Nothing quite says “comfort food” like beef stew.  Especially on a cold winter day; and when I made this recipe, northeast Kansas was in the midst of having a major blizzard for the first time since 2009.  Hours of sustained winds of up to 55 mph, white out conditions, snowfall totals of up to 9 inches in some areas, yes, it was a comfort food kind of day.

There’s something about assembling all the ingredients to put into a crock pot to slowly simmer over the course of a day that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something special.  And this recipe fits that definition – it’s special.  Beef stew meat becomes delicately tender, the barley cooks to chewy perfection and the vegetables and garlic bring out an incredible flavor your family will want again and again.

Barley is often not an ingredient many of us use. But we should.  Did you know barley is the highest in fiber of all the whole grains?  While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley’s fiber is found throughout the whole grain.  Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to good health.  However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or its entire bran layer. That’s why hulled (whole grain) barley is recommended in this recipe.  If you can’t find hulled barley, you can substitute wheat berries, whole-grain farro, rye berries, or Kamut instead.

Even though this recipe is perfect for cold, wintry days, the great thing about it is, leftovers freeze easily and when thawed, it reheats beautifully – and tastes just as good in warm weather as it does cold weather.  To help round out and balance this meal, suggestions for sides could be orange or apple slices along with a whole grain quick bread such as banana bread or whole grain blueberry muffins.

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew – makes 8 servings (serving size – about 1 ¼ cups)

Nutrition per serving:  Calories – 308;  Total Fat – 9.2 grams; Saturated Fat – 2.7 grams; Monounsaturated Fat – 5.2 grams; Polyunsaturated Fat – 1 gram; Protein – 30 grams; Carbohydrate – 28 grams; Fiber – 6 grams; Cholesterol – 73 milligrams; Iron – 4 milligrams; Sodium – 569 milligrams


4 cups unsalted beef stock

1 ½ cups chopped onion

1 cup uncooked hulled barley – pearl barley can also be used

1 cup water

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup sliced carrots

1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish

3 bay leaves

¼ cup unsalted tomato paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds lean beef stew meat


  1. Stir together the first 9 ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker or crock pot. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves, dollop the tomato paste on top.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the beef stew meat, cook until well browned.
  3. Add beef to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW until meat and barley are tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Ladle stew into 8 bowls, sprinkle with thyme leaves if desired.
Categories: Recipes

Cheryl Mussatto

Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and is a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi and, an online market place connecting nutrition experts with customers worldwide. She can be contacted here.

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