This ultra comforting beef barley soup recipe is made so easily in the slow cooker, which also makes for incredibly tender beef and vegetables, with perfectly textured barley!
Recipes like my Crockpot White Chicken Chili and Crockpot Meatloaf are great for when you want a family pleasing meal with minimal effort. We love cooking in the crockpot, and this is one of my Slow Cooker Recipes you’ll definitely want in your recipe box!
BEEF BARLEY SOUP
Tender beef, hearty vegetables and plump barley… it’s the perfect beef barley soup! Get out the slow cooker and get ready to enjoy one of the best comfort foods, with minimal effort!
When the weather turns colder, it’s the time for some SERIOUS comfort food… and this is my all time favorite.
Soup is so perfect this time of year; especially slow cooker soups, since there’s not a lot of hands-on cooking time!
As I mentioned, beef barley soup is my favorite soup… ever! Despite loving it so much, for the longest time, I never made it at home. I was perfectly happy opening a can.
But now that I’ve been working on and perfecting this recipe… I’ll never have canned beef barley soup again!
HOW TO MAKE CROCKPOT BEEF BARLEY SOUP
You won’t believe how easy this soup is to make… seriously!
- Brown the beef cubes (this is optional, but I highly recommend it)
- Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stir
- Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or HIGH for 4-5
- Remove bay leaves and thyme stems and serve
COOKING TIPS FOR BEEF BARLEY SOUP:
- Use a tough cut of meat – this is a prime example of when to use a tougher cut of meat like a chuck roast or shoulder. No need to buy expensive sirloin tips or anything.
- Browning the beef adds flavor – but isn’t absolutely essential. I love to brown my beef pieces, since I love that extra deep flavor it adds… but I’ve made this several times without taking that extra step, and it still tastes delicious.
WHAT IS THE BEST MEAT FOR SOUP?
Since this soup cooks for a long time in the slow cooker, a tougher cut of meat is usually used. I like to use chuck roast or chuck shoulder. The low and slow simmer will turn these marbled cuts of beef into incredibly tender bites of meat that can be literally cut apart with a spoon.
WHAT DOES BARLEY TASTE LIKE?
Barley is such an underused grain. It’s texture is chewy with an almost nutty flavor, and it cooks perfectly in the slow cooker.
VARIATIONS OF THIS RECIPE
- Potatoes are optional – I always prefer some buttery potatoes in my soup, so I added them here… but if you’d rather not add them, no worries, the soup will still taste amazing!
- In fact, feel free to switch up the veggies to ones that you love. Mushrooms are a lovely addition as well!
- Prefer a different meat? Go for it! This soup can be made with ground beef if you’d prefer. Just fully brown and drain the beef before adding all the ingredients to the slow cooker.
- Other cooking methods – if you’d prefer another cooking method, please see the recipe notes section right below the written recipe for full details.
MAKING BEEF BARLEY SOUP AHEAD OF TIME
This soup is great to make ahead of time, with one modification. Since the barley can absorb too much of the liquid when made ahead, and get mushy, I find it best to cook the barley separately.
Make as directed, just omitting the barley. Cool completely and refrigerate. Follow package directions for barley and cook it separately when you’re ready to eat the soup.
Yep! Since this soup doesn’t contain any dairy, it freezes beautifully. Cool the soup completely (or any leftovers), then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
To thaw it out, place it in the refrigerator the night before you want to eat it, and reheat it in a saucepan on the stovetop.
Leftovers should be kept refrigerated for up to 4-5 days.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT FOR THIS RECIPE
- Slow cooker with aluminum insert – I LOVE using a slow cooker like this, since you can brown the beef in the slow cooker without losing any of those browned bits of flavor!
- More economical slow cooker – This slow cooker has been a workhorse for me, and at the price, you can’t beat it!
- Plastic cutting boards – These are perfect for cutting up the chuck roast so you don’t have the juices running into your wooden cutting board.
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- 1.5 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 - 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces (Yukon gold or russets are preferred)
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp better than bouillon beef base (optional but recommended)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups beef broth or stock reduced sodium
- 2/3 cup pearl barley
- If desired, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over MED HIGH heat. Add beef cubes and brown for 1-2 minutes per side.
- Add beef and all remaining ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.
- Remove bay leaves and thyme stems and serve. Goes perfectly with some crusty bread.
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INSTANT POT (PRESSURE COOKER) DIRECTIONS
- Place 1 Tbsp oil in the bottom of Instant Pot and set to "Saute". Once hot, work in batches to brown the beef. Place on a plate once browned.
- Add additional 2 teaspoons oil to the Instant Pot and saute the onions and celery until softened. Add the garlic and cook 30 more seconds. Add the beef back in along with the carrots, tomato paste, beef base, potatoes, worcestershire, barley, broth, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf.
- Stir together, place lid on and set valve to "seal". Cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 15 minutes with a 15 minutes natural release followed by a quick release. Remove lid when safe. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
STOVE TOP DIRECTIONS
- Place 1 Tbsp oil in the bottom of a pot (a dutch oven works great!). Work in batches to brown the beef. Place on a plate once browned.
- Add 1 Tbsp butter to pot and saute the onions and celery over medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
- Add the beef back in along with the carrots, tomato paste, beef base, potatoes, worcestershire, barley, broth, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer 60-90 minutes or until beef is tender.
- Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.