Instant Pot Beef and Barley Stew

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Instant Pot Beef and Barley Stew is a healthy and hearty soup that's packed with tender beef, carrot, celery, onion, and barley all in a rich broth. It's freezer friendly and is made in under an hour.

329 CAL 33g CARBS 8g FAT 33g PROTEIN

This healthy Beef and Barley Stew tastes like it has been simmering on the stove all day long but is made in under an hour with the help of the Instant Pot. It can also be made in the slow cooker in case you don't have an Instant Pot at home.

My family absolutely loves traditional beef stew and it's something I make all the time. The only problem is that it isn't one of my favorite dishes. I don't mind it, but its not something I crave or look forward to eating.

Honestly, I am normally more excited about the salad and bread that I usually serve on the side. However, since it is such a staple in our home, I have been looking for an updated version that will make everyone happy and I found that in this Beef and Barley Stew.

Beef and Barley Stew in a bowl with two spoons.

It's made with a lot of the same ingredients as a traditional beef stew - onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, thyme - but the addition of the barley adds something special. It's hearty, slightly earthy, and adds some much-needed texture. I love it.

The other secret to this stew is using hash brown or shredded potatoes. I learned this trick from Marzia at the Little Spice Jar and I love it. By adding shredded potatoes, you are able to get a little bit of everything in a single bite. Plus it guarantees you won't overcook the potatoes and turn them to mush. If you buy the frozen or pre-shredded versions, it's a great shortcut since you don't have to wash, peel, and chop potatoes.

Here are some fun ways to customize this Instant Pot Beef Barley Stew

  • This stew can definitely handle some more vegetables. In the original recipe, it calls for mushrooms, which are a great addition. You can also add kale, a can of diced tomatoes, butternut squash, or some cabbage.
  • If you don't like a really beefy flavor, use chicken or vegetable broth instead. It still tastes delicious but isn't as intensely beefy. Honestly, I usually use chicken stock since I always have it at home.
  • Sometimes I like to use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. They add some sweetness to the stew which is downright delicious. It does take some extra time to shred the potatoes but it's worth it. You can also use a combination of both.
  • If you don't have an Instant Pot, this can be cooked in the slow cooker or on the stove-top. Slow Cooker instructions are included below. For the stove-top, it will probably take 2.5-3.5 hours of simmering until the beef gets tender.
  • Like things spicy? Add in some red pepper flakes or a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies.
  • If you aren't a huge fan of beef, this can be made with chicken thighs instead. I wouldn't recommend using chicken breast since it will dry out. The one exception to that would be cooking the soup and then folding in the chicken before serving. A rotisserie chicken would be a good option for that.

Healthy Beef and Barley Stew made in the Instant Pot in a ceramic bowl with a napkin.

Can I freeze beef and barley soup?

Absolutely! This stew freezes well and can be kept in the freezer for 3-4 months. For easy meal prep, consider freezing the stew in individual or family-size portions. Defrost the stew overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a pot. You can also reheat from frozen in the microwave over medium heat or in a soup pot.

How to make this in the slow cooker?

If you prefer making this in the slow cooker, start by tossing the beef with flour, salt, and pepper. Then brown the beef in a heavy skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the potatoes, and cook on low for 8 hours. Open the crockpot and add the potatoes. Cook for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are warmed through.

More hearty soups and stews

Here are some of the products and tools I used to cook this recipe:

  • I know there are mixed feelings about the Instant Pot but I absolutely love mine. From cooking the perfect boiled eggs to shredded chicken to homemade yogurt, I love it.
  • I don't always have beef broth in the house, but I do always have this natural beef bouillion. It has great flavor and isn't packed with ton of chemicals and preservatives like many of the options at the grocery store. It also has about 30% less sodium than most brands.
The Recipe
Instant Pot Beef and Barley Soup with carrots, celery, potatoes, and beef in a bowl.

Instant Pot Beef and Barley Stew

Adapted from
329 CAL 33g CARBS 8g FAT 33g PROTEIN
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  • 1.5 lbs lean beef stew meat
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups hash brown potatoes

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Turn the Instant Pot on Saute mode. Once hot add the oil. Toss the beef with flour, salt, and pepper. Add to the instant pot and brown on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. You may want to do this in two batches to get a more intense flavor since the beef will brown more. Remove the beef and set aside.


Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.


Add the beef, beef broth, bay leaves, thyme, and pearl barley. Stir together.


Close the Instant Pot and press the Soup/Stew button and set for 25 minutes. Let pressure release naturally once finished cooking. Open and add the potatoes. Let cook for 5 minutes until potatoes warm up. Season with salt and pepper.


Slow Cooker Option: Follow steps 1 and 2 using a large pan. Add those ingredients to the slow cooker along with the broth, bay leaves, thyme, and barley. Cook on low for 8 hours. Stir in the potatoes and let cook for 10 minutes more or until potatoes are warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.25-1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 329
Calories from Fat 70
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 72mg
Sodium 647mg
Total Carbohydrate 33g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 4g
Protein 33g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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On Instant Pot Beef and Barley Stew
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Marian Hughes
May 10, 2022 - 02:56
Can you use raw peeled potatoes instead of hash browns?
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Mary anne Jones
March 11, 2020 - 06:26
If I leave out the potatoes, how many point would that be?
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January 2, 2019 - 09:15
Are the hash brown potatoes thawed when you add them?
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Samantha King
October 18, 2020 - 11:55
I added them frozen. They heated up to the temp of the stew very quickly and I added an additional cup (what I had left to use up)
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January 2, 2019 - 11:23
Yes! I would recommend thawing them first or buying the refrigerated versions that come already thawed.
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Lora Baumann
October 21, 2018 - 15:26
I only have 1 lb. of stew meat-think that’ll be ok?! Thanks!
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October 21, 2018 - 19:15
That should be absolutely fine!
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