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.

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 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!
5 from 14 votes
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Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 193kcal
Author: Meggan Hill


  • 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 rib 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. Rebekah J Freeman

    I just want to say that this soup is just the best! I have been making it now for a couple of years and I do not change anything (other than maybe throwing in some better than boullion for a little extra flavor. I do not add addtional salt when I do this.) Everyone that I have served this to LOVES it! This freezes beautifully, and I currently have it bubbling away in the crock pot. I will love being able to pull a portion out of the freezer during the coming winter. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. Happy Thanksgiving!5 stars

  2. Amy G

    Do you add the sauteed vegetables with or without their released liquid?

    1. Meggan

      Hi Amy, you would add it with anything left in the pan. If you find you have a lot of liquid, it may be that the mushrooms are still releasing their liquid. It shouldn’t be too much liquid. – Meggan

  3. Melli

    Can you use all beef broth instead of beef and chicken broth?

    1. Meggan

      Hi Melli, of course! The chicken broth just adds more flavor, but you can absolutely substitute for all beef broth.

  4. Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes

    This was so delicious Meggan. I loved the texture and the balance of ingredients. I can’t believe how much the barley expands! Just one half cup was indeed plenty! The meat was super tender and not dry and the seasoning was spot on. Thank you!5 stars

  5. Cindy O’Keefe

    This soup was easy and so delicious. I used a 1 lb pkg of prepackaged stew meat. Didn’t even cut it up. It was so beefy and comforting.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks Cindy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! -Meggan

  6. Janik Rai

    Do you have to saute the vegetables first, or can you just put them in the slow cooker

    1. Hi Janik, yes, you saute the vegetables in the fat from the beef. You wouldn’t HAVE to do that, but you get the best flavor that way. Then put everything in the slow cooker. Thanks! -Meggan

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

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