

  • Jalapeño pepper, cut into rings
  • Basil, finely chopped


Place short ribs in a pot and add water to cover. Turn up the heat and let the water boil vigorously for 5 minutes. (This cleans the bones a little so the broth isn’t so cloudy.) Drain the water from the pot.

Transfer the ribs to a large, clean pot and bring 4 1/2 quarts of water to a boil with the meat.

While the water is coming to a boil, cut the ginger in half lengthwise and smash it up a little. Peel the onion and cut it in half.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and set the onion and ginger in the pan, cut side down. Let them cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, 3-5 minutes.

Add the charred onion and ginger to the soup pot. Simmer over medium heat for 1 hour. Skim the surface several times to remove any foam.

After the broth has simmered for 1 hour, place the cloves and fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat and toast briefly, 2-3 minutes. Tie the spices, along with the cinnamon stick, up in a little bit of cloth or cheesecloth. Add the bag of spices to the broth.

Simmer for 1 1/2 more hours. Up to this point, the broth will taste quite watery and the meat will seem tough – don’t worry, after 2 1/2 total hours of simmering the broth will have flavor and the meat will be tender.

Use tongs to remove the onion, ginger and spice bag from the pot. Then, keep the broth simmering, but remove all the beef and place on a cutting board.

The meat should slide right off the bone. Slice/shred the meat as thinly as possible (otherwise, large chunks will be chewy).

Salt the meat to taste then add back to the broth. Salt the broth to taste.

Add the mushrooms. Let simmer a few minutes then turn off the heat and add the Swiss chard right before serving.

You can leave the fat on the surface of the broth, or if you’d like to remove some, refrigerate the soup until the fat hardens on the surface then scoop it out.


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43 thoughts on “Aromatic Beef Soup with Mushrooms and Chard”

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  1. Ooo my non-primal husband is sick and this is just what he needs.

    1. i hope this life style of eating works, i was starting to become vegetarian and when i looked at all the carbs in a banana….no wonder that wasn’t working

  2. I just made an oxtail stew this week, and in my perusing of different recipes, I found that the River Cottage Meat Book recommends the same blanching process for that meat that you describe for the short ribs here. I was hesitant, since I saw no mention of such a process on of the other recipes I looked at, so I’m amused to see it crop up again here.

    Another thing the RCMB recommended for oxtail was brining it for about an hour in cold water before cooking, and then browning the meat before putting it in the pot. I imagined that this treatment might be good for the short ribs as well, and might eliminate the need to pull out the meat to salt it and then add it back to the pot.

  3. Hmmm… I’m thinking this is a good candidate for the crock pot!

  4. What ever happend to Keep It Simple Sweetie? The list of ingredents sounds wonderful, but all the steps needed to prepare it made me want to skip to another blog. Are all those steps really necessary?

    I’m thinking: simmer the meat, and then add everything else and simmer some more.

    I acknowledge that I’m a relatively inexperienced cook, so let me know if I’m missing a point or two here.

    1. The point is that good broth takes time. However, there isn’t a whole lot of “active” time if you are even very minimally organized.

      Pick a day when you’re doing other work, and work in this work, and it will seem more like a break than work.

      Honestly, I love making soups and stews, but I know it’s not for everyone.

      My secret for soup and stew patience: I make it when I am not hungry, or after I’ve already eaten dinner. I nibble a little on the vegetables, I taste a little of the meat to see if it’s getting to the soupy or stewy point, etc. If I start at six or seven or even eight o-clock, I can have it done and cool enough to refrigerate by bed, and I toss it in the fridge.

      In the morning, I have a cup for breakfast, and then have it for dinner the next day. I portion it out and freeze some, and do leftovers for the rest. Good stuff.

      I’ll try this one–I may muck with the recipe right off the bat and add star anise.

      1. This is clearly the best soup I have ever eaten. Pho restaurants just lost a customer.

  5. I’m not usually sucked in by Asian soups but this looks lovely and simple! I will definitely make it this week!

  6. This looks wonderful! I’m not on board with 100% primal (I like white rice and I cannot lie), but recipes like this keep me coming back week after week!

    1. haha. i also like rice, cause it makes a better carrier than white potato.

  7. Looks awesome! I’m for sure going to make this tomorrow and eat it throughout the week. Just curious, how many meals will this make approximately? If I don’t eat all of it at once that is!

    1. Maybe four meals. I am wanting more broth so maybe need to leave lid on last hour of cooking.

  8. primal is seems to be having a bad effect on my character. You know, making delicious stuff like this makes me terribly smug about my cooking. 😉

    looks delicious! I like the thermos idea! might be doing that someday soon…

  9. I’ve been wanting a soup recipe for beef and I DO love my greens. This sounds perfect. It just snowed here and I’m off to make dinner. 🙂

  10. Wow….I am going to try it with Kale too…my kids love spinach and kale. I am sure they would be excited to try chard as well. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. I love meat soup the good ole fashioned Greek way. Try it with lamb shanks an onion a huge carrot cut in two, 4 sticks of celery with the tops cut in halves or thirds and simmer away with a bay leaf, peppercorns salt, as a starter until the meat is falling off the bone. take out everything and discard the veggies.

    This is where I Austalianized it. Instead of doing the traditional Greek lemon/egg broth at the end with floating rice in it and the meat served on platter, I add finely sliced celery, carrots and mushrooms and sweet potatoe if you wish. The meat can be cut into small pieces and returned to the soup or eaten with cracked pepper and salt when warmed up again in the broth as a side dish.. Yumm it 33 Celsius here but my mouth is watering.

    1. I forgot to say that your meat soup sounds awesome and you can do the Greek thingy with beef or chicken too and add parsnips, turnips to the stock. Oh man that is a hearty soup.

      I will be trying your recipe in about 5 months LOL.. It’s days like this when I need a lean Grecian muscle bound primal chap standing over me with a palm leaf fanning my ….?? Dream on Athena.

  12. We made this to eat during Saturday’s football double header. Good thing, the New Orleans – San Francisco game was riveting. Would have been annoying to have to leave the room.

    I substituted escarole from my CSA box. It is a lot like lettuce but much more chewy. Thanks Worker Bee for posting this. I have a full happy tummy.

  13. This loos so delicious and the ingredients look amazing as well. I’ve been wanting a great recipe for a soup and this looks like something I would enjoy.

    Thank you

  14. looks yummy but will have to wait till it gets cooler to try it as it’s summer here in New Zealand! (Do I sound too smug?)

  15. Looks very tasty! I like sautéed beef heart as the meat portion of my soup. Never thought about using cinnamon in soup before. I’ll have to give it a go 😀

  16. Never thought of making beef soup! Looks super easy and yummy though…So many recipes I want to try atm!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Made this for dinner tonight, and it was indeed very tasty. The combination of spices works together fantastically. Next time though, I’d use beef broth instead of water for simmering, to give it a more rich, beefy flavor.

  18. Just made this today – yum!!!!!
    I made a slight change by serving the it over thinly sliced beef (yes, more beef) and then seasoning it with a bit of Sirracha!
    The boyfriend loved it and the cat was sniffing around the kitchen all afternoon!

  19. That’s a decent looking soup. I have a couple of humble suggestions though:
    1) Since you are taking the time to char the onion an carrots, why not add a bit of flavor by searing the short ribs first? You will render a bit of the fat this way do you won’t have to boil them before simmering. Plus, you will get a deeper beef flavor that way.
    2) If you can get your hands on them, you could even fake the noodles by using wood ear mushrooms finely julienned. If your city has an Asian market, they will sometimes be called “black fungus.” soak the mushrooms, and add them to the broth – they look like short, dark noodles!
    3) Another nice nice touch is to use star anise if you can get your hands on them – it will make an authentic-pho-like flavor.

  20. A friend made this and said they weren’t impressed. I may stick with oxtail soup.

    1. Woudl you mind sharing ox-tail soup recipe with me? I still have one in my freezer that I’m looking to do something wonderful with.

      Thank you:)

  21. We had this soup last night and it was a BIG hit! I will definitely make it again..and again! Thank you!

  22. Hi guys! My question was the same as Jason’s above. You always hear of “braised short ribs” just wondering why the browning step was skipped in this recipe? Thanks!

  23. OH MAI GAD, this sounds amazing!

    Mark, you always have the most amazing recipes!

  24. Made this Saturday night and it was delicious. I felt it needed more time once the 2.5 hours were up and left it simmering until the meal came easily off the bone. The broth then sorely needed salt, and I ended up adding a teaspoon of smoked chipotle pepper and a glug of vinegar to balance flavors. Also added some sliced carrots, chunks of butternut squash and fresh spinach instead of the chard. The resulting soup was truly delicious with a clear, very aromatic and delicious broth. Thanks, Mark!

  25. Made this last week in the crock pot…. I added pre-made beef stock and used grass fed stewing beef. After it was cooked (the smell was amazing by the way) I added rice vinegar and white pepper and it tasted much like hot and sour soup…. yummy!

  26. Very good! Like pho. Eating my second helping as we speak. I will be making this again. Saw the suggestion about star anise and will give it a try.

    1. Silly me. I never read the whole post and missed the fact that this was supposed to mimic pho. I thought it was some sort of accident 🙂

  27. Made this last weekend…WOW!! so comforting, nourishing, and filling! When cold and flu season comes around, I will have this ready and waiting in the freezer! Not to mention I had everyone in the house drooling over the amazing smell ; )

  28. I made this last night and it was awesome! It took about 3 and a half hours total with all the time it takes to heat up the water. My grocery store didn’t have enough beef ribs so I used both beef and pork, it was still REALLY good. It’s going in our regular rotation now. It was also pretty low impact cooking (not a ton of ingredients or preparation, just a lot of waiting). Thanks for the great recipe!

  29. The faux pho I make takes about 10 minutes. Inspired by a 4 star buffet in a Siem Reap hotel: I just use whatever leftover cold meat (usually crockpotted beef, pork, or chicken) I have on hand, chop it up with kitchen shears while the water’s boiling, chop up some salad (usually already made with Trader’s herb blend, cabbage or broccoli slaw, and mushrooms-but I remove the grape tomatoes I typically have in the giant Tupperware-full I make every few days), maybe add some spinach, chop a few green onions, add a little spice, whatever appeals to me at the moment (like powdered ginger, cumin, cilantro, a dash of salt, maybe some chile or another, say, new mexico, pasilla, or even habenero), put it all in a bowel and cover with the boiling water, stir a little, cover the bowl, and let it cool enough to eat. Yeah, not fancy, I know. Forgive me for not being a food snob!