ArrowDownFill 1arrow-small-lineFill 1Cooking Light - EasyCooking Light - FastCooking Light - So GoodCooking Light - How-ToCooking Light - Staff FaveCooking Light Badge - Wow!GroupClose IconEmailEmpty Star IconLike Cooking Light on FacebookFull Star IconShapePage 1 Copy 3Page 1 Copy 2Grid IconHalf Star IconFollow Cooking Light on InstagramList IconMenu IconPrintSearch IconSpeech BubbleFollow Cooking Light on SnapchatFollow Cooking Light on TwitterWatch Cooking Light on YouTubeplay-iconWatch Cooking Light on Youtube

Slow Cooker Beef-and-Barley Stew

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Active time 25 mins
Total time 8 hrs, 25 mins

Serves 8 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups)

Some sort of magic happens over the long, controlled simmer in the slow cooker: The barley cooks to tender-chewy perfection, the inexpensive and tough beef becomes meltingly tender, and the liquid thickens to a beautiful gravy. Be patient and brown the meat thoroughly; this adds incredible depth to the stew. Go with hulled, whole-grain barley here, and skip quick-cooking pearled barley; the latter isn’t whole-grain, and it will cook to mush over the long simmering time. If you can’t find hulled barley, you can try wheat berries, whole-grain farro, rye berries, or Kamut instead. This is a great option for freezing, as it thaws and reheats beautifully.


  • 4 cups unsalted beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked hulled (whole-grain) barley
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups (1-in.) pieces carrot

Nutrition Information

  • calories 308
  • fat 9.2 g
  • satfat 2.7 g
  • monofat 5.2 g
  • polyfat 1 g
  • protein 30 g
  • carbohydrate 28 g
  • fiber 6 g
  • cholesterol 73 mg
  • iron 4 mg
  • sodium 569 mg
  • calcium 59 mg
  • sugars 5 g
  • Est. Added Sugars 0 g

How to Make It

  1. Stir together first 8 ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves; dollop tomato paste on top.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beef; cook until well browned, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on LOW until meat and grains are tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Ladle stew into 8 bowls; sprinkle with thyme leaves.