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Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

Beef and Barley Stew is just what you need to jazz up dinner in your crockpot this weekend!

Are you looking for a new fall recipe to welcome in the cooler temperatures? Something a little different with healthy and delicious ingredients? Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew is the recipe you are looking for!

Closeup of a spoon full of Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew over a bowl.

I just LOVE old fashioned recipes and giving them new life in the age of the internet. This recipe for Beef and Barley stew is packed with hearty flavor that you can feel good about! If you’ve never purchased barley before, don’t be intimidated; you can find it in most grocery stores with the grains. Barley is a cousin to wheat (and does contain gluten), but it also contains plenty of healthy vitamins, protein and minerals. Grains are good for you, don’t give into the negative hype! The barley softens and gives the stew a really great texture.

Wikipedia says: Pearl barley, or pearled barley, is barley that has been processed to remove its hull and bran. All barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten; pearl barley is then polished to remove the bran layer.


Making Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

Onion, tomato paste and fresh thyme cook in a skillet for Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

Diced onion is cooked with tomato paste and fresh thyme to deepen and meld flavors (along with softening the onion). You’ll see a thin layer of tomato paste form on the bottom of the skillet. Scrape it up and mix it into the onions often as you’re cooking this mixture over the stove. That stuff is called ‘fond’ and it’s the culinary equivalent to gold. This stuff is full of fantastic flavor you want to incorporate into this stew. I know it’s tempting to just throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker. Trust me you don’t want to skip this, it makes the stew awesome!

Fresh thyme sprigs placed on top of Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew in a slow cooker.

When the onions have shrunken and are translucent and the mixture is very sticky, you’ll pour in a little red wine vinegar (or red wine if that suits your fancy). Stand back- it will foam and boil so you can scrape up all the rest of the fond on the bottom of the pan. Let it simmer and boil for a couple minutes, then remove from heat and scrape into the slow cooker. Add in all the rest of the ingredients and set it to cook low and slow. Ohhh Yeah.

A beef steak seasoned and sliced into 1/2 inch slices for Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew.

Flat iron steak is the best cut of beef for this recipe (1.5 to 2 pounds). If you purchase it from the meat counter, it will likely come with a couple layers of tough gristle that you’ll need to remove. I purchased my steak prepackaged and the gristle was largely already removed (super nice). So I just needed to trim some excess fat, slice it thin and season it with my fav seasoning and add it to the slow cooker. If you do need to trim it, check out this helpful video.

From Freezer to Table

This recipe can be prepared ahead of time by placing all prepared ingredients (including the cooked the onion mixture) into a large bowl instead of a slow cooker. Ladle into freezer bags and store up to 4-5 months in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge over night or microwave before placing in a slow cooker and cooking on low as the recipe directs.

A bowl full of Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew.

Either way you decide to make it, you’ve got to try this bowl of yumminess! The meat cooks extremely tender and works perfectly with the carrots and barley. Curious what sides to serve with this stew? A flavorful crusty bread like Quick Crusty Dinner Bread and Feta Citrus Salad would be perfect :0) I love to hear your comments, so leave me one below and enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 38 hours
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x


This hearty, make ahead Beef and Barley stew is the recipe you need to come home to after a long cold day. The Barley cooks down into a soft texture giving the stew added silkiness, while the various tomato flavors give a perfect tang and deep flavor to brighten the whole stew. Throw the ingredients into freezer bags for a make ahead, slow cooker meal.


  • 1 1/2 pounds blade (or flat iron) steak
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (I recommend Weber Steak and Chop seasoning)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 small onions minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup pearled barley
  • salt 


  1. Trim steak meat of excess fat and any layers of gristle. (If you purchased pre-packaged flat iron steak most of this work should already be done. If purchasing from the meat counter, the butcher may remove the layers of gristle for you if you ask very nicely.) Cut the meat into 1/2 inch by 2 inch strips and sprinkle steak seasoning over the meat. Set meat aside and continue with the recipe.
  2. In a 12 inch skillet set over medium heat, add vegetable oil, then minced onion, tomato paste and thyme. Sprinkle over a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom frequently, until the onions have softened and shrunk, about 8 minutes, and the tomato paste on the bottom of the pan begins to turn brown. Pour in the vinegar and scrape the tomato paste off the bottom of the pan. Let the vinegar simmer for about 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Empty the onion mixture into a slow cooker. Add the steak meat, can of tomato sauce, can of diced tomato, beef and chicken broths, carrots, soy sauce, and barley. Stir, cover and set to cook for 6 to 8 hours. When done, let cool for about 10 minutes and ladle any extra fat from the top. Serve with crusty bread.


To make ahead and freeze, simply follow the recipe through to the end of step 2. Instead of placing all ingredients into a slow cooker, place into a large mixing bowl. Ladle soup into freezer bags and freeze. Thaw in the microwave first before placing ingredients into a slow cooker and cook as directed.

  • Prep Time: 30 hours
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Category: dinner
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 276
  • Sugar: 5.9 g
  • Sodium: 858 mg
  • Fat: 13.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14.4 g
  • Fiber: 3.2 g
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Cholesterol: 72 mg

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