Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

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Beef and Barley Soup: hearty, protein-packed, and delicious. Just pop it in your slow cooker in the morning, let it simmer all day, and enjoy it in the evening.

Overhead image of Beef and Barley Soup.

Beef And Barley Soup

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 takes me to when I was a kid, 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 dished 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 cold temperatures — in fact, it might even have you craving cold weather so you can make it again!  

Beef being prepared for this soup.

How to make Beef and Barley Soup

  1. Sear the meat. Quickly sear the meat (optional step) and then toss in the slow cooker.
  2. Sauté the veggies. Sauté the veggies in the same pot and then add to the cooker; we sauté the veggies to add flavor and texture to the soup!
  3. Add everything to the slow cooker. Load everything else to the pot and give it a good stir! 
  4. Cook. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.

Potatoes chopped for this easy Beef and Barley Soup.

Cooking Tips

  • Use a well-marbled chuck roast: The cut of beef you use makes a big difference in the flavor. The more fat marbling the chuck roast has, the more flavor it will have. Leaner cuts like sirloin or round roast will end up tough and dry.
  • Get a good sear on the beef: While you can add the beef completely raw to the slow cooker, I highly recommend searing it first. Searing the meat improves the overall flavor, 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 between a good brand of fire-roasted tomatoes and typical store-brand canned tomatoes. (I love Cento® or Muir Glen®.)
  • Use beef stock instead of broth: Beef stock has a richer flavor than 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 — you’ll end up with a more flavorful soup with exceptionally tender meat.

Picture of barley being added to the slow cooker. Process shots for this easy beef and barley soup -- adding all the ingredients to the crockpot

Overhead image of the delicious Beef and Barley Soup recipe made in the slow cooker.

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Easy Beef and Barley Soup

5 from 4 votes
Beef and Barley Soup: hearty, protein-packed, and delicious. Just pop it in your slow cooker in the morning, let it simmer all day, and enjoy it in the evening.
Print Recipe

Easy Beef and Barley Soup

5 from 4 votes
Beef and Barley Soup: hearty, protein-packed, and delicious. Just pop it in your slow cooker in the morning, let it simmer all day, and enjoy it in the evening.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword beef and barley soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 7 hours
Cooking Time 7 hours
Total Time 7 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 397kcal


  • 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 divided
  • 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
  • 8 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (low sodium) divided (Note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 beef bouillon 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
  • 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. 
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat 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 the beef to a large slow cooker.
  • Turn heat down to medium-low and add the 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 continue to saute, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to high, add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock (or red wine), 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 everything else to the crockpot: tomato paste, chopped 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 rest of 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 bouillon 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!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you like to cook with wine, you can swap out 1 1/2 cups of red wine for that amount of beef stock in step 4. The remaining 7 cups of beef stock will be added in step 5.
*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)

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 1299mg | Potassium: 1604mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3212IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 5mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


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  1. As one of your ingredients you list “2 beef boullion cubes*” Further down the list there is 7 cups of beef stock. What does the asterisk indicate? Thanks. We always enjoy your recipes and commentary. Regards.

    1. Hey John! Thank you so much for pointing that out; definitely an oversight on my part and I appreciate your help 🙂 I’ve updated the recipe to have a link showing the cubes I use and a note about sodium content. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the delicious recipes.
    I don’t use bouillon cubes. There is far too much sodium chloride in them. I much prefer Better Than Bouillon that comes in a jar and is found in most grocery stores. It is found with salt or low salt. It also comes in a myriad of flavors, i.e. chicken, beef, vegetable, etc. I can control how much I use better than with the cubes.

  3. What size crock pot is considered large? I want to try making this in an instant pot on the slow cooker setting since I don’t have a crock pot and I’m unsure on if it will be big enough. Thanks! This looks delicious!

  4. This recipe sounds delicious, However, can you make this with white rice instead of barley? My family is NOT a fan of barley.

  5. If I want to substitute the barley for something like orzo or ditalini, at what point should it be added?

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