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.
Do you think I could double this recipe? I have a really big slow cooker. I’m feeding a bunch of hungry hunters.
As long as you have a big enough slow cooker, there should be no problem with doubling this recipe!
I was very pleased with how this recipe turned out. I browned the meat in a hot pan so the crust and flavour was nicely developed. I added parsnips and used mini potatoes. I added a splash of Worcestershire as well. The pearl barley is what made this recipe so good, I think. That, and the red wine that I used was a very good California Cabernet.
Wonderful! So glad you liked this, Ellen. :)
All I can find is quick barley. Any suggestions about what to do?
Hello, I’m going to make this today. Just wondering if you prep the Barley first by soaking or boiling or if it goes in dry and softens over the time it is slow cooked?
Hello Danielle – throw the barley in dry. It’ll cook in the slow cooker. :)
Hi I was wondering if you could use rolled barley in this recipe instead of pearly barley? Would I just cook it in less time? I have a big bag of rolled barley that I’m trying to find recipes for. Thanks
Hi Charlene – You could, but the stew will be quite different in texture. I have never tried it myself, so I can’t say for sure what quantities to use or how to change up the recipe. Please let me know if you give it a try.
About how many cups does this recipe make? i am trying to determine the portion size. Thank you so much.
So good to see a recipe using pearl barley, love using it in slow cooker recipes, it comes out so buttery.
Not sure if the instant pot made this a disaster or not…followed the recipe all the way exactly and put everything in the instant pot for 15 minutes…the meat was extremely tough, potatoes and carrots were mush and the entire dish lacked flavor…I added A LOT of salt and pepper (on top of the salt and pepper added to the beef before browning) to try and salvage but overall disappointing as I love a good beef and barley. Would maybe try again with the slow cooker method only and more changes to the seasonings added to the dish before cooking.
Hello! I haven’t tried this using an Instant Pot – the instructions are for using a slow cooker. But I cook in the slow cooker until the beef is tender. I like the potatoes and carrots softened – but they’ve never turned into mush when I’ve made this. As for the salt and pepper – I would say that these items should always be taste tested anyway, as so much depends on the broth, etc. that is used. Just adjust the seasoning to your liking. I hope you give this another try, as this has been a longtime popular recipe here. Thank you!
Help!! I have put on high pressure for 15mins in my instant pot and would like to know what I do next x
My husband and I LOVED this stew! I love stew in the winter; he’s not a fan but he goes with the flow for me once in awhile. I made it per the recipe; made no changes. He LOVED this and asked for it again! Yay!!
The only change to the recipe I made was subbing sweet potatoes for plain. I also halved the recipe because who wants 10 servings of something they dont care for if they only have to have five?
The broth at the end was very broth-y and not thick like a stew, so I took a cup of the broth out and mixed it into a roux to make it thicker and returned to the crock pot.
Husband liked it. I added a lot of salt. It was not very flavorful. Good starting point I think.
Thanks, Kari – I love the idea of sweet potatoes in this recipe! The amount of salt is going to vary with ingredients used (I tend to highly salt the beef in the beginning) and people’s own preference for salt – so I get that.
I made this last night and it’s so delightful!! I used sweet potatoes instead of carrots because im allergic to them, and used beef bone broth instead of regular broth. I used ground thyme instead of dried and it was soooo thymey in a bad way. So I added in 2 more cups of broth to mellow out the flavor a bit. Will definitely be adding this to my winter crockpot rotation!
Wonderful, I’m so glad you liked this! I’m sure that WAS “thymey” – but I’m glad you’ll make it again (with dried thyme!). :)
What kind or brand of wine, I know nothing about wine.
I used Merlot. Delish!!
Hi Vicki – no need to use anything expensive, just something you enjoy drinking on its own. I usually use a cabernet, merlot, or zinfandel.
I use a Cabernet or Pinot noir
I followed the recipe exactly how it was, and it turned out absolutely fantastic!! Can’t wait to make this for my in-laws for Christmas, they’ll be so impressed! Thanks for an amazing, easy-to-follow recipe! I love it!!!
Can I prep this ahead of time as a freezer meal to throw in the crockpot at a later time?
I don’t have any wine…is there any substitutions or just leave out
If you’re not a wine drinker and don’t have any on hand, buy either cooking wine, it comes in small bottles or you can buy tiny 4 pack wine in the liquor section and use it just for cooking.
Hey instant pot friends! This recipe works really well in the instant pot! Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, just make sure you deglaze the bottom of the pot after searing your meat. I have a 6qt model and was only able to fit about 4 cups of beef broth, but otherwise made it as written.
Awesome. Thanks for sharing!
I substituted very small whole fingerling potatoes and added a bunch of stemmed, chopped kale — both from my garden. I added the kale for the last 2 hours. This is a great recipe.
I like the addition of kale!!!
I was wondering if I could cook in a regular pot and what the times would be?
Wondering the same thing!
I did today!!! Lowest possible setting for several hours until the meat was tender. Delicious!
It’s just my mom & I at home these days. Do you think halving this recipe would be okay, and would the cooking times need to be adjusted?
This recipe is a winner!!