A hearty and comforting Crockpot beef and barley stew made with ease in your slow cooker.
Crockpot beef and barley stew is a warm and cozy dinner, with hearty chunks of beef and tender spoonfuls of barley and carrots.
I think that Crockpot recipes should be as easy and convenient as possible. That's the whole point of a Crockpot recipe, right?
With ease and convenience in mind, I don't sear the beef or saute the onion before these two ingredients go into the slow cooker.
That's right, you can just put the beef right into the slow cooker without the messy and time-consuming step of searing it on the stove-top first.
Some people might be aghast at this short-cut, but those people probably aren't busy parents who really, really need to dump the dinner ingredients into the slow cooker and get on with their lives.
Do I Have to Sear Beef for Stew?
If you don't mind the extra step and mess of searing beef in a saute pan before it goes in the slow cooker, you should do it. However, don't feel like you have to. Do what works for you! I find that searing beef stew meat before it goes into a Crockpot adds only nominal flavor to the final dish.
When I simmer meat on the stovetop or braise it in the oven - especially if its a large roast instead of small chunks of stew meat - I always sear the meat first. But when stew meat goes into the slow cooker, I don't bother. It just doesn't seem worth it.
Instead, I use two easy short-cuts for both the stew meat and the onion.
- Season stew meat the night before. Seasoning and salting meat the night before gives the meat extra time to absorb flavor.
- Microwave the chopped onion. Heating onion lightly coated in oil in the microwave takes just a few minutes, and softens the onion before it goes into the slow cooker.
Dredging beef stew meat in flour and searing the meat helps form a nice brown crust on the meat, and the flour helps thicken the stew. In this recipe, slow cooked barley releases starch into the broth that naturally thickens the stew, no flour needed.
Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew Ingredients
- Beef stew meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder & seasoning salt)
- Pearled or semi-pearled barley
- Onion, garlic, celery, carrots
- Thyme or parsley
- Water or beef broth
- Tomato paste
Can I Use Farro Instead of Barley?
Yes, this stew can be made with either farro or barley.
Can I Use Less Beef?
Sure! If you're trying to eat less meat but love the rich flavor of beef stew, then just use less meat in this recipe and increase the barley (use 1 cup). To make the stew more veggie-forward, add more carrots and throw in some chopped potatoes.
I usually cook barley in my Instant Pot. However, I also love adding barley to slow cooker soups.
Barley doesn't need 6 to 8 hours to fully cook in a slow cooker, so the barley in this stew will have a soft and creamy texture from a long, slow cooking time. The barley also releases some starch into the broth, giving the stew a thick, silky texture.
If you prefer barley that is more firm and chewy, then wait to add it halfway through the cooking time (so the barley only cooks for 3 hours).
Easy Soup Recipes
- Crockpot Lentil Soup
- Instant Pot Quinoa Soup with Corn and Potatoes
- Instant Pot White Bean, Cabbage and Tomato Soup
- Slow Cooker White Bean and Tomato Soup with Orzo