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.

Beef barley soup in a white bowl.

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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).

Beef being cooked in a skillet and vegetables being cooked in a skillet.

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.

Beef barley soup in a white bowl.

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!

Beef barley soup in a white bowl.

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

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!
5 from 22 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 40 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Calories 190

Ingredients 

  • 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 celery rib sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Recipe Video

Nutrition

Calories: 190kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 14gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 502mgPotassium: 474mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2565IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 2mg
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Comments

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

    1. 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!

  2. 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. 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!!

    1. 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. :)

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

  3. 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

  4. “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. 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.

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

    1. 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.

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

  6. i dont eat beef but i have been eyeing this since you posted. looks so comforting! 

  7. Yes YES!!! I love this! Beef barley is sooo one of my faves!!! I am going to try and recreate my beef barley without the beef…so that would just make it veggie barley :)  Either way this just look super!5 stars