Beef Barley Soup is a meal-in-one loaded with tender, beef, nutritious veggies and plump barley made super easy in the crockpot!
This Beef Barley Soup recipe is rich, hearty, satisfying comfort food with huge flavor and minimal effort! It’s loaded with buttery beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, celery and perfectly textured barley in a rich, flavorful beef broth. This Beef and Barley Soup is the perfect make-ahead dinner, reheats beautifully and freezes well too! It is an old comforting classic waiting to become a new family favorite!
Beef and Barley Soup Video
Beef Barley Soup Recipe
There is nothing like being welcomed home by a waft of savory, hearty Crockpot Beef Barley Soup; just lift the lid and dinner is served. This Beef and Barley Soup recipe is an explosion melt-in-your-mouth succulent beef, tender veggies and hearty barley enveloped in a warm, fragrant, flavorful broth. It’s savory, rich, comforting, and everything a winter soup should be. It’s made in the slow cooker for extra ease and perfect melt-in-your mouth beef every time.
Why you’ll love this Beef Barley Soup Recipe:
- DELICIOUS. This Beef and Barley Soup is wonderfully hearty with juicy, buttery beef, and tender veggies all swimming in a broth spiked with aromatic onions and garlic, soy sauce for extra depth, Worcestershire for a slight tang, beef bouillon for rich beefy flavor, tomato paste for a hint of tomato, and a bevy of handpicked seasonings. They all work together to create a delectable spectrum of flavor in every luscious slurpful.
- Crockpot: By cooking the Beef and Barley Soup in the crockpot, all of the ingredients cook for the same amount of time verses on the stove in which the beef cooks first and then you add the veggies and barley later, stirring occasionally – totally doable, just not as hands-off. In crockpot Beef Barley Soup, you sear the beef, add all the ingredients and go about your day until the beef is buttery tender. The entire soup is richly satisfying and beautifully flavorful from slow cooking all day.
- EASY. Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup combines my favorite ways to make an EASY meal – soup and the slow cooker! The most time-consuming part of this soup is chopping the carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and garlic but it’s easy and mindless and can be done ahead of time.
- Meal-in-one. This Beef and Barley Soup is loaded with beef and veggies so it’s a meal-in-one all made in your crockpot! You can skip the sides all together because it is stand-alone worthy with plenty of fiber from barley or serve it with no-fuss sides like a simple green salad and crusty bread.
- Makes a large quantity. This easy Beef Barley Soup makes a hearty crockpot full so it’s perfect to feed your entire family (hopefully with leftovers), for meal planning or company – all at the fraction of the price of dining out.
- Pep Ahead & Make Ahead. You can prep the entire Beef and Barley Soup recipe up to the point of cooking and just leave it in the crockpot ceramic insert in your refrigerator then cook when ready OR you it can be made days in advance and reheated because it tastes even better the next day!
- Freezer friendly. You can freeze Crockpot Beef Barley Soup and pull it out for busy nights ahead!
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup ingredients
I’m going to go into further depth on the two main characters in Beef Barley Soup – the beef and the barley – below, but here’s an outline of the pantry friendly ingredients you’ll need to make this tantalizing soup:
- Chuck roast: use boneless chuck roast with rich marbling trimmed of excess fat.
- Barley: use pearl barley because it cooks in the same amount of time as the rest of the slow cooker ingredients and boasts an ideal texture.
- Potatoes: are optional, but I love the tender, morsels with beef and barley. You will want to use a waxy potato such as red potatoes, Yukon, new potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Waxy potatoes do not absorb moisture while they cook so they retain their shape despite extended high heat. Do NOT use russet potatoes because they are very starchy, easily absorb liquid and will fall apart or become mealy.
- Carrots: medium potatoes will do the trick. Please don’t use baby carrots as they aren’t nearly as flavorful.
- Celery: slice the celery about 1/2″-inch thick because it is a quicker cooking vegetable. By chopping the celery larger than the carrots, they cook in the same amount of time.
- Aromatics: onions and garlic are flavor powerhouses and absolutely essential.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes: are tomatoes that have been roasted which gives them a complex smokiness and removes the acidic bite. Fire roasted tomatoes are located next to the traditional diced tomatoes – just make sure you purchase the ones without any added seasonings.
- Oil: use a high smoking point oil such as vegetable oil to sear the beef and not olive oil.
- Beef Broth: use low sodium beef broth so we can control the salt level and add salty beef bouillon for more concentrated beef flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: adds a depth of complex savory, slightly tangy flavor.
- Soy sauce: is my secret weapon, I even add it to my marinara sauce! It adds additional salty, savory flavor and helps tenderize the beef.
- Tomato paste: adds just a hint of tomato essence to complement the flavor profile. To store unused tomato paste: line one tablespoon portions on a parchment paper lined baking sheet so they aren’t touching. Freeze until solid, about one hour, then cut the parchment paper around each tablespoon, then wrap up and freeze together in a sealable bag or container. Now you have 1-tablespoon portions at your fingertips without wasting the whole jar!
- Beef bouillon: adds a depth of concentrated beefy flavor. You may also use an equal amount of better than bouillon.
- Seasonings: we make our own Italian seasoning blend with dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, and dried parsley with splashes of flavor from ground cumin, paprika and ground mustard.
Can I Add Wine?
You may add 1/2 cup red wine to this crockpot Beef Barley Soup recipe along with the beef broth – but I don’t think it needs it! No need to reduce the beef broth or other liquid.
What is the Best Beef for soup?
The best cut of beef for slow cooking soup is boneless beef chuck roast. It boasts succulent, beefy flavor and melt-in-your mouth texture due to its rich marbling. It is guaranteed to become fall apart tender when cooked long enough.
You can purchase a single roast from your butcher and chop it yourself which ensures every bite is the same cut of beef (imagine that!) and is (roughly) the same size so it cooks evenly. I like to purchase my chuck roast at Costco because one package includes two roasts for a great price. You can use one for this Beef Barley Soup and freeze another for whenever you’re ready to make it again or use it for Beef Stew, Beef Tips and Gravy, Italian Beef, Mississippi Pot Roast, Crockpot Pot Roast or French Dips,
Can I use Stew Meat?
Many Beef and Barley Soup recipes call for stew meat which is okay but not the best. Stew meat is a hodgepodge of different cuts of meat all packed together – some better cuts than others. This creates a problem because not all cuts of meat cook the same due to their meat to fat ratio so you are left with tender bites, tough bites and rubbery bites – all in the same stew! If you want the best Beef Barley Soup, stick with chuck roast which is considered the “Mercedes” of roasts – you will not be sorry!
Can I use leftover meat?
Yes! You are welcome to cook the Beef and Barley Soup according to directions then stir in leftover pot roast, leftover steak or roast beef and warm through.
Can I use ground beef?
Yes! You can make this Beef and Barley Soup in about 35 minutes on the stove if you choose to use ground beef.
To make Ground BEEF BARLEY SOUP:
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown beef and onions.
- Add potatoes, celery, carrots and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the barley and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is cooked and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
ALL ABOUT BARLEY
WHAT DOES BARLEY TASTE LIKE?
What sets Beef and Barley Soup apart from other stews and beef soups is the use of barley. Barley is a grain that is very similar in size and texture to brown rice with an almost nutty flavor. It is difficult to overcook so it adds a chewy, hearty texture.
What type of barley is best for soup?
There are about five different types of barley but I recommend using pearl barley in this crockpot Beef and Barley Soup recipe. If you are cooking it on the stove, you may use hulled barley.
Pearl barley is barley that has bean “pearled” or polished to remove the tough outer bran layer and hull. This leaves only the edible, chewy and nutritious portion of the barley. I use pearl barley in this Beef Barley Soup recipe because it cooks in the same amount of time as the other ingredients in the slow cooker.
WHERE CAN I PURCHASE PEARL BARLEY?
Pearl barley is the most common type of barley used in cooking, in fact, most recipes call for pearl barley or intend for cooks to use this type of barley if the recipe doesn’t specify. This is good news for us because it means pearl barley should be easy to find at your grocery store located with the other grains. If your grocery store doesn’t carry pearl barley, then there are many options on Amazon.
Is PEARL BARLEY HEALTHY?
Pearl barley is technically a refined rain and not a whole grain because the outer husk and bran layers have been removed. It is still much healthier than other refined grains because it contains a healthy amount of fiber.
Do you cook barley before adding to soup?
Nope! No need to cook the barley before adding it to the soup. It will cook directly in the beef broth and soak up all the yummy flavor.
How Long Does it take to cook Barley?
- Crockpot: Pearl barley is perfect for crockpot Beef Barley Soup because you can dump the barley, beef and vegetables into the crockpot together and they will cook in the same amount of time, about 4-6 hours on HIGH or 8-10 hours on LOW.
- Stove: If you choose to make Beef and Barley Soup on the stove, you will want to cook the beef until tender about 1 hour, and then add the vegetables and pearl barley and cook for about 35 minutes.
Can I use WHOLE BARLEY?
Whole barley, hulled barley or barley groats, is the whole grain form of barley, with only the outermost hull removed. I do not recommend using hulled barley for this slow cooker Beef Barley Soup recipe because it won’t be cooked by the time your beef and vegetables are done. You may, however, use hulled barley if you are making the soup on the stove.
In my current stove top directions, I state to add the pearl barley after the meat has been cooking for one hour. With hulled barley, however, you will want to the barley to the soup at the very beginning with the beef because it takes over an hour to cook.
How to Make Crockpot Beef Barley Soup
This Crockpot Beef and Barley Soup is SO simple to make once your veggies are chopped. To make:
- Sear Beef: First, season your meat with salt and pepper while it is still on the cutting board. There is no need to coat your beef in flour. Heat oil over high heat in a large cast iron skillet. Using tongs, sear meat on all sides until browned. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use another well-seasoned pan, it will just take a little longer to brown.
- Add ingredients to crockpot: Add the beef to the slow cooker along with all of the remaining ingredients, including the barley, and give them a stir.
- Cook: Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours or on LOW for 8-10 hours or until beef and vegetables are very tender. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
How to Make Beef and Barley Soup on the Stove
- Sear Beef: Chop meat into bite size pieces. While meat is still on the cutting board, toss it with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Once very hot, add half of the beef and let cook undisturbed for approximately 2 minutes, or until nicely seared on one side; flip beef over and sear the other side then continue to cook while stirring until beef is browned all over but not cooked through. Remove beef to a plate then repeat with remaining beef; transfer remaining beef to a plate.
- Sauté onions: To the same pot (don’t wipe out) add onions and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (add oil if there isn’t enough leftover from the beef), add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
- Add ingredients: Return beef to pot and add all remaining ingredients except potatoes, carrots, celery and barley.
- Simmer beef: Cover and bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing lid, until beef is tender.
- Add vegetables and barley: Add barley, potatoes, carrots, and celery and continue to cook an additional 35 minutes or until the barley is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
How do you make beef tender in soup?
In order for this Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup recipe be a success, the beef MUST be tender. This requires the right cut of beef, searing the beef and cooking the beef long enough.
- Cut of beef: As previously discussed, boneless chuck roast will deliver buttery tender results due to its rich marbling. If you choose another cut of beef, be aware it might not deliver as spectacular results. It might become tender, but it won’t be as flavorful.
- Sear beef: Searing seals in the juices so the beef doesn’t dry out when cooked for an extended period of time. The caramelized crust achieved by the Maillard reaction also delivers a rich, depth of flavor that can’t be achieved any other way. I brown my beef in my cast iron skillet in order to achieve a deeply golden crust. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, then any heavy bottom pan will do, it will just take a little longer. Take care to work in batches and not to overcrowd your pan or else the beef will steam and not sear.
- Cook until tender. I learned this trick from my Mom’s Crazy Tender Pot Roast. If your beef isn’t crazy tender, then cook on! It just means the proteins needs more time to break down and tenderize. Even 30 more minutes in the crockpot can make the world of difference between an “okay” beef and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
Do you have to cook the meat before you put it in the slow cooker?
Technically, you do not have to cook your beef chunks before adding to the slow cooker, but I HIGHLY recommend it for the best Beef Barley Soup. If you don’t sear your meat beforehand, you will miss out on the complex caramelized flavor that comes from the deeply golden crust. You can’t fake this rich flavor any other way.
How Do You Thicken Beef and Barley Soup?
Beef and Barley Soup is not meant to be thick like beef stew. It is hearty due to the barley but boasts a thin beef broth verses a gravy-like broth. If you prefer a thicker gravy-like, broth, you can use any of these following methods:
- Cornstarch: Remove some broth from the soup and whisk in 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the soup. Turn slow cooker to high and cook until thickened, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Flour and butter: Mix equal parts flour and softened butter together with a fork so it becomes a thick paste and almost forms a ball. You will want 2-4 tablespoons each, depending on how thick you want the soup. Add it to the soup, stir, and cook on high until thickened, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Mash potatoes: Remove some of the potatoes, mash them and return them to the soup. Mashed potatoes are a natural thickener. Alternatively, you can microwave a few potatoes separately, mash them and add them to the soup if you don’t want to use any from the stew.
Can I Cook on High Heat?
Technically yes, you can cook slow cooker Beef Barley Soup on high heat but I recommend cooking low and slow for best results. When cooked on low, the beef has more time for the collagen to slowly break down into gelatin which equates to the most tender beef.
If you don’t have enough time to prep the soup in the morning and cook a full 8-10 hours, then prep it the night before (see instructions) and set your alarm to make the low cook time possible – you will be rewarded with juicy tender results. Alternatively, you can speed up the cooking process by cooking the soup on high for a couple hours to give it a jump start then turning it back to low finish cooking.
Why is my beef tough?
If your beef is tough, it is possible you didn’t use a boneless chuck roast, in which cases some cuts of meat will never become melt-in-your-mouth tender OR more likely, you did not cook your beef long enough. If your beef is tough, cook on! It may need just an extra 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Your Beef and Barley Soup is only done when the beef is crazy tender.
HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE the best Beef and Barley Soup
Here’s a recap of some tips and tricks for the most successful Beef and Barley Soup recipe:
- Use beef chuck instead of stew meat – you can taste the difference!
- Don’t skip searing the beef for maximum flavor and juiciness.
- Use pearl barley so it is done in the same amount of time as the beef.
- Use low sodium beef broth and soy sauce, otherwise the broth will taste too salty.
- Don’t use Russet potatoes or they will fall apart and turn mealy.
- You can swap the potatoes, carrots and celery for other root veggies such as parsnips, turnips, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes or substitute them with additional barley.
- Slice the carrots about ¼” and the celery ½” thick so they cook in the same amount of time.
- Cook on LOW for the most succulent tender beef.
WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?
Although this Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup is very easy to make, it does require a good amount of prep work. Fortunately, you can do ALL of the prep work ahead of time:
- Beef: trim and chop the beef into pieces the night before. You can even sear the beef the night before. Make sure your beef cools to room temperature before sealing in an airtight container and placing in the refrigerator.
- Veggies: chop all the vegetables and aromatics the night before and place them in an airtight container. The only vegetable you will have to keep separate is the potatoes. Chopped potatoes need to be submerged in water, covered with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator or else they will brown due to oxidation. By keeping them submerged, however, I guarantee they will look as good as new!
- Everything: You can completely assemble the Beef and Barley Soup in the crockpot and refrigerate the ceramic insert. This makes for a hassle free, no fuss morning! Just be aware you may need to add additional cooking time and a little extra broth at the end of cooking.
How Do I Store Beef Barley Soup?
Once your Crockpot Beef Barley Soup has cooled to room temperature, you can remove the pot from the slow cooker and put the whole insert (lid on) in the refrigerator. You can also transfer the soup to an airtight container. Plan on consuming within 3-4 days.
HOW DO I REHEAT Beef Barley Soup recipe?
- Crockpot: To reheat your Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup, place the ceramic crockpot insert back into your crockpot and heat on low for 1-3 hours. The time will depend on how much soup you have remaining.
- Stove: Alternatively, you can reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the beef is heated through to 165 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
- Microwave: For smaller batches or individual servings, Beef Barley Soup reheats beautifully in the microwave. Transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
CAN I FREEZE Beef Barley Soup recipe?
If you are making Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup to freeze, then I would omit the potatoes because potatoes do not freeze-and-reheat well. They turn into a bizarre, mushy texture.
You can still enjoy potatoes in your current soup and freeze the leftovers without potatoes by cooking the potatoes separately. To steam your potatoes, place them in a microwave safe bowl with about ¼” of water up the sides, cover, and microwave until tender, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes to the portion of the soup you are not freezing.
To freeze Beef Barley Soup:
- Cool: Allow Beef and Barley Soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients.
- Package: Transfer soup to an airtight freezer safe container or freezer bag. You can even use sandwich size plastic bags for individual stew portions. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn and label
- Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in the microwave, crockpot or stove according to aforementioned instructions.
WHAT GOES WELL WITH BEEF BARLEY SOUP?
This Beef and Barley Soup boasts beef, veggies and grains, so the side dishes can be minimal.
- Salad: We love serving Beef and Barley Soup with a big fresh salad. It’s delicious with a big green salad, wedge salad, Apple Salad, Pear Salad, Beet Salad, Fall Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- Fruit: Fruit is a welcome sweet, fresh contrast against the rich, hearty soup. Keep it simple with whatever fruit is in season or try my Tropical Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad Winter Fruit Salad, Cranberry Pomegranate Ambrosia Salad or Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone.
- Bread: Mopping up soup with bread is a must! Serve crockpot Beef Barely Soup with a big loaf of crusty bread, Moist Sweet Cornbread, softy and fluffy Dinner Rolls, Parmesan Breadsticks, my favorite Garlic Bread or Pesto Pull Apart Bread.
Looking For more Crock Pot Soup Recipes?
- Crock Pot Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Slow Cooker Potato Soup
- BBQ Chicken Chili (Slow Cooker or Stove Top)
- Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken Chowder
- Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Wild Rice Soup
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup
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