Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

Happy Sunday Dinner, everyone!  


Now that it’s finally raining and chilly, I woke up craving a good soup to warm me up. Into the chest freezer I went, and there were some beef bones waiting for some attention. 


My usual go-to with beef bones is to make a beef bone broth over a period of a couple of days. I then freeze a bunch with which to make stews and soups, or enjoy as-is. This morning I decided to experiment and see if I could cut corners and still make a flavorful soup start-to-finish just by dumping things into my slow cooker. Luckily, I’ cooking for a forgiving crowd tonight, my good friends the Bucks. Let’s see what happens!

I put the following into the cooker:

  • 3 beef bones
  • 5 stalks of celery with the leaves (the good and flavorful stuff from the farm, I probably would have used more if it were the supermarket kind)  cut just enough to fit into the pot
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small peeled bulb of garlic (12 cloves total)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste (I went with just under 2 tablespoons total by the end of things)
  • 2 whole carrots cut into large chunks, just enough to fit into the pot
  • 3 carrot tops (just picked this morning from the Community Garden)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • a handful of herbs from the PYO garden, including the Scarborough Fair special (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) and some chives, because why not?
  • 2 bay leaves

Set aside to add later, I have

  • 1 cup of barley (hull less barley from the farm stand, Four Star Farms)
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves

I filled the pot with enough water to cover the bones.  This is what it looked like after a couple of hours when I snuck a little peek.


So far, so good, things are smelling great!  I feel like there are a few different options I could go with it at the 8 hour point.  

1- If I’m home 2 hours before dinner, I could strain out the solids (herbs, garlic, onion carrots and celery) pressing to squeeze out all of the yummy flavors. Next I’d add in 2 more coarsely chopped celery stalks leaves and carrots along with the barley.  I’d then let things go another two hours before removing the bones, pulling the choice meat off, and returning the meat to the pot.

2- If I know I won’t be home 2 hours ahead of time to add the barley to the slow cooker, I’d have to cook it ahead of time (up to a couple of days).  Usually a boil for about 40-ish minutes achieves the desired consistency.  Carrots can be thrown in with the barley boil at about 30-ish minutes into cooking the barley as well.  I and celery can add the cooked barley to the pot after straining out the other things as in step 1 above. You can also choose to boil the barley in broth and add everything right to your slow cooker until warmed through, or cook the barley and veggies in water and drain before adding to your soup.    


Today I went with option 1, straining out the herbs and veggies at the 8 hour mark and tossing in the fresh carrots, celery and barley before letting things slow cook for another 2 hours.  


It all came out great!  I will say, I missed the step where the beef bones are roasted, and could taste the difference only slightly, but enough were I missed it.  If you have the time, roast the bones in the oven while you are prepping your veggies in the morning.  Deglaze your roasting pan with a little red wine, scraping up all the goodness and tossing it all in your slow cooker.  It’s an ideal optional step, but you really can get away without it if time isn’t on your side.  

Other optional tips to save time in future soups:

After making this soup, you can save and re-use the bones (yep) to make a beef bone broth.  Go ahead and toss them back in the slow cooker overnight with some water herbs and veggies.  If you make a batch of beef bone broth you can then freeze freshly chopped parsley and other herbs right into your broth cubes to save the step for future slow soups.  Freeze the chopped celery on the side and place the broth cubes and loose celery all in the same freezer bag for an instant “soup kit“.  


All in all, the soup was great!  The barley from the farmstand was fabulous and well received.  I served things with a Kale and Lettuce Caesar Salad and crescent rolls, a hearty bread or dumpling would also compliment this soup nicely.  

I’ve thrown a lot of different variations out there in this post, and as always, feel free to comment below, questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome!  See you tomorrow for our 17th “Show” of the Springdell Show and Tell Season!

About Jess

Jess Anderson is the creator of CSA|365 and is passionate about the local food movement. A long time member of Springdell and a busy mother of two, Jess loves keeping her family fed by honest local food.