Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew is a hearty, flavorful soup with tender beef and vegetables, plus plump barley. It’s an easy crockpot recipe that’s comfort in a bowl! Watch the video!

a white bowl of beef barley stew, plus crusty bread and a glass of red wine

A Hearty Beef Barley Soup Recipe Made in a Slow Cooker!

I counted it out on the calendar. Just a little more than 10 weeks until the first day of spring!

Besides that being the birthday of both my dad and our first born daughter (I LOVE that they share this day together!), I’m so looking forward to springtime’s warmer temps. This subzero cold spell here in the Midwest is getting mighty old!

So in the meantime, to help us get through the lingering cold, let’s talk about this comforting stew.

Hearty and flavorful, it just doesn’t get much better than this easy Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew. Enjoy this recipe that’s sure to take the chill out of your winter-weary bones!

ingredients to make stew, to include cubes of beef, potatoes, barley, onion, mushrooms, carrots, beef stock, and red wine

Ingredients You’ll Need

This stew gathers its rich flavor from a variety of fresh + pantry ingredients. If you like to make (and eat!) comfort food, this recipe is a real treat.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • olive oil – Used for sautéing.
  • boneless beef chuck roast – This inexpensive, flavorful cut cooks up super tender in a slow cooker!
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh veggies: mushrooms, carrots, garlic, yellow potatoes, and yellow onion
  • beef broth – I always use a low sodium variety, so I can better control the salt.
  • dry red wine – This adds a huge amount of depth to the finished stew.
  • tomato paste – I love what a little tomato paste can do for a recipe!
  • Dijon mustard – Another ingredient that packs a ton of flavor.
  • dried thyme
  • pearl barley – Also called “pearled barley”, usually found by the rice and grains at the grocery store.
  • bay leaf
  • fresh parsley – For a sprinkling of fresh green flavor when serving.
ingredients being cut on a wood cutting board: beef, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and onion

How to Make Beef Barley Soup

This is such an easy recipe. After browning the beef, all you do is stir in the remaining ingredients, put on the cover, and let the slow cooker do the rest of the work!

  1. Brown the beef: If you own a slow cooker with a browning option (like this slow cooker), brown the seasoned beef in the olive oil, right in the slow cooker. Otherwise use a large skillet on the stovetop to brown, and then transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients: Then add everything else (except the fresh parsley – that’s for sprinkling over individual bowls when serving) and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Cook: Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Then turn heat to low and cook for 2 hours more, or until beef is absolutely fork tender.

Here are more slow cooker recipes for you. I’d like to especially point out my Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash recipe – it’s a very popular recipe!

a small clear bowl of uncooked pearled barley

What Kind of Barley to use for Soup?

I don’t use barley very much in my cooking, but Blake always liked his Mom’s ground beef and barley soup when he was growing up. So this recipe has been all about recreating that familiar combination of flavors.

I often get questions about what kind of barley to use. For this recipe, look for “pearl barley” or “pearled barley”. It’s similar in size and texture to brown rice, and is especially popular in soups and stews.

This is a very common ingredient, usually found by the rice and grains at the grocery store. But if you don’t find it there, be sure to ask a store clerk, because I bet they stock it in another area!

Pearl barley is chewy and nutritious, and takes about an hour or so to fully cook. My recipe instructs you to add it after browning the beef, which will give you a very soft barley because it cooks for 6 hours. If you prefer more of a chewy bite to the barley, then add the barley to the slow cooker 1 to 2 hours before the stew is done.

If you want to use quick barley, which only takes about 15 minutes to fully cook (because it has been pre-steamed), then add it to the slow cooker 15 to 30 minutes before the stew is done.

a glass measuring cup of red wine, plus a wine bottle and corkscrew in the background

Do I Have to Use Wine?

I get this question A LOT!

And while I can’t force anyone to use red wine, I do strongly recommend using it in this recipe. It adds depth to the recipe as a whole, when everything is left to slow cook for hours. And I promise, you won’t be able to detect any kind of wine flavor once the stew is finished cooking.

Beef + tomato (I use tomato paste in this recipe) + red wine are such an excellent flavor combination!

If you are set on not using the wine, however, the stew will still be very good.

a red ladle of beef stew, over a slow cooker full of beef stew

Tips for the Best Beef Barley Stew

Use a flavorful cut of beef. An inexpensive cut is best – beef chuck is my preference, and really the only one I will use. It’s full of flavor and the slow cooker will magically transform this otherwise tough cut of meat into irresistible, fork-tender bites of beefy heaven. If you can’t find chuck, top round would be my second choice. Just know that it will not be as good as chuck!

Get a good sear on the beef. This creates enormous flavor. Also be sure to give each piece of beef enough room to get truly browned. If you pile all the beef pieces on top of each other, they’ll just steam instead of brown.

Cut the veggies somewhat thick. They cook for a long time – and if they’re cut small, they’ll end up mushy.

Don’t skimp on the cook time. The slow cooking process produces a stew with fabulously tender chunks of beef. Don’t cut the cook time short if the beef isn’t absolutely tender.

But don’t overcook it, either! Yes, it is possible to overcook a beef stew. When it comes to soups and stews, there’s nothing I dislike more than when vegetables are cooked to a mushy mess.

beef barley soup in a white bowl, plus crusty bread and glass of red wine

Serving Suggestions

This hearty stew just begs to be sopped up by some warm, crusty bread. Or how about steaming hot popovers? Try my traditional Popovers recipe – or if you have sourdough starter or discard, these heartier Sourdough Popovers are AMAZING!

A fresh side salad would also be good. Try my Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing – our family loves it!

I might also suggest, as my photo depicts, a glass of dry, robust red wine for sipping. So very lovely.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Beef stew recipes always make great leftovers!

This homemade stew recipe will keep very well for a few days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Simply reheat single or multiple servings in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop.

Can I Freeze Beef Barley Stew?

This recipe freezes perfectly. Use either larger freezer-safe containers or smaller single-serving freezer containers, and then thaw them in the fridge overnight before reheating. It’s so wonderful to have these on hand for quick, delicious homemade meals!

Pinterest image for slow cooker beef barley stew

If you like this stew, you might also want to check out my Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Soup, which incorporates a bit of delicious Southwestern flair!

Here are a few more barley recipes you might like:

stew made of beef, barley, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms, in a white bowl

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 25 minutes

Simple ingredients are left to mingle in the slow cooker, resulting in a rich and flavorful stew of tender beef and vegetables with barley. Total comfort!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1" cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cut into thin slices
  • 8 large carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/2" pieces
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium-large yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle beef fairly generously with kosher salt and pepper. If you own this awesome slow cooker, where you can brown meat right in the slow cooker - add the oil to the slow cooker and then brown the beef right in the slow cooker, searing beef on all sides. Otherwise use a large skillet over medium-high heat to heat the oil and then brown the beef. Drain off fat. If using a skillet, transfer beef to slow cooker. You will need a large slow cooker for this recipe, as it makes a big quantity (ours is a 7-qt. size).
  2. Add mushrooms, carrots, garlic, potatoes, onion, beef broth, wine, tomato paste, mustard, and thyme, and stir well to incorporate. Then stir in barley and add the bay leaf. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Then turn heat to low and cook for 2 hours more, or until beef is tender. Serve hot, with fresh parsley sprinkled over the top. A good, crusty bread for dipping is always welcome.

Notes

from a farmgirl's dabbles

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 353Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 556mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 27g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

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stew made of beef, barley, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms, in a white bowl

This post was originally published in 2015. Photographs and some of the text were updated in 2018 and 2021.