Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup

Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup

Slow-cooker beef & barley soup is a cross between a French onion soup and a tomato soup, with tender beef – but not too much, lots of carrots and velvety barley.  The rich broth is flavored with thyme, red wine and soy sauce (the ingrediento segreto!). 

A slow cooker soup had never wowed me until I tried this one.  In the past, I felt the ease and convenience of slow-cooker meals did not outweigh the lacking final product.  Slow cooker meals always tasted the same to me, no matter what combination of ingredients were used.

After we returned from the hospital with baby girl #3, my aunt prepared this slow cooker beef & barley soup for us, and it surprised me for several reasons.  First, it was a soup, and my kids ATE it!  I am not exaggerating when I say they cleaned their bowls. This never happens when we eat soup. Secondly, it was made in a slow cooker! That, and this is the best part: it’s a true slow cooker recipe and doesn’t require adding any ingredients mid-cook.  You can really “set it and forget it” while you do any number of leisurely daytime activities! 

A few things to note:

There’s not a ton of barley in here, but because of that it’s extra-velvety and allows the tomatoes, beef and carrots to shine.  You can certainly add up to ¼ cup extra if you like a thicker soup.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of onions in this recipe.  Three onions may seem outrageous, but they really make the soup, and they cook down considerably.  

soup ingredients in a slow cooker

This one freezes beautifully, so double it and throw half in the freezer (minus the parsley) for a night off next month.  To double, depending on the size of your slow cooker, you’ll want to reduce the beef broth to 6 cups (instead of 8) because you may run out of room.  My slow cooker is a standard size Revel brand “Crock Pot”.  

Looking for more weeknight freezer-friendly meal ideas? Try these Sweet Potato Burritos.

slow cooker beef & barley soup in a bowl with bread

Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup

Tender-beef, silky barley, tomatoes + plenty of carrots. Yum!
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time7 hrs
Total Time7 hrs 30 mins
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef and barley, beef and barley soup, slow cooker soup
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 3 onions chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 T fresh, minced
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef stock or beef broth
  • 3 carrots peeled & chopped
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or low sodium tamari sauce
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley NOT quick cooking variety
  • 3/4-1 lb beef blade steak, trimmed or flatiron steak, trimmed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Instructions

  • In a large glass bowl, stir together chopped onions, tomato paste and thyme. Cook in microwave, stirring halfway through, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Place onion mixture, tomatoes, beef stock, carrots, soy sauce & pearl barley (everything but beef, parsley, salt & pepper) into slow cooker.  Stir until combined.
  • Trim fat from beef and season with salt and pepper. Nestle beef into slow cooker and cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 6-7 hours.
  • Remove beef from slow cooker and shred with two forks.  Skim extra fat off surface of the soup (if any), and return shredded beef to the soup. Stir.
  • Top with fresh parsley and season with extra salt and pepper, if needed.

Notes

  1. Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
  2. If doubling, reduce chicken stock to 2 total cups (instead of 4), so it will fit in a standard slow cooker.
  3. You can substitute 2 15-oz. cans of diced tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes. Just puree them in a blender for 5 seconds before adding them to slow cooker.
  4. There’s not a ton of barley in here, but because of that it’s extra-velvety and allows the tomatoes, beef and carrots to shine through.  You can certainly add up to ¼ cup extra if you like a thicker soup.
  5. Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of onions in this recipe.  Three onions may seem outrageous, but they really make the soup, and they cook down considerably.
  6. This one freezes beautifully, so double it and throw half in the freezer (minus the parsley) for a night off next month.  To double, depending on the size of your slow cooker, you’ll want to reduce the beef broth to 6 cups (instead of 8) because you may run out of room.  My slow cooker is a standard size Revel brand “Crock Pot”. 


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