This Vegetable, Beef, and Barley Soup Is Comfort in a Bowl

  • By Jess Dang
  • February 3, 2013

I was plagued with a major case of recipe and meal-block earlier this week. I looked for inspiration through my vast cookbook collection, old food magazines, and of course the usual recipe sites. Nothing. And then it dawned on me, why not just ask our awesome Facebook fans what new recipes they wanted to see on our site and in our weekly meal plans. The resounding request was more slow-cooker / crock-pot meals. I hadn’t featured one yet, but clearly this weather was calling for it, and I had just the right one – a recipe for the easiest slow cooker beef and barley soup.

Aside from the barley, everything literally just gets dumped into the slow cooker, and cooked on low for 8 hours (or on high for about 4 hours). I prefer to use the low-temperature setting because 8 hours is the perfect amount of time to get a good night’s sleep and have a hearty pot of soup waiting for you the next morning. If you’d prefer day-of cooking, 8 hours of slow-low-cooking is perfectly suited for a normal workday. Get everything set up, hit the start button, and go to work knowing that dinner is getting made.

This would almost be a one-pot soup, except that the pearled barley gets cooked in a separate pot. This allows the barley to cook at its own pace and also not to absorb all the liquids of the soup. Barley cooks like pasta but since it’s a whole grain, it just takes longer. Once you add it to the boiling water, keep it at a low-boil and you can walk away for 35 to 45 minutes, the time it takes for the barley to get tender.

For extra earthiness, this soup also contains a few thyme sprigs, a few bay leaves, and some tomato paste. When paired with hearty vegetables, beef, and barley, it answers all your winter food cravings.

Helpful tools: 1) Slow cooker

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Slow Cooker Vegetable, Beef, and Barley Soup Recipe

This soup is most easily made in a slow cooker but we also offer simple stovetop preparation instructions for those without one.

Serves: 6


  • Beef stew meat – 1 lb
  • Onion, diced – 1
  • Celery, diced – 2 stalks
  • Carrots, peeled & chopped – 1 lb
  • Garlic, minced – 4 cloves
  • Thyme – 4 sprigs
  • Bay leaves – 4
  • Beef broth / stock – 1 quart
  • Tomato paste – 4 Tbsp
  • Kosher salt – 1 tsp
  • Pearled barley – 1.5 cups
  • (For stovetop) Canola / olive oil - 1 Tbsp



  1. Beef – Season with salt and pepper and tenderize with a fork.
  2. Onion / Celery / Carrots / Garlic – Prep as directed.
  3. Night before or morning of – Toss all ingredients except barley in slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4. Thyme and bay leaves can be tied together or put into a tea bag so they can be easily removed.


Instructions for slow cooker:

  1. Bring 3 quarts water to boil. Add a generous amount of salt and then barley. Cook until softened, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain.
  2. Remove thyme and bay leaves from pot. Stir in cooked barley. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Instructions for stovetop:
  1. Prep ingredients and cook barley the same way. Instead of throwing ingredients into a slow-cooker, heat a >5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. To heated oil, add beef and sear ~4 minutes, turning once or twice to different sides.
  2. Remove beef from pot and set aside. Add onions, celery, and garlic with a dash of salt. Saute until softened, ~4 minutes.
  3. Add all ingredients except for the barley to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook covered for 35 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove thyme and bay leaves from pot. Stir in cooked barley. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.


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