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a bowl of beef and barley soup
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3.70 from 52 votes

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup is loaded with tender beef, vegetables, and barley in a fragrant broth. Simmer it low all day long and end the day with this comforting meal. Best served with warm, buttery slices of fresh bread.
This recipe should be made in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time7 hrs
Total Time7 hrs 10 mins
Course: Main Dish
Keyword: beef recipe, easy freezer meal, freezer friendly, healthy recipe, slow-cooker
Servings: 6
Calories: 314kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $11.75


  • 6-quart Slow Cooker
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board


  • 1 Onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, sliced
  • 8 ounces Carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 14 ounce can Diced Tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • 6 cups Beef Broth
  • cup Pearl Barley
  • 1 pound Beef Stew Meat (should come sliced into cubes; see note)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley, curly or flat-leaf, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Baguette (optional, for serving)


  • Optional Browning (this step improves flavor and helps the beef and helps it to stay tender, but can be skipped in a pinch): Heat 2 tablespoon cooking oil (not in ingredients list) in a large skillet or saute pan over medium meat. Pat the beef dry and season it lightly with some salt and pepper. Add the beef to the skillet and cook on all sides until brown. It does not need to be cooked through since it will finish cooking in the slow cooker.
  • Combine onions, celery, carrots, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes (including liquid), broth, barley, beef stew meat, Italian seasoning, and bay leaves in the bowl of a slow cooker. (See below for freezer instructions.)
  • Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. (Note: I don’t recommend cooking this on high because many slow cookers so hot on the high setting that they can boil, leading to tougher, drier pieces of meat.)
  • Discard bay leaves.
  • Stir in parsley and lemon juice.
  • Taste soup and season with some salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve with warm baguette slices.


In testing we used large cubes of beef stew meat (2 to 3 inches). The meat will shrink considerably as it cooks. If using smaller cubes of beef, reduce cook time by 1 hour.
If you’re going to freeze this recipe, combine all ingredients listed above except parsley and lemon juice in a freezer-safe bag or container but do not cook. Add 2 cups of stock but leave 4 cups out until you're ready to cook. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 4 months. 
Print and attach the label below so cooking instructions are ready when you are!
beef and barley soup freezer label


Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 1111mg | Potassium: 993mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 9840IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 4mg