Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew
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 Hearty Beef Barley Soup Recipe Made in a Slow Cooker!
Hearty and flavorful, this Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew just couldn’t be any easier. Enjoy this recipe that’s sure to take the chill out of your winter-weary bones!
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!
“Made this last night, thought I would have leftovers for today, my family had multiple bowls and finished the stew!!! My husband said it was the best I ever made, so thank you!”– Lynn
Ingredients You’ll Need
This stew gathers its rich flavor from a variety of fresh + pantry ingredients. If you enjoy 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 control the salt.
- dry red wine – This adds a huge amount of flavor depth to the finished stew.
- tomato paste – I love what a little bit of tomato paste does for this 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.
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!
- Brown the beef: If you own a slow cooker with a browning option, like this slow cooker (affiliate link), brown the seasoned beef in the olive oil, right in the slow cooker. Otherwise use a large skillet (affiliate link) on the stovetop to brown, and then transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker.
- 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.
- 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!
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” (affiliate link) 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 a firmer, chewier 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.
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 it for this recipe.
The red wine 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.
Tips for the Best Beef Barley Stew
Use a flavorful cut of beef. An inexpensive cut is best – beef chuck is my preference. 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 the overall flavor and texture 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 in the slow cooker. So if you cut them small, they’ll end up mushy. If you prefer smaller pieces of veggies, I would suggest adding them a bit later in the process.
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.
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. Dress simple fresh greens with 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!
More Slow Cooker Soup Recipes
- Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Soup
- Slow Cooker Chili
- Crockpot Italian Beef Stew
- Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash
- Lasagna Soup (with slow cooker instructions)
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Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew
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!
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
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.
This post was originally published in 2015. Photographs and some of the text were updated in 2018 and 2021.
Made it last night for company. Great recipe. I subbed frozen chanterelles and added an extra potato. Thickened nicely, great flavor. Your recipes never fail.
Thank you so much, Danae. What a lovely comment. I hope your holidays were awesome and that 2018 is off to a great start!
hey girl- this looks so yummy!
Tip…..My grandmother used to cut up Rutabaga instead of potato’s,they cooked and never got soggy,and retained the soup flavor and tasted just like potato’s…..not a Turnip…..a Rutabaga…..learned that when I was sent back o the market because I bought a Turnip……but in my defense……they look kinda the same.Had them many times in beef and barle6 slow cooked soup…..always tasted like real potato chunks….not smooshy potato chunks
Hi i can’t wait to try this recipe tomorrow but I was wondering instead of potatoes if I can substitute butternut squash cubes. Do you think it will work? Will the flavor work?
Hi Leslie – I think that sounds delicious!
I made this today and we just ate dinner. It is absolutely fabulous…thank you so much. This is something I will make again for sure! Delicious!
I didn’t have beef stock, so used vegetable stock and still so good.
Awesome Fall dinner.
Yay!! Thanks for coming back to let me know, Carla. It’s going on our menu soon!
There are no ingredients or directions?
Hello Melissa – Please try again – I was having some issues with my recipes. It should be fixed now. Thank you – and enjoy!
The ingredients and directions are missing? Is it just me?
Please try again – I was having some issues with my recipes. It should be fixed now. Thank you – and enjoy!
They are showing now and I made the recipe! I love it ! Thanks for an easy delicious recipe in the crockpot!!
Awesome to hear – thanks, Moe!
So excited to try! I got 2lbs of stew beef. Do you have to use skillet first to brown or can you just dump it all in slow cooker??
I just made this yesterday, and let me say this was absolutely amazing!
I did everything except the wine and parsley. Forgot to get fresh parsley when I was at the store last, and my mother-in-law who lives with us is a big ‘no alcohol in the house’ kind of person, so hence no wine.
Only other thing I did change was I added a few more spices to the meat when preparing it, and I added another potato and an extra half of an onion I had left over from previous nights dinner. We all love onion here, so the more the better!
This was a big hit in our household, everyone had seconds even! My 12 year old daughter could not stop explaining how good it was.
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful, and not too difficult recipe! I will now search your site for other potential dinner ideas.
Awesome to hear – so glad you liked this!
Sooooo cozy!!! Plus, I love that this is made in the slow cooker… my fave kitchen tool! :)
I haven’t met a stew that I didn’t love. Your’s looks scrumptious!
This totally brings me back to my childhood, since my Momma always made this soup. It’s been WAY too long since I had it, and I need to try your version!
Hey Brenda! I have pork roasts available … do you think I could safely substitute them for the beef? Thanks!
Yes, of course. It will just be a very different flavored stew.
Fun stew! We’ve never tried barley, and this was a wonderful introduction. Made it during the day and brought it over to a cousins house for dinner. Everyone loved it. This will make an appearance at our annual camping trip, great stew to warm up with. Thank you for the recipe!
Excellent, family loved this dish. Added a bit more beef, barley and carrots, less potatoes – as I thought them to be somewhat redundant to the barley. When the first night’s sauce (gravy) was more watery than I was expecting, I reconsidered that omission – although a more starchy cultivar than Yukon Golds (very good tasting in any case) might have thickened things up more. I reversed my opinion on the day after – the leftovers, heated in the microwave, had a good thick gravy. A great way to endure what’s probably our last snowfall of the season. Adding thawed/warmed peas at the point you change from high to low heat would brighten up the color a bit as well.
Hi Mike – I’m so glad to hear your family liked this dish! And I LOVE your idea to add some peas in at the end!!
Making this tomorrow, one question…Do you cook the barley first? Sometime I pre-cook barley in dishes, as it tends to soak up a lot of liquid!
Hi Pat – no need to cook the barley first!
I am here in the UK and saw your recipe on a Facebook page I follow. I made you recipe today – except I used stout instead of red wine and cooked in the oven as we don’t have a slow cooker. I dusted the meat in seasoned flour before browning. It was delicious. I haven’t used barley in a stew before but I will again. Thank you.
Stout sounds beautiful in this stew!!
It’s 32c here , it’s wholesome cooking full of good stuff, doesn’t have to cold outside to enjoy this , long live the slow cooker
Can I leave on low all day instead of high then low?
I think that would work just fine. :)
Can you cook this on low for 10 hours instead of 4 hours on high and 2 on low? I don’t have a crock pot that I can program like that. Thanks!
Hi Sarah – I’m guessing that would work just fine, but I haven’t tried it myself. I hope you like it!