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.
I prefer to use pot barley because it’s more nutritious. How does that change the cooking time?
Great recipe. I cook for my father who is on a low sodium diet so I made some adjustments. I used no salt added tomato paste and no salt added beef stock. I used pepper and garlic powder to season the beef when browning instead of adding salt. I also added some extra seasonings to make up for the sodium reduction. I’m sure it would taste so much better as the recipe was written but the small sodium changes were necessary for his diet restriction and it still tasted great. It’s very hard to make soup low sodium without it tasting completely bland but the wine (naturally low sodium) really gives the soup flavor. Thank you for posting. Will be making again.
I have been wanting to make beef and barley soup/stew for some time! Projected weekend cold weather gave me that excuse and scenario to do so. I followed your ingredient list, although I doubled the batch, for the most part. I added about 3 oz. of brandy, and Worcestershire sauce (roughy 2 TBLS). I also added a small bag of frozen peas. I grew up on Campbells beef & barley soup, it had peas! Those items gave it an umami twang it needed for our taste buds. Great recipe, it came out silky smooth and tasty! I expect it will be even better tomorrow after allowing all the goodness to meld together overnight!
Fabulous hearty simple winter meal. Thank you.
I use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Brown the beef, then deglaze with wine. Well worth the extra effort.
Delicious!!! only change made,used 2 cans of beef broth and upped the wine to 2 cups and 1 cup water to make the 7 cups of liquid,used 2 tsp. Italian seasoning.Added 1&1/2 cups of frozen peas last 20 minutes,and a little corn starch for thickening.
This is a perfectly delicious soup/stew that was so easy to make. It has a rich flavor and truly a comfort food.
By far the best slow cooker beef stew recipe I’ve ever tried. I followed the recipe exactly, and it was perfect after four hours on “high” followed by two hours on “low.” I served it with a salad and toasted ciabatta bread. My husband raved about this stew.
Made this for supper tonight and it was delicious!
Great recipe! I used fresh soup bones from our farm and simmered in the crockpot for 6 hrs with the spices and water and wine in place of broth as it will make its own broth. Removed bones added veggies and simmered till done was amazing recipe. Was a great meal with crispy bread after a long cold day on the farm. They all loved it!
I made this tonight. I followed the recipe exactly. It was soo good. Had sourdough french bread with it. I thought it wasn’t going to get done in time but I started the crock pot on high at 1pm and it was done by 6pm. Everything was cooked evenly and the meat was perfect.
Can you cook for 6 hours on medium to avoid changing from high to low? Just asking because I might let this cook whole I’m out
This was delicious. Followed the recipe. Only left out mushrooms because of some picky people in my house. It reminds me of scotch broth soup I used to eat as a kid. This beef barley was a lot better though.
What adjustments do you recommend for a 6 quart slow cooker?
I have used this recipe several times and it always turns out really well. And, of course, it reheats beautifully and also freezes well. Great recipe!
Hello Brenda, I was excited to find your Barley Beef Stew and have the grocery list started for the ingredients. I am anxious to make it knowing it will be fantastic being the “first day of Spring stew” which is also, “my day”. This is so goofy but Mom always told me “you can do or say anything when you get old” so after 75 “first day of spring” birthdays, I’m here and will take her advice. Thank you for your recipe Brenda, take care and stay safe!
Hi, how big is the slow cooker you recommend? After putting in all ingredients I did not have nearly enough room to add all the carrots and potatoes.
Hi Andy – there is a link in the recipe for the slow cooker we use. It’s a 7-qt multi-cooker.
Wow! Went looking for a stew recipe on a cold day in Texas and this is it. So flavorful and hits the spot. My slow cooker does not sauté so I did brown the beef in a skillet and used some of the liquid to de-glaze the pan and then added the bits/liquid to the slow cooker. The only barley I could find in my store was the ‘Quick Barley’ so I decided to add it in during the last 45 minutes. OMG this is so good. Thanks for creating something so delicious and satisfying.
Does it work to put it all together the night before and store in the fridge until time to start the slow cooker the next day?
Hi Hope – If you want to prepare it the day before, still go through each step in the directions. Then refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day.
Can you make this recipe using ground beef? If so, would there be any changes in instructions? Thank you!
Hello Megan – I have never tried that. If you want to try using ground beef, I would just drain any excess fat from cooking the beef and then proceed. Because the ground beef would not need to tenderize, you would just cook until the carrots, potatoes, and barley are tender.
Thanks Brenda! I’m looking forward to trying out this recipe! It sounds delicious!