Beef and Barley Stew With a Kick!

posted by Andrea | 02/27/2019

Beef and barley stew is one of those classic meals that has stood the test of time (lots and lots of time). In fact, I’ve read that barley was one of the earliest cultivated crops — thousands and thousands of years ago! 

My personal first memory of barley is my mom (an elementary school music teacher) teaching us the song Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow — I still find myself humming or whistling this song whenever I’m cooking or baking with barley. 

As an adult, I’ve grown to LOVE the nutty flavor of barley and have started adding ground barley flour to most of our pancakes and waffles as well. Our kids just think it’s a type of rice and haven’t ever complained about it when they eat it in a soup, stew, casserole, etc.

Barley is a unique grain in the sense that the fiber content is throughout the entire grain (not just the bran or germ). So even though “hulled barley” (the type you’ll most likely find in stores) isn’t technically a “whole grain”, it’s still full of fiber! 

Barley is also VERY “thirsty” in the sense that it will absorb a lot of water — making it perfect for soups and stews. 

This beef and barley stew is one of Dave and my favorite cold weather comfort foods — however, I have recently been adding just a little bit of spice to give an extra kick we both love (the kids say it’s ‘too spicy’ but they are wimpy!) 

Anyway, if you’re looking for a slightly different twist on this time-tested dish, give my Beef and Barley Stew… with a kick a try! 

Recipe for Beef and Barley Stew… with a kick!

Serves 6

{print recipe}


  • olive oil or butter
  • 1 pound beef stew meat; cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 T. minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 3 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes*
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper*
  • 1 t. ground thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 c. beef broth or water
  • 1/2 c. barley (or rice or quinoa)
  • additional salt and pepper to taste

* NOTE: Omit red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper if you don’t want any “kick”. Your stew will still taste amazing, but after making this recipe with and without the extra spices, I will say that the additional “heat” adds great flavor (and amazing after-taste!)


Heat oil or butter in a large stock pot over medium heat.

Sprinkle 1/2 t. salt over meat and cook until no longer pink. Drain grease and set meat aside.

Heat additional oil or butter over medium heat. Sauté onions for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic, celery, and carrots and cook 5 minutes longer; stirring regularly. 

Add all the rest of the ingredients (including the cooked beef) and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Remove bay leaves, add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty bread, a side salad, and/or fruit. Enjoy! 

I usually use stew meat for this (because we have a lot in the freezer) but I have made it with leftover roast, leftover steak, and even ground beef — all of which tasted great in my opinion! 

I have not tried it in the slow cooker, but I’m positive it would work — as long as you cook the meat and sauté the veggies before putting them in the slow cooker. I’d probably let it cook 6 hours on low heat.

This is one of our favorite soups/stews — perfect for cold weather (especially with the extra “heat” from the spices!)

What do you think… will you include the extra spice or not?!?

Visit my virtual recipe box for more simple, delicious, family friendly recipes!


Filed under: FoodWhole Grains

Leave a comment


  1. Diana Edwards


    Beef and Barley stew is in the crockpot cooking. Will add the barley later on. Looking forward to the taste test later this evening.


    Andrea Reply:

    hope you enjoyed your stew!!


  2. Shan


    I recently made a vegetable soup with meat cut up from a chuck roast and it tasted great. I will try this with beef stew when it goes on sale next time. And yes, I will probably make it without the red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper but let my husband sprinkle some on if he so chooses. I also recently found a Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix which combines green and yellow split peas, barley, lentils and tiny alphabet pasta bits. The flavor is great and I just had to add water or chicken broth, 2 stalks each carrots and celery, and a small onion. Once I put the soup in the blender; another time I just served it as is. Both tasted great. Thick soup is such a comfort in winter!


    Andrea Reply:

    sounds yummy!


  3. Jenny


    Wow! Sounds great, especially in cold weather. I have made something similar in the past and remember everyone liking it, but it’s been a long time, and I’m pretty sure I never used cayenne or red pepper- I think I will make it without and divide it into two pans midway through. then add some spiciness into half of it, for the wimps. Could always cook without and then add some hot sauce on top, I guess. Thanks for this.


    Jenny Reply:

    And I meant to say that I remember that song, too- “do you, or I, or anyone know how oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?”!! My Mom sang it to me, too, and today is the anniversary of her going to heaven.


    Andrea Reply:

    oh this is so cool — thanks for sharing. I’m glad you could have some fond memories of your mom and this fun song 🙂