Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup Recipe

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. A little more prep on the front end means maximum flavor at the end, and you’ll still get plenty of convenience from your slow cooker!

There is something magical about slow cookers, and it’s not in the convenience.

I mean, there is convenience: It’s darn convenient that you can brown some meat, sauté some vegetables, and mix them together with barley and broth and it’s magically transformed into soup when you get home from work.

But how about that magical transformation?

The delicious flavors that evolve from cooking beef low and slow are worth celebrating all on their own.

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. A few extra steps prep you soup for maximum flavor and a crockpot adds all the convenience!

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How do you make beef barley soup?

When I put a slow cooker to work, I like to make sure I’m adding as much flavor as I can every step of the way.

I like to cut my beef into cubes and brown them in a skillet in small batches. You don’t need to cook the meat all the way through.

  • Small pieces – more surface area for browning
  • Small batches – less chance of steaming the meat

I use the rendered fat and pan drippings to sauté the vegetables before they go in the slow cooker, too. Fat = flavor.

Combine with the remaining ingredients (broth, spices, barley) in a slow cooker. Or, simmer on the stove top until the barley is tender (25 minutes for pearl barley, 40 minutes for hulled barley).

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. A few extra steps prep you soup for maximum flavor and a crockpot adds all the convenience!

Can barley be cooked in a slow cooker?

Yes, absolutely. Barley holds up really well in a slow cooker so you don’t even have to wait to add it.

Barley is done when it has tripled in size and is soft and chewy in texture.

How do I add barley to soup?

Barley takes 25 to 40 minutes to cook, so you can generally add it right away with broth and seasonings while making soup.

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. A few extra steps prep you soup for maximum flavor and a crockpot adds all the convenience!

How to make Beef Barley Soup on the Stove

Start with a dutch over or large stock pot. After you’ve browned the meat and softened the vegetables (separately), add back the meat and the remaining ingredients. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the beef has softened and the barley is tender.

This hearty soup is filling enough to serve on its own. But, if you love to dunk, add slices of crusty bread or biscuits warm from the oven. It’s an easy, delicious meal!

5 from 10 votes

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup Recipe

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. A little more prep on the front end means maximum flavor at the end, and you'll still get plenty of convenience from your slow cooker!
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword barley, beef, soup
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 193kcal
  • 1 pound boneless beef chuck or stew meat cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried or ½ Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup pearled barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat in the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add the beef and let cook, without stirring, until brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir beef and continue cooking until brown all over, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer beef to the slow cooker, leaving the drippings in the saucepan.
  • Add onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the saucepan and sauté until the vegetables have softened and the mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add to the slow cooker.
  • Add beef broth, chicken broth, water, barley, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 7 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Calories: 193kcal


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  1. April Garcia

    Is it ok not not use a slow cooker?

    1. meggan

      Hi April, yes of course! I should post a version that isn’t in a slow cooker. I will do that. Thank you! -Meggan

  2. Erik J

    I have made this recipe several times on the stove top and am always pleased with the results.
    The only change I made was to add a tablespoon of tomato paste. It adds a richer flavor and tomato always works well with beef and mushroom#.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Erik, such a smart idea which I am going to try out next time I make this! Thank you so much. -Meggan

  3. Roni lett

    Can this be frozen for later

    1. meggan

      Hi Roni, yes it can! Nothing in here will suffer from freezing. If you need more specifics, please let me know. Thanks! -Meggan

  4. Georgette

    Well right now it is 2 degrees out. I am putting this in my crock pot  can’t wait to warm up with  this in my soup bowl.thanks

  5. Pat Selvage

    Hi Meggen,

    I found your recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup, it sounds just like my Mother use to make. Your Ham and Bean soup sounds delicious also.

    The only thing missing from your recipes is the size of the slow cooker to use. I noticed that none of your recipes refer to the size of slow cooker to use.
    I cook for 2 people and have a 3 quart crock pot and need to know the size of your recipe so I can convert it to fit my crock pot.
    Thank you5 stars


    LOL. Minnesnowta, no less. Its been in the 40s and not October yet. Ugh.

  7. Birdie

    Its okay. I figured it had to be high for 4 hours. It is very good but mine is more like hotdish. I used a whole box of barley though lol.

    1. meggan

      Okay you said hot dish – now you are required to tell me from which Midwestern state you hail. :D -Meggan

  8. Birdie Dahlby

    Hi. I am making the soup right now but am not sure if the setting is high or low on crockpot. Thanks so much.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Birdie! I’m obviously way too late in replying to you. I’m sorry the recipe has the error of not including the temperature! 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 6 to 8 hours on LOW. Thank you. I’m so sorry and horrified on your behalf.

  9. Lori Overson

    Wow this was a great soup! I kept my beef chunks fairly large and browned them up real nice. ThenI doubled the barley (we love barely). I thought next time I make it I’d make cut the veggies a little bigger than diced. I also added a tablespoon of Better than Boullion, for a little more in depth flavor.5 stars

  10. Denise Barker

    The best barley soup ever !! My husband can’t seem to get enough !!! LOVE IT !!! Also the freezer drinks are awesome for summer BBQS …5 stars

  11. Meggan, this is such a hearty and wholesome recipe! Thank you so much for sharing.
    Absolutely making this for the weekend dinner!
    All the love from Nepal xoxo5 stars

  12. Karin L. White

    I only have quick barley in the pantry, so I am adding it during the last hour or so.

    1. meggan

      Sounds like a great plan!

  13. Doug

    I want to try this receipe….but I can’t determine how much is a “serving”?… says it makes 8 servings but how much is each serving?

    1. meggan

      Hi Doug, had a chance to make this again. I came up with exactly 8 cups of soup. So I’d say, 8 servings, 1 cup each, or you could do 6 servings and make them all slightly bigger. I hope this helps! Thanks for your question.

    2. meggan

      Hi Doug, that’s a fantastic question. Can you give me a few days to get back to you with the answer? I have culinary school tomorrow but can make the soup again on Wednesday. I’ll see what the total volume of soup produced is and then divide by 8 and I can let you know. Sorry about that! Good question. Thank you, I’ll reply again soon!

  14. Lorraine

    Hi Meghan, sounds delicious!  Do you know the amount of sat. Fat?  I always like to know amount.
    Thank you very much.

    1. meggan

      Hi Lorraine, thanks for your question! 1.6 grams of saturated fat per serving. I was able to adjust the nutrition label to list it. Good luck and thanks again!

  15. This recipe does sound great.    I’ve got a problem with cooking barley and the slow cooker just may solve my problem.    I’ve found that only using beef broth is sometimes  “overpowering” in recipes and I have started using chicken broth only or a combination.     I’ve heard or read somewhere that the combination of broths with mushrooms make the mushrooms “sing”.    I guess it’s all about your own tastes.

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much for leaving your thoughtful comment, Shirley! I do think if you use too much beef broth (especially if it’s not high-quality or homemade) it could have a metallic taste. I like the combo of broths, glad I’m not the only one. Thanks again!!

  16. Aaron C. Ols

    I’m wondering why the use of both chicken and beef broth?  It is “beef” barley soup after all?

    1. gordon

      Use what ever you prefer, some say chicken broth has a lighter flavor and beef broth can be over powering,

    2. Bruce

      The following is taken from a “lifehacker” article. Canned or boxed beef broth is only required to have a 135-to-1 ratio of moisture to protein. That means that most beef broth you buy in the store contains almost no beef at all, with yeast extracts providing most of the savory flavor. Boxed chicken broth will provide far better flavor than boxed beef broth, even for traditionally beef broth–based dishes. This is because, despite the fact that there is no minimum protein requirement set by the USDA, most boxed or canned chicken broth contains around 60 parts liquid to 1 part protein, twice as much as in beef broth.If you can’t make your own, however, and absolutely must have a beef flavor for your dish, try Better Than Bouillon Beef Base instead of store-bought beef broth. Keep in mind though it is very salty so I wouldn’t add too much salt.

    3. meggan

      You know, that is a really good question. I like it with both flavors? Is that a lame answer? I think the mushrooms add some meatiness to the flavor, too. But yes, I should probably make it again with just beef just to see. :)

  17. So it’s totally comfort food weather here in Utah now, and I’m on the hunt for all the soup and stew recipes I can find. Love that this is made in a crockpot, too. Laziness FTW!5 stars

  18. Lee Ann

    “Regular stew beef” is a mix of cuts, which is why the consistency of the pieces varies – some are tough and some melt in your mouth. I stock up on boneless chuck roasts when they go on sale and cut one up when I want to make beef soup or stew.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. It looks delicious!5 stars

    1. gordon

      cooking the meat in in a slow cooker is the answer to your tough meat problems, it cooks for 8 hours.

    2. meggan

      Thank you so much for your information on this, Lee Ann! I had no idea what cut beef stew was, ha ha. And I’ve certainly had mixed results with it too! This explains so much. Thank you again, that was really helpful! I will definitely update my post with the info.

  19. Cathie

    Why not get a slow cooker that has a browning setting? Less clean up!! And it works very well!!

    1. meggan

      Cathie, is there a slow cooker with a browning setting?! LOL I need that!!! That would be the best, for sure. I will definitely look into that. Thanks so much for the suggestion.

  20. LOVE beef and barley soup and for whatever reason have never done it in a slow cooker. Brilliant! I use beef chuck too. 

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