This Beef and Barley Soup is a hearty, healthy, and delicious meal. I love that this soup can be put into your slow cooker (crockpot) in the morning, cooks all day without supervision, and is ready to enjoy in the evening.
Beef stew has always been one of my favorite comfort foods during the winter. The minute it gets even a little bit cold outside, I whip out the crockpot and make a batch. It’s funny how food can bring you back to places and times in an instant. Beef stew for me instantly brings me back to being a kid and watching my dad make stew in a dutch oven over coals outside. We’d go out to watch him in the freezing cold and then rush in and snuggle up by the fire while he’d dish it up for us all.
And this soup does not disappoint; it’s rich, hearty, and packed with good ingredients. It’s really the perfect recipe to make in those freezing cold temperatures — in fact, it might even have you craving cold weather so you can make it again! 😉
How to make beef and barley soup
- Sear Meat: quickly sear the meat (optional step) and then toss in the crockpot
- Sauté veggies: saute the veggies in the same pot and then add to the crockpot; we saute the veggies to add flavor and texture to the soup!
- Add everything to crockpot: add everything else to the crockpot and give it a good stir!
- Cook: Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.
- Use a well-marbled chuck roast: The chuck roast you get makes a big difference in the flavor. The more fat marbling the chuck roast has, the more flavor it will have.
- Get a good sear on beef: While you can add the beef completely raw to the crockpot, I highly recommend searing it first. Searing the meat improves the overall texture and appearance of your soup.
- Good quality tomatoes: I recommend using high quality fire roasted tomatoes. There is a HUGE difference in the taste and flavor from a good brand of fire roasted tomatoes and a typical store brand canned tomatoes. (I love Cento or Muir Glen)
- Use beef stock instead of broth: Beef stock tends to have a richer flavor when compared to beef broth. You can read more about the difference between the two here, but short story: beef STOCK adds more flavor to this beef and barley soup!
- Cook on low: while you CAN cook this on high heat, I recommend cooking on low heat — you’ll end up with a more flavorful soup with exceptionally tender meat.
Beef and Barley Soup FAQS
Can you substitute quinoa for barley in the soup?
Substituting quinoa in for the barley should work fine! I’ve shared quite a few quinoa crockpot soups. (this Crockpot Chicken Quinoa Veggie Soup and this Crockpot Quinoa, Italian Chicken, and Veggie Soup are two of our favorites!). One note: the quinoa does continue to absorb liquid so this beef and barley soup will come out more like stew.
What kind of barley do you use for soup?
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This Beef and Barley Soup is a hearty, healthy, and delicious meal. This veggie and beef packed soup can put in your slow cooker (crockpot) in the morning and enjoyed in the evening.
- 1 and 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
- Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 ribs celery, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup 100% pure grape juice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 beef boullion cubes*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or use 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon EACH: dried basil, dried oregano
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 7 cups beef stock (low sodium)
- Optional: fresh chopped parsley, crusty loaf of bread
Cube the beef and then pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all the sides.
Place a large skillet or pot over medium high heat. Add in 1 tablespoon of oil and once it's shimmering, add the beef cubes (in one even layer; you can do this in batches to not overcrowd the meat). Sear for about 15-20 seconds per side (about 1 minute total) and then transfer beef to slow cooker.
Turn heat down to medium-low and add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Next, add in the carrots and celery and saute, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes.
Turn the heat up to high, add grape juice, and scrape any browned bits up from the pan. Stir and simmer for 3 minutes and then pour the veggie mixture into the crockpot.
While the veggies are simmering, you can add in everything else to the crockpot: tomato paste, chopped yukon gold potatoes, crumbled beef bouillon cubes, Worcestershire sauce, fresh thyme, bay leaves, uncooked pearl barley, white sugar, dried basil, dried oregano, undrained fire-roasted tomatoes, and finally the beef stock.
Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. It will vary greatly depending on the actual beef stock and cubes you use, but I generally add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Enjoy with fresh parsley (optional) and a crusty loaf of bread!
*Here are the exact beef bouillon cubes I use. Also, if you're worried about sodium/salt from the cubes and stock you can omit the cubes (or add, crumbled in small amounts, later to taste)