Beef Barley Soup (Slow Cooker)

This soup is lovingly simmered on the stove or in the crock pot to produce the richest Beef Barley Soup I’ve ever tasted. Shredded carrots and potatoes give it fabulous, thick texture.

Beef Barley Soup from

I still remember the first time I walked into Eric’s parent’s house. I mean, of course I remember it, Eric and I were practically engaged before I met his family, so you know, no pressure. Hi, I’m going to be here FOREVER, hope you don’t hate me. (We were married 5 months later.)

The reason I remember walking through the door so vividly is because of the delicious smell. Soup. The soup to end all soups.

Beef Barley Soup from

My mother-in-law Kris is one of the best cooks I know. I’m addicted to recipes (part of the reason I started this blog–it’s a catalogue my friends, plain and simple) but she is a true cook, adding ingredients by gut instinct rather than what some imposing recipe says. (I do that sometimes…and sometimes I have to throw dinner in the trash.)

Beef Barley Soup from

Her Beef Barley Soup is literally the definition of comfort food for me. It reminds me of being in her cozy kitchen in Montana, with snow fluttering outside that somehow makes you feel warmer, and this aromatic soup simmering on the stove, with the cats nosing around to see what the smell is.

You should have heard me try to finagle this recipe out of her. She sent me an email with the basic recipe but I still had to text her 7 times and call her twice. It worked, because the soup tastes exactly like hers. Which is to say, it tastes just like home.

Beef Barley Soup from

The shredded carrots and potatoes are part of the reason this soup is so fabulous. It gives it great texture, on top of the barley. This was my first time buying barley. I had to ask where it was after checking by the oats and then the flour. (It was by the dry rice and beans. Here’s the kind of barley you’re looking for.) (Update! I tried this with quick pearl barley in December 2016. It worked awesome and was done in half the time.)

I call this a lazy-day soup. Make it on a rainy day at home when your most exciting task is laundry. It will make you feel all warm and nostalgic, I promise. Or, if you want to eat this on a weekday, throw it in the crock pot and add the barley when you get home.

 Beef Barley Soup from

Well guys, if all goes according to plan, this is the last time I will hit publish with this blog design. I’m so excited to show you guys! I feel like I just got a new wardrobe. Soon I will make you all sit in the living room while I model all my new outfits. Just in time for a very special occasion coming up this Saturday…stay tuned!

Do you guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?
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Beef Barley Soup

Yield: Serves 8


  • 2 pounds stew meat (nicely marbled beef chunks)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 mounded tablespoons good quality beef base*
  • 3 stalks celery (about 2 cups), chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and shredded, about 2 cups
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled and shredded, about 2 cups
  • 1 cup pearl barley*** rinsed


  1. Generously salt and pepper the beef. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. When it is very hot, add about 1/3 of the meat. Brown for about 1-2 minutes, then turn to brown the other side. Remove to a plate when it is browned on all sides.
  3. Repeat with remaining meat in 2 more batches. (If you add it all at once it will steam the meat instead of browning it--not what you want.)
  4. When all the meat is browned, add all the meat back to the pot with 10 cups of water. Add 3 healthy tablespoons beef stock concentrate.
  5. Add the chopped celery, onions, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 2 hours with the lid on.
  6. When the meat is tender and you can break it apart easily with a wooden spoon, add the shredded potato and carrots. Bring to a boil, then continue to simmer on low for another 30-45 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.
  7. Add 1 cup of barley. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Cook for another half hour, or until barley is tender and the soup home.
  8. Slow cooker instructions:
  9. In a large pan, brown the meat according to the instructions. Remove the browned meat to a large crockpot.
  10. Add 2 cups of the water to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir up all the browned bits. Add this and the remaining 8 cups of water to the crock pot.
  11. Add the beef base, celery, onions, and garlic to the slow cooker and stir.
  12. Cook on low for about 6 hours. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook for another hour.
  13. Add the barley and simmer for another hour or so, until it is tender.


*I suggest Better than Bullion Beef Base.

The simmer times on this soup are pretty rough. I let mine simmer all morning because I was feeling a lazy-soup-day. The best kind of day for October.

If your meat is not marbled well, you might want to add a bit of worcestershire sauce toward the end, to boost the flavor.

If your soup has boiled down to become more stew-like, simply add more water and beef base.

** I've had some questions about the green garnish I used for these photos. It's basil, but that's just what was growing in my garden when I made this. No garnish is necessary, but I would recommend parsley or chives if you want a fresh kick.

***UPDATE December 2016: I just made this over Christmas for my family in the crock pot using QUICK barley. I used the same amount. I left it in for maybe 15-30 minutes, but check the package instructions. You could do this on stove top too!

Source: This one is from Nana, Kris’ mom.

Beef Barley Soup from TheFoodCharlatan.comDon’t forget to brown the meat. Gives it tons of flavor.

Beef Barley Soup from

Beef Barley Soup from

I’m telling you guys. Shredded potatoes/carrots is where it’s at. Use a food processor if you have one, but if not a normal cheese grater will do.

Beef Barley Soup from TheFoodCharlatan.comI don’t like huge pieces of celery, so this is how I chop mine.

Other soups you’ll probably like:

Cheeseburger Soup: (45 minutes)

Cheeseburger Soup

 Cream Cheese Chicken Chili: (Slow cooker)

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (Crockpot)

 Easy Cheddar Cauliflower Soup: (45 minutes)

Easy Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

More soup from friends:

Slow Cooker Enchilada Soup from Weary Chef
Easy Chicken and Dumpling Soup from Melanie Makes
Tortellini Cheddar Cheese Soup from Simply Gloria

This post contains affiliate links.





  1. says

    Oh my this does look like it tastes like home Karen! I love barley in soup! I can’t believe I’m going to say this but this soup makes me excited for winter! Just looking at it makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside.

  2. Kris says

    Karen, your pictures are fabulous. This soup never looked so good! I made this last Sunday for company and added about a cup and half of sliced mushrooms that needed to be used. It was a hit! I want to give all the credit for this delicious soup to my mother. I don’t know where she got the recipe or how she came up with it, but I remember eating it often growing up and I never got tired of it! Thanks for posting it!

  3. sarah says

    I think if I made this Brian would marry me all over again…and he’s not even a soup lover. Shredded vegetables I can do with my food processor, so, yes, easy! This is definitely happening.

  4. says

    AHHH!!! Your new design!! I cannot wait to see it. Seriously. I remember talking about it in SJ in July, and I’ve been so curious ever since. Two whole days… They can’t fly by fast enough! :) And I remember the first time I walked into my guy’s house. Although, umm, it wasn’t nearly as comforting as your experience. But I walked into their cabin at Tahoe before then, the first time I met his parents, and they made stew that night. So let’s stick with that happy experience instead! ;) Pinned as always!
    Amy @ Amy’s Healthy Baking recently posted…Chili-Spiced Fruit Salsa: Sweet ‘n Spicy Gluten-Free Brunch Recipes {Part 3}My Profile

  5. says

    Whoa! New blog look! I like it. :) And I chuckled when I read about you walking into your in-laws’ house for the first time. I met my in-laws only TWICE before we were engaged and the first time doesn’t really count because my husband was having a Labor Day party and I was just one of many people who at the time had no reason to stand out to his parents. ;) I can’t remember what my future mother-in-law cooked the first time I came over, but she did bring out the REAL plates. And she told me it would be the last time and from then on I’d get styrofoam like everyone else, bahaha.

    Beef Barley Soup is one of my favorites. I’m so glad you coaxed this recipe out of your mother-in-law and shared it with us! :)
    Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake recently posted…Friday FiveMy Profile

  6. Vicki says

    Getting ready to serve this and tasted it to see if it needs Worcestershire. I made this as directed but added some diced mushrooms – everything else I did as directed. This is SOOOOO overwhelmingly salty. Does anyone know how that can be changed if I make it again?

    • says

      Hi Vicki, I’m sorry the soup turned out salty for you. The only salt called for in the recipe is when you salt and pepper the meat before browning, and I am quite generous on that step. I think the problem might be your beef bouillon. Many low-quality bouillons are over-salty. I recommend the Better than Bouillon brand. I’m sorry it didn’t work out this time!

      • Cathy says

        I used the better than bouillon brand and I felt it was way too salty also. In one teaspoon there was 700 mg of salt. The recipe called for 3 tablespoons. That comes out to over 6000 msg of salt. I think that next time I will cut down on the bouillon or make the soup with beef marrow bones.

        • says

          I’m sorry you thought it was salty Cathy! I’m surprised. Sometimes I sprinkle on even more salt and pepper when the soup is done. But I know salt levels are a personal preference! I like the beef marrow bones idea. That sounds delicious.

  7. Flower Girl says

    Just wanted to say we had Beef Barley soup for supper tonight and this is our new favorite soup. Your directions were easy to follow and accurate. Thank You

  8. Cheri says

    Hello! I’m planning on making the slow cooker version but my question is, do I use the water in that recipe? I can’t find any water in the slow cooker version.

  9. Nancy says

    I’ve been waiting for a rainy, cold day to try this soup! The day finally arrived and I was not disappointed. I started it on the stovetop in the early afternoon and let it simmer away. Everyone coming home from school and work complimented the amazing smell and when it was time to eat…everyone loved it! It was my first time cooking with barley so I wasn’t sure if it was cooked enough, still chewy, but so good! Thanks for a great new go-to winter soup.

  10. michael says

    Beef barley soup was perfect. Followed the recipe to the tee. Shredded my potatoes and they cooked away. I never saw them in the final dish. What did I do wrong.? Cooked the soup in a crock pot. This is a keeper

  11. Sarah says

    I made this soup today and it was delicious! My husband ate 3 bowls! It was the perfect dinnner for a snowy night. I will be making this again for sure. Thanks for sharing.

  12. says

    I made your beef and barley soup today…simply fantastic! The house smelled so good I with the soup cooking. (I really wanted to dig in early, but I waited :))

    Thanks very much to you and your MIL for the recipe. This one is a keeper.

  13. Kelly says

    Made this yesterday and it worked brilliantly – really liked the shredded carrot & potato in it. I added about a teaspoon of dried thyme and added a shake of worcestershire at the end – it was delicious.

  14. Laurie says

    I (very recently!) received a slow cooker and decided to try this recipe. I am an accomplished cook and baker, and I have to say, not only was this an easy recipe, it made the BEST beef barley soup my husband and I have ever tasted!! Thanks for sharing…I get your recipes sent to me and I plan on try many more!!

  15. Patricia Fields says

    I have always loved beef barley soup and must say this is the BEST recipe ever! I have made it several times, packed it in quarts, and shared it with several sick friends and neighbors during this flu season. It’s packed with good nutrients. Organic meat & veggies plus low sodium Better than Boullion make it even healthier. What a comfort food on a cold blustery day here in the Midwest whether one is ill or not. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      What a sweet comment Patricia! I’m like you, I haven’t been able to stop making this soups this winter, for friends, neighbors, company, my freezer…I’m so glad you like it, and thanks for your feedback!

  16. Sue Feuille says

    My hubby and I just finished the last of this amazing soup. I made it a couple of months ago and froze what we didn’t eat the first time around. He was so thrilled when we ate it the first time. I must say it was the most delicious soup I’ve ever made. Since it’s gone now, I thought I’d wait to make it again, but he said no. So I’ll make it again and freeze it all for our next go around. It was truly fabulous. Thanks for the post.

  17. says

    I’ve been searching for a “keeper” Beef and Barley soup for ages and I think at last I’ve found it with yours! Most are not as thick and hearty, but adding potatoes and shredding those and the carrots seem to be key. So rich and comforting! I did add a tablespoon of Worcestershire…that was a good tip! How did you shred your carrots and potatoes? I used a food processor and didn’t have the thick carrot shreds that appear in your photo. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hey Dana, I’m glad you finally found a keeper! Yes, I use a food processor to shred the potatoes and carrots. My shredder looks the same size as your average cheese grater I would say (the largest holes). I’ve manually shredded successfully before, though it was a pain, not to mention messy!

  18. Julia says

    Could you, please, share what brand of food processor you use? I have tried a couple and my veggies do not come out like your potatoes did. I either get some big chunks and some small or I end up with juice. And we make soups a lot and stews and I could really use a good food processor and save some time. Thank you.

  19. Corinna Trantham says

    I have this on the stove right now and after reading the recipe I am not sure if I should cover the pot for the 2 hour simmer. It does not say to, but it’s a soup so I don’t want all of the moisture to simmer out.

    • says

      I usually leave the lid off and turn it to medium low. You could leave the lid on if you want though. It’s really up to you! If your soup turns out too thick, you can always add more broth toward the end.

  20. Janet says

    I just made this yesterday, and it was fabulous! Thank you! But I found that the barley needed more like an hour to really cook and absorb all of the water. So in the future, I’ll add it earlier in the process.

    I used home-made beef bone broth, which I had made over the weekend as an experiment, and it was a good combination. Making the broth is a lot of work, though, and I don’t know if I would do it again.

  21. Dana says

    I’ve never left a comment on a recipe before…but this one is worthy! It is so hearty and rich in flavor. My husband and 3-year-old daughter love it as much as I do. The shredded veggies add a lot of texture and also make it more appealing to my daughter (who doesn’t realize she’s eating them). Thrilled to have found a new soup staple for winter! Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      I’m so glad it was a hit for your family Dana! The shredded veggies totally makes it, I agree. Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate hearing your feedback! I put a lot into this little blog and comments like this are part of what makes it worth it for me. :)

    • says

      Hi Shaun! Great question. I usually leave it on, or half on so that it’s vented a little. If you leave it off you run the risk of your soup becoming a thicker stew. I’ve changed the recipe. Hope you love the soup!

  22. Ashley Jackson says

    I’m making this for the very first time, never had barley before…….. I admit I’m tasting ever step of the way, and so far awesome. It’s perfect for today, here in Arkansas we’re not used to temps being 11 degrees, we recently had an icy road again not used too, even though main roads are clear mine is still iced over, and I wanted soup, found your recipe on Pinterest and it looks amazing, this looked so good, I walked down to the corner store to get barley. I wanted to say thank you for posting this is going to become my go to soup on winter storm days.

  23. mike says

    Looking for a good beef and barley soup WITHOUT TOMATOES. So glad I found your site. This soup is truely fantastic. The potatoes dissappeared, but I think their only role was to provide thickening from their starch. I was hoping they would visibly stick around. The barley was the spotlight starch. I bought the jarred “Better than Boullion”. Glad I did. Since this was a major comonent of the flavor profile, I’m glad I spent the $4.50 for the jar. Remember, you should economize when you can, so that when you need to spend a little extra on a recipe item, you will know that you saved your money in other places to allow you the cashflow to maintain the integrity of the dish. My house smells great from this soup, and I will absolutely be making this again in the future. Very hearty, makes you feel warm inside. I’m going on your maiing list. One concern, after writing all this (without my own website URL to enter into the comment webform box), I hope my comment is published to further assure potential cooks that this beef barley soup is a keeper.

  24. Sara says

    My goodness this was delicious! It was snowing today and was the prefect day to stay inside and simmer a soup. This is the first soup recipe that i have tried from pinterest where i didn’t do any thing to change it. The neat was literally falling apart and the barley added a new dimension to a classic recipe. My husband was absolutely giddy while eating dinner tonight, as he enjoyed it so much. Thanks for sharing an amazing recipe!

    • says

      I’m so glad Sara! My mother-in-law (who gave me this recipe–she got it from her mom) was telling me this week that she just made this for a family who needed a meal. It’s just such good comfort food. Thanks so much for commenting! Reading stuff like this makes blogging worth it. :)

  25. Esther says

    Making this soup was very easy, and made my house smell amazing! It was so delicious. Definitely making this again soon! Thanks for sharing it.

    • says

      Hi Courtney! I use pearl barley for this recipe, I found it by the dry rice and beans in my store. Let me know if instant works for you! You would definitely need to cook it less time if you use instant.

      • Courtney says

        I ended up at a health food store and found hulled or hull-less barley in one of those big tubs you can fill a bag with. It took ages to cook, but my gosh was it good. Although the potatoes completely melted into the soup given all the cook time. Still delicious. I will be making it again come fall!

  26. says

    Thank you so much! I decided at 5 tonight that I wanted this for dinner. Kids and I whipped, or chopped it up, cooked in pressure cooker, and were sitting around dinner table by 7:30 enjoying this amazing soup! ! Plus it poured and hailed today so perfect! Hubby came home exhausted and loving this. Thanks again!

  27. Valerie says

    I made this for dinner last night because I started a new eating plan to get my health in check. I’m on my first week and it’s tricky finding meals that will work for the WHOLE family. This was a totally ‘legal’ recipe and it was SO VERY GOOD. I have two 16-year-old sons and a 13-year-old daughter and all three gushed about how good it was. One even went back for seconds. My husband also really liked it and, while he never considers soup to be a ‘meal’, the cubes of beef must’ve won him over :)

    I couldn’t understand why the potato was supposed to be shredded and almost diced it up instead. So glad I didn’t! Now I know how to thicken a soup w/o flour or corn starch. Sweet!

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m sure I’ll be making it often as I learn this new way of eating.

  28. Emily Nottingham says

    This was so good! I added a cup of red wine at the start that I had left over from the night before and it really upped the flavor since my beef was really lean. Was planning on freezing the leftovers but we ate it all even though it was 100 F outside :)

  29. Amanda DeNeef says

    Hi Karen,
    I have made your recipe a dozen or so times! My family loves it! The smell that fills my house is amazing! Thank you for sharing it :)


  30. Kris says

    Dear Karen, I followed your “soup lies” link back over here after reading the Cowboy Bean soup blog post. I read all the comments on this soup, and I have to say I got a little teary eyed thinking about how well received my mother’s delicious soup has been and how many families now love it and consider it a favorite. Really, I was blown away by all the positive comments after people made it! I love that you have been sharing so many of our well-loved family recipes, not only for us for but for other families to love and enjoy also. Food memories are some of the best and happiest family moments. Thank you.

  31. Laurie says

    I left a comment earlier and I have to add another…a friend of my husband’s has asked me to cook for him (he’s a student and his mom has MS and doesn’t have the energy to cook for him) and he specifically asked for this soup to be included in his “weekly” basket. Iv

  32. Sandra says

    I have to tell you, I have searched for YEARS for a great beef and barley soup recipe and I have liked some of the ones I have tried, but this recipe is, by far, the best I have EVER tried! I made this just today and I almost cried when I took that first bite!!! AMAZING!!!!! It will be a staple for sure….and will be an instant choice to make for family and friends. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

  33. says

    Made this today on this cold October day. And I must say it is delish. Didn’t change a thing and followed the recipes as directed. Pairing this with a homemade handheld Apple pie just seemed fitting :)

    Thanks for the share!

  34. dana says

    I just finished eating this and wanted to share that it was absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing such a warm wonderful recipe!

  35. Barbara says

    I made this soup the other day. I tasted the broth right after adding the Better than Bouillon and thought it tasted way to salty. However, once you add the raw potatos they tend to adsorb the extra salt. This was even better the next day. This is definitely a keeper. So much so, I’m already making a second batch. Thank you for the recipe.

  36. Karen says

    Hi Karen,

    I made this today in the crockpot. I have never cooked with barley before, and was a bit nervous we wouldn’t like the taste, but it was delciious! My 11 year old loved it and ate up every bit! I followed your recipe closely, but I added sliced white mushrooms and didn’t shred the carrots. I like carrot chunks in soup! I did shred the potato, which was great idea. The potato sort of melted away, but made the broth a little thicker. Thanks for the great and hearty recipe!

  37. Susan says

    I made this recipe tonight for dinner -delicious!! I liked how the shredded veggies helped to thicken it up. The bullion you recommended was very good, not too salty like some cheaper brands. Thank you.

  38. Donna says

    I have made this FIVE times already !!! This is now my base reciepe , I have added mixed veggies, chicken, dumpling ( I know it’s very decadant )!.sooo good thank you for sharing!

  39. Victoria says

    I made this with pearl onions and bags of hash browns and shredded carrots. The super easy, lazy way. Only had to chop the celery.

  40. Jeff says

    Thank you for a soup recipe (Slow cooker or otherwise) that does not have vegetables cooked for hours on end. When they are added at the start (Especially with a slow cooker) at the end of the cooking time they are over cooked and everything tastes the same. This is not the way soup is supposed to taste. Keep up the good work.

  41. Jeanne says

    I generally pass on Beef Barley Soups but your pictures hooked me and I am glad they did. I made this yesterday and have eaten 3 bowls since. Warm, delicious and comforting! YUM! Thank you.

  42. Christine says

    I have a question about the beef base. I have to cup down on sodium could i substitute beef base for broth? Thanks

  43. Emily says

    My husband made this today and i am quite disappointed with how bland the soup was. We added spices, bay leaves and more salt, but it still wasn’t enough.

    • says

      Over the years hundreds of people have contacted me to tell me how much they love this soup! This is the first negative review, ever. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you! Because the recipe has been tested so many times I’m wondering if you changed the recipe at all? Did you use a good quality beef broth? Did you overcook the beef? I say give it another try! This is one of our favorite family recipes!

  44. Jessica says

    Oh my gosh, my husband loved this recipe (and so did I!). I made it just this past Sunday and I wasn’t sure what he’d think of the barley. He kept sneaking bites out of the crock pot and each time I caught him because I heard him going “nom nom nom nom” in the kitchen LOL. He informed me that this is definitely a keeper and I was showered with appreciation for making it so thank YOU for sharing your recipe!

    • says

      I’m so happy to hear that Rita! Yeah it is warming up here in California too and I haven’t made this in a while. It’s so good it’s almost worth making it in the summer though. :) So glad you love the recipe, and thank you for sharing with your sister!

  45. Maria Sidorjakova says

    This soup is amazing, so delicious! Thank you so much for recipe, I will definetely share with my friends.

  46. says

    Absolutely Delicious!!! Wow, thank you for a wonderful recipe. After reading about the health benefits of barley I’ll be making this often. Yummy

  47. says

    I made this soup… And I really found it very filling. I doubled the quantity just so I could have some for quick lunches if needed. But I will be making this soup again… Thank you.

  48. says


    I have a question about cooking this in the slow cooker. You mention that the barley should be added later. How long would it need to cook in the slow cooker?

    Thank you.

  49. Nora says

    This soup is one of the best soups I have ever tasted. My daughter who always complains when I make soup also loved it. Thanks for sharing the great recipe.

  50. says

    Your recipe made a beautiful soup but way too salty. I used the beef base you recommended and put in less than the 3 Tablespoons called for but it is salty. Should it be 3 tsps? Thank you for the recipe.

  51. Gary C says

    This is my go-to Beef Barley Soup. Instead of a crock pot I brown my beef in my pressure cooker then deglaze with the beef stock and pressure cook (just the beef) for 15 minutes. I release the pressure, add the rest of the ingredients, and cook normally (no lid) for an hour. Fork-tender beef and it’s ready in just over an hour :)

  52. Jennifer says

    I saw this on pinterest and bought the barley to make it and just never got to it. Today I found some tenderized chuck steak on sale at the grocery store and was trying to think of what to do with it and found this recipe again. Oh my goodness, this is delicious!!!! Perfect for a cool rainy night and we’ll definitely be adding it to our fall/winter meal plan rotation! :)

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