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Invest 20 minutes of prep to max out the flavor in this hearty Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. No need to simmer, stir, and fuss; my easy slow cooker soup practically makes itself. Just set and forget!

Slow cooker beef barley soup in two bowls.

Dump dinners work like a dream for some slow cooker recipes (see: Barbecue Pulled Pork, White Chicken Chili, Hot Turkey Sandwiches). But for other slow cooker ideas, including this beef and barley soup, a tiny bit of prep at the beginning can totally transform the flavor.

Here, I call for browning the meat and sautéing the vegetables before you set and forget. These 20 minutes of hands-on time make all the difference to make this one of the richest-tasting, delightfully rib-sticking soup recipes ever.

Once the beef is simmered low and slow, it practically falls apart into the savory, so-good-I-need-a-straw broth.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step by step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for slow cooker beef barley soup.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Boneless beef chuck or stew meat: Chuck roast and stew meat are not only inexpensive, but also have a lot of fat marbled within the meat; an asset here. The longer cook time called for in the slow cooker recipe allows the fat to break down into meltingly tender chunks of beef and a fat that melts into the rich, full-bodied broth. Names can vary, so look for any of these beef cuts: boneless beef chuck roast, chuck pot roast, chuck shoulder, bottom eye, round roast, rump roast, top round, round tip roast, English roast, or pot roast.
  • Mushrooms: Cremini mushrooms, white button mushrooms, or baby bellas; choose any one or a mix of all. If they’re already small, no need to slice the ‘shrooms in half.
  • Beef broth and chicken broth:  I use refrigerated beef base to make broth. Similar to bullion cubes, beef base is highly concentrated beef stock. You can find it in powder or paste forms. I love “Better than Bouillon” brand, a paste which is widely available and tastes delicious. For the chicken broth, buy your favorite store-bought brand in boxes or cans, or make your own chicken broth if you like.
  • Pearled barley: Also known as pearl barley, this grain is whole barley minus its fibrous outer hull. Pearl barley gets its shiny name because after the hull is removed, the grains are polished to remove part or all of the bran layer (making it quicker and easier to cook).

Step by step instructions

  1. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Seasoned beef pieces on a wooden cutting board.
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil 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.
Pieces of beef in a skillet for beef barley soup.
  1. Transfer beef to the slow cooker, leaving the drippings in the skillet. 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.
Vegetables for slow cooker beef barley soup.
  1. 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.
Slow cooker beef barley soup before being cooked in a crockpot.
  1. 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.
Slow cooker beef barley soup in a crockpot.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup makes 8 entree-sized servings. Paired with a salad and warm bread or a half sandwich, this makes for a satisfying and soul-feeding meal.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cool the soup completely, then pack into freezer-safe containers (I like mason jars; leave 1/2-inch headspace for expansion). Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Slow cooker beef barley soup in two bowls.

Recipe FAQs

How can I tell when barley is done?

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

Can I make this beef and barley soup on the stovetop?

Follow Steps 1 through 3 below, using a Dutch oven or large sauce pan instead of a skillet. 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.

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More slow cooker favorites

Slow cooker beef barley soup in a brown bowl.

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Invest 20 minutes of prep to max out the flavor in this hearty Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup. No need to simmer, stir, and fuss; my easy slow cooker soup practically makes itself. Just set and forget!
5 from 49 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 (see note 1)
  • 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 halved (see note 2)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme or ½ tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 cups beef broth (see note 3)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup pearled barley (see note 4)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil 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 skillet.
  • 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

Notes

  1. Boneless beef chuck or stew meat: Chuck roast and stew meat are not only inexpensive, but also have a lot of fat marbled within the meat; an asset here. The longer cook time called for in the slow cooker recipe allows the fat to break down into meltingly tender chunks of beef and a fat that melts into the rich, full-bodied broth. Names can vary, so look for any of these beef cuts: boneless beef chuck roast, chuck pot roast, chuck shoulder, bottom eye, round roast, rump roast, top round, round tip roast, English roast, or pot roast.
  2. Mushrooms: Cremini mushrooms, white button mushrooms, or baby bellas; choose any one or a mix of all. If they’re already small, no need to slice the ‘shrooms in half.
  3. Beef broth and chicken broth:  I use refrigerated beef base to make broth. Similar to bullion cubes, beef base is highly concentrated beef stock. You can find it in powder or paste forms. I love “Better than Bouillon” brand, a paste which is widely available and tastes delicious. For the chicken broth, buy your favorite store-bought brand in boxes or cans, or make your own chicken broth if you like.
  4. Pearled barley: Also known as pearl barley, this grain is whole barley minus its fibrous outer hull. Pearl barley gets its shiny name because after the hull is removed, the grains are polished to remove part or all of the bran layer (making it quicker and easier to cook).
  5. Yield: This Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup makes 8 entree-sized servings. Paired with a salad and warm bread or a half sandwich, this makes for a satisfying and soul-feeding meal.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: Cool the soup completely, then pack into freezer-safe containers (I like mason jars; leave 1/2-inch headspace for expansion). Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

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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I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. Hi Meggan: I have not rated this yet because I haven’t made it yet. However I will rate with notes. I have to reduce my sat fats and salt in my diet so I will be making it with a lean beef. I’ll adjust oil as needed. Also might add some cut up leeks to replace the potatoes I was thinking of adding. (I am old school and have cooked for decades. Everyone will miss that favorite meat, potatoes and gravy stew I used to make along with the buttery homemade biscuits lol).

    I get your emails and love the recipes I’ve tried. Learning new tricks is a wonderful adventure for me. Thank you for helping me along the way.

    1. Hi Marla, there is a section in the post right above the recipe card that gives stove top instructions using a dutch oven or stock pot! -Meggan

    1. Hi Diane, I don’t see why not. Quick barley has been pre-steamed so it just takes less time to cook. I haven’t tried it that way, but a reader said they would be putting it in at the last hour of cooking. I would love to hear how it worked for you! – Meggan

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