Beef barley stew is a hearty one pot meal that often features on the menu in Irish kitchens.
My version of this delicious stew is based on a traditional Irish recipe, but I add a few peppers and corn to make it an Irish American fusion recipe. When I was growing up in Ireland the veggies of choice for this stew were potatoes, celery, carrot and onions.
I love to add an extra bite and depth of flavor with multicolored peppers, mushrooms, green beans, peas and corn. Believe me this stew has it all, and is super easy to make in the crock pot or slow cooker.
This stew is also often called beef barley soup. Long, slow cooking ensures tender beef in this stew, even if you use and inexpensive cut, like beef chuck.
Table of Contents
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew
A cheaper cut of beef is perfect for this stew. The extra fat in a shoulder of beef or a chuck roast adds flavor to this stew.
The beef falls apart when cooked in the crock pot. I love slow cooker stews, and often make a Guinness beef stew in my crock pot.
You can choose to make this stew with pre cut stewing beef, but trust me, a chuck roast with a nice marbling of fat takes this stew to new heights.
This recipe also features quick cooking barley. You can add regular pearl barley at the beginning of the cooking process, but I find the quick cooking kind is perfect for this crock pot stew.
Quick barley is actually pearl barley but it has been pre-steamed and dried. This means it cooks when boiled for about 10 or 12 minutes. In the slow cooker it needs between 30 and 40 minutes, so it only gets added to this stew at the very end.
Barley adds fiber and protein to this Irish style stew, so it really adds to the nutrition profile of this stew.
Adaptations For A Gluten Free Stew
This is stew is made with beef broth and no flour or corn starch for thickening.
It's meat and veggies served in broth not gravy. However, barley does contain gluten.
You could add quick cooking rice instead of the barley at the end of the cooking process if you are gluten intolerant, and need to make this a gluten free stew.
I like the flavor beef broth adds to this delicious meal. I also don't add any herbs or spices. That's why I add a few peppers to the veggie mix, just to spice things up a little bit.
Remember, salt and pepper were the Irish spices of days gone by. We've come a long way with our flavor profiles since then.
Ingredients for Beef Barley Stew
Here you’ll find a quick list of what you’ll need for this recipe. Check out the printable recipe at the bottom of this post for US and Metric equivalent versions of the recipe. There you can choose the measurement system that works best for you.
- Stewing beef
- Beef broth
- Red potatoes
- Red, green and orange peppers
- Green beans
- Frozen peas
- Frozen corn
- Minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to season
Ingredient Notes and Tips
Peppers are not a traditional ingredient for beef barley stew. I love how they add flavor and color to this dish and make it ever so eye appealing. This recipe is Irish Mexican fusion food.
No tomatoes or tomato paste are included in this recipe. These are not traditional ingredients for Irish style stews. Even though I add non-traditional ingredients like peppers, I did not want to change the traditional color of the broth by adding tomatoes.
Garlic and peppers are the main ingredients adding flavor to this broth. You could use a bouquet garni, thyme sprigs, or a bay leaf if you wish to add a different depth of flavor. Just remember to remove these herbs before serving.
I use minced garlic, but you can use whole cloves garlic if you wish.
Worcestershire sauce can be added to the pot with the beef stew meat to add extra depth of flavor, but this is not a traditional ingredient.
This dish is delicious when garnished with fresh parsley before serving.
Directions for Beef Stew With Barley
This is a perfect stew for cooking in the crock pot. Alternatively you could cook this stew on the stovetop in a dutch oven over low, slow heat.
Here you’ll find photographic instructions for the slow cooker method, plus tips to help you recreate this recipe successfully.
Season the beef shoulder roast with salt and pepper. Let it sit on a plate while you prepare the vegetables.
I like to use a chuck roast or beef shoulder joint for this stew. These are tougher cuts of meat that tenderize beautifully when cooked low and slow in the crock pot.
Once the beef is cooked it falls apart and can be shredded using two forks to create perfectly sized pieces of beef for serving in a bowl.
If you prefer you can use pre cubed stewing beef. However I love the flavor added to the stew by the marbled fat in this joint of beef. The end stew is far nicer when cooked from a chuck roast joint.
While the beef is seasoning, prepare the veggies. I compiled a photo collage to show the veggies included rather than adding a separate photo for each one. Our post would go on and on forever with all those shots.
Chop the celery into slices. Peel and dice the onion. Peel and slice the carrots into circles.
Wash and quarter the potatoes. Leave the skins on. I love the color their red skins add to the stew.
Deseed and chop the peppers.
I use frozen peas, corn and green beans. There's no need to defrost them.
Mix all of the vegetables together in a bowl, except for the mushrooms. Do not add the barley yet.
Add one cup of the vegetable mix to the bottom of the crock pot. This will form a base for the beef joint to rest on.
Add the seasoned beef joint. There's no need to sear the beef before cooking.
Pour in the beef broth and add the rest of the mixed vegetables. The mushrooms and barley are only added when the stew is nearly fully cooked.
Cook on the high setting for 2 hours to bring the stew to a boil, then reduce to low and cook for a further 4 hours at a low simmer.
Add the quick cooking barley, and the mushrooms.
Replace the lid of the crockpot and cook for a further 40 minutes on low.
Use two forks to shred the beef. It may have fallen apart already, but make sure the beef is in bite size pieces before serving.
Ladle into bowls to serve. Delicious one pot comfort food at its very best.
This is a perfect meal on cold winter days. I hope you'll enjoy it. I cook it in the slow cooker, but you can cook it on the stove top over medium high heat to bring it to simmering point, and then lower the temperature so that it simmers for about 2 hours. Stir it frequently as it cooks on the stovetop so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. It reheats well in the microwave.
You could also choose to freeze any leftovers, in a freezer proof air tight container. It will be good for about 3 months.
Printable Recipe for Beef Barley Stew
Here's a short video outlining the process for making this stew:
If you'd like to print this recipe to add to your collection here it is.
Beef Barley Stew
- 2 pounds beef shoulder roast joint (2 to 2½ pounds)
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 cup celery chopped (2 stalks)
- 1 cup carrots peeled and chopped (2 to 3 carrots)
- 1 cup onions peeled and chopped (2 medium onions)
- ½ cup red pepper deseeded and chopped
- ½ cup green pepper deseeded and chopped
- ½ cup orange pepper deseeded and chopped
- 6 medium red potatoes washed and quartered
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- ½ cup green beans frozen
- ½ cup corn frozen
- ½ cup peas frozen
- ½ tablespoon garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup barley quick cooking
- Season the beef with salt and pepper and let it sit while preparing the vegetables.
- Combine all the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Do not add the mushrooms or barley. Add one cup of the vegetables to the crock pot as a base for the beef. Add the beef joint on top of the vegetable layer. Top with beef broth and the remaining vegetables.
- Cook in the crock pot on the high setting for 2 hours. Reduce the heat to the low setting and cook for a further 4 hours until the meat is falling apart.
- Add the quick cooking barley and mushrooms to the pot. Cover and cook for an additional 30 to 40 minutes on low.
- When finished cooking use two forks to pull the beef apart. Ladle into soup bowls to serve.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Enjoy this taste of Ireland, with an American pepper twist.
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Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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