Healthy Recipe: Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Soup with Spring Veggies

Recipe by Ivy Manning | Photo by Erin Kunkel

Lighter than your grandma’s beef and barley, this easy variation is chock full of green veggies and whole grains. Unlike pearled barley, which has most of its bran stripped away, whole-grain barley (often labeled “hulled barley”) is minimally processed, so it holds its shape and has a satisfying chewiness, even after hours in a slow cooker. Look for it at whole foods stores, well-stocked grocery stores, or online.


2 lb (1 kg) chuck roast, fat trimmed, meat cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups (48 fl oz/1.5 l) chicken broth, reduced sodium

1 large leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 carrots, chopped

1 cup (6 oz/185 g) hulled (whole-grain) barley

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoons herbes de Provence or another herb blend

1 dried bay leaf

3 cups (3 oz/90 g) chopped Swiss chard leaves

1 cup (7 oz/220 g) frozen shelled fava beans or edamame

Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon


Preheat the broiler and adjust the oven rack to about 4 inches below the heat element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Place the beef on the prepared pan and toss with the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the beef in an even layer. Broil until browned on top, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the beef and any juices to a slow cooker. Add the chicken broth, leek, carrots, barley, tomato paste, garlic, herbes de Provence, and bay leaf, and season with ¾ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook on low until the beef and barley are tender, 8 to 9 hours.

Add the chard leaves and fava beans to the slow cooker and increase the heat to high. Cover and cook until the chard is tender, 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and zest. Ladle the beef and barley soup into bowls and serve warm.  

Makes 10 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories 280

Protein 30 g

Total fat 9 g

Saturated fat 3 g

Carbs 19 g

Fiber 5 g

Total sugars 2 g

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 540 mg

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