Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Risotto

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Risotto |

We’re 2 months into this new baby thing, and dare I say I think we’re getting into the swing of things?  I feel like it’s risky to put that out there but, knock on wood, he now goes down consistently around 8:00pm, sleeps mostly-consistently through the night, is learning to enjoy his swing or his daddy during dinner-prep time, and is generally winning hearts with his sweet baby smiles and coos.

As any mama will tell you by their fourth one, it really does go so fast. How can he be 2 months already?! Next time I blink he’ll be sitting, crawling, rolling, walking, getting a girlfriend he loves more than me – wait, no, that won’t ever happen, obviously.

But of course, when you have 4 kids aged 6 and under, I don’t care how good your baby is, dinner prep time sucks. Period.

At least, it does if you’re doing that prep AT dinner time.  Any time near actual dinner time is full of catching up on school days, pre-dinner snacking, piano practice, feeding the baby, and generally keeping the peace. I’m trying to get better about doing as much prep as possible earlier in the day to make the busiest time of day run more smoothly, and every time I do it is SO WORTH IT.

In light of these attempts, I know the slow cooker is my friend. I know this, but I still rarely make use of that knowledge.  As much as I love the idea of my slow cooker, I must confess it probably only gets used about 12 times a year, and 7 of those times are to keep make-ahead mashed potatoes warm for big family dinners. I need to get better at life.

Meals like this beef and barley risotto, however, make me set resolutions to use my slow cooker basically every other day, because this is seriously good food.  I feel like there are only so many things you can make in a slow cooker, and only so much forethought and morning prep I’m capable of, so I love new recipes like this that are a little different from my usual and still make everyone happy, not to mention making my house smell like someone knows what they’re doing.

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Risotto |

On that note, please share your slow cooker recipes with me! I have literally, like, 3 that I use. Butter chicken, Mom’s Hawaiian meatballs, and Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce.  Did you notice 2 of those recipes are my mom’s, and the other one I’ve never photographed? Yup, I’m bad at slow cookers. Help me be better.

And if you’re already sold on your slow cooker, you’re gonna love me today, because this one’s a winner, even if it does photograph like your dog’s breakfast. Maybe that’s my problem with slow cookers…nothing ever comes out looking pretty. I promise it tastes better than it looks :)

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Risotto |

Slow Cooker Beef & Barley Risotto
Total time
A hearty slow cooker meal of healthy comfort food, perfect for busy fall and winter nights!
Recipe type: Slow Cooker, Entree
Serves: 8
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 lb/1.35 kg (approx) boneless beef pot roast, (top or bottom blade, or cross rib)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pkg cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ⅓ cup pot or pearl barley
  • 1½ cups beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, salt, pepper and thyme; rub over beef. Place in slow cooker. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, and barley.
  2. Whisk together beef broth, water, tomato paste and soy sauce; pour over everything in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until beef is tender, 6 to 8 hours.
  3. With two large forks or large tongs, remove beef to cutting board; cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Skim fat from cooking liquid, then, over a large bowl, strain barley mixture, reserving sauce to use as gravy. Serve barley mixture and gravy with beef.




  1. says

    Too funny that I am reading this tonight! I just made a slow-cooker dinner today, and it took me about a half hour to put the whole thing together. I was thinking as I was browning the meats that I love cooking in the quiet early afternoon and then not having the hassle at dinner time. So, even though it’s not a ” it in and done in two minutes” thing, it still makes life so much easier! I probably use our slow cooker three times a month! It’s a handy gadget to have around when you have a billion kids underfoot!

  2. esther says

    That looks like a great fall/winter recipe! I don’t use my slowcooker very often either simply because it just isn’t my preferred cooking method. I love to cook, and it kinda takes away from the cooking process. I do, however have a couple favorites, one being pea soup, and the other is an Italian tomato chicken thigh dish. If you want, I can find the links for you.

  3. says

    Lovely to hear things are going well, Anna! :)

    I don’t use my crockpot that much, either, though I always appreciate the leisurely hour before dinner when I do! I use it mostly to make chili, beef stew (not too often anymore as the meat’s pretty pricy these days) or pork chops (the huge ones from Costco work well – two pork chops = dinner for four):
    – Beef Stew:
    – Pork Chops:

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