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.
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.
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.
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.
Instant Pot Beef and Barley Stew
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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
- 2/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 2 cups hash brown potatoes
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.
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.
* 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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