When the weather outside is frightful, whip up a batch of this delightful beef barley soup. The slow cooker does all the work to create a hearty, soul-warming meal with minimal hands-on time. This soup brings together tender cubes of beef, nutty pearl barley, chopped carrots, celery, and garlic with Italian seasoning and tomato paste for depth of flavor. As it simmers away, your house will fill with the incredible aromas of this cozy one-pot dinner. Loaded with protein, fiber, and vitamins, every spoonful will provide comfort on cold winter days. The beef becomes fork-tender after hours in the slow cooker, while the pearl barley softens but maintains a pleasant chewy texture. Make this on a weekend and enjoy easy weeknight meals all week long. This satisfying soup truly cures the chill and warms you from head to toe. Once you try it, this beef barley soup may become your new favorite cold weather tradition.
What type of beef should I use for the best texture?
Look for beef stew meat or chuck roast cut into 1-inch cubes. The smaller cubes will become very tender as they slowly cook, while larger pieces may end up a bit tough.
Can I make this soup in a regular stockpot instead of the slow cooker?
Yes, you can make this on the stovetop instead. Add all the ingredients except the barley to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours until beef is very tender. Add the barley and cook 30 minutes more until barley is al dente. The slower cooking results in more tender beef.
What if my soup is too thick after cooking?
If the soup seems overly thick once done, you can thin it out by stirring in additional beef broth or water to reach the desired consistency. Start with 1⁄4 cup extra liquid at a time.
Should I rinse the barley before adding it to the soup?
It’s recommended to rinse the barley in a fine mesh strainer before using. This removes excess starch and prevents the soup from becoming overly cloudy.
Can I prep this soup in advance?
Yes! Fully prepare the soup through step 3. Allow to cool, then transfer to the refrigerator for up to 4 days. When ready to serve, reheat on the stove until piping hot, adding more broth if needed. You can also freeze the soup for up to 3 months.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 6-8 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 10 mins
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- Heat the Olive Oil: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to shimmer before adding the beef so it is hot enough to properly brown the meat.
- Brown the Beef: When the oil is hot, add the 1 pound of beef stew meat cubes to the skillet in a single layer, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Brown the beef on all sides, turning occasionally with tongs or a spoon, until the outer surface is nicely caramelized, about 5 minutes total.
- Transfer to Slow Cooker: Use the tongs or spoon to transfer the browned beef cubes to the slow cooker insert. Try to leave as much oil and browned bits (fond) behind in the skillet as possible.
- Sauté Aromatics: Add the chopped carrots, celery, and garlic to the leftover oil and fond in the skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes over medium heat until fragrant.
- Add Remaining Ingredients: Scrape the vegetable mixture into the slow cooker insert along with the tomato paste, rinsed pearl barley, 4 cups beef broth, bay leaves, and generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
- Stir Well: Give everything a good stir in the slow cooker to evenly distribute the ingredients and coat the beef and barley with the broth and seasonings.
- Cook on Low: Cover the slow cooker and set to low heat. Cook for 6-8 hours, checking occasionally, until beef is fork-tender and barley is soft but still has a pleasant chewy texture.
- Remove Bay Leaves: Use a spoon or tongs to fish out and discard the bay leaves, which have imparted flavor.
- Taste and Adjust: Have a taste of the soup broth and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, etc to suit your preferences.
- Serve Warm: Ladle the hot soup carefully into bowls. Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley if desired. Enjoy this hearty soup immediately while warm.
- Look for stew beef or chuck roast cut into 1-inch cubes for the best texture.
- Browning the beef first adds deeper flavor.
- Rinsing the barley removes excess starch for a less cloudy soup.
- Add more broth if the soup is too thick after cooking.
- Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, or crusty bread for extra heartiness.
- Swap the beef for chicken or turkey for a lighter version.
- Freeze any leftovers for easy meals later!