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Food For Thought

Hearty Beef & Barley Stew (for Instant Pot)

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

Frigid temps demand a warm, comforting bowl of savory goodness like this Hearty Beef & Barley Stew. As you can tell by the photos, this is not a soup—it's much thicker—and in my opinion, much more satisfying.

For this recipe, I started with a slow cooker recipe I created for a previous cookbook, and adapted it for the Instant Pot because I was just that impatient. I just adore barley, and because it typically takes a LONG time to cook, the Instant Pot seemed like a smart option. One of the best things about the Instant Pot is that you can sear or brown foods in it, then switch the function and pressure cook—all in one pot. For those of you who prefer to use your slow cooker, you can still make this, just plan to let it go on LOW for about 8 hours total, stirring once at about the 7 hour mark. (FYI, the Instant Pot has a slow cooker function, too.)

This is one of those homey recipes that uses common ingredients, so there will be no need to hunt down anything exotic or hard-to-find. I happened to have stew meat stashed in my freezer from when it was on sale a month or so ago, and keeping a bag of barley in the pantry cupboard is practically a winter requirement at my house. Even if you don't have these things on hand, they are readily available, so you can put together a big ol' pot of Hearty Beef & Barley Stew with a minimum of fuss. If you are living gluten-free, just make sure your broth is gluten-free.

Serve this stew with a crisp and crunchy salad. Time to dig in! This tastes great the next day (maybe even better?), but if you'd rather freeze the remaining portions, you can—it freezes very nicely.

Bowl of barley and beef stew

Makes about 6 servings (1 1/2 cups each)


1 Tablespoon oil

2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed

1 (32 oz.) box beef broth

1 cup barley (not quick-cooking), rinsed and picked over

2 medium carrots, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

2 large stalks celery, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 (8 oz.) package mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 large shallot or 1/2 medium onion, diced

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Chopped, fresh parsley (optional garnish)


  1. Set the Instant Pot to saute'. Add the oil. When hot, add half the stew meat; cook and stir occasionally until browned, about 5-8 minutes; repeat with other half of the meat. (You can cook all the beef at once, but it will not brown as well.) If you're in a hurry, you can completely skip browning the meat.

  2. Add all the remaining ingredients—except the chopped parsley garnish—and stir well to combine. Cover the pot, move vent to "Sealing" and set the function to "Soup" for 25 minutes.

  3. When done, let the pot release naturally for 5 minutes, then switch the vent for quick release.

  4. Before serving, sprinkle each portion of stew with chopped parsley, if desired.

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