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Barley & Bison Stew with Warm Spices – Slow Cooker

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Warm up with this hearty and nutritious barley & bison stew in the slow cooker made with warm spices! This stew is made with tender bison meat, seasonal grains and vegetables, and a blend of earthy autumn spices, such as cinnamon & turmeric.

This is a wooden spoon inside a pot of bison and barley stew.

As the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisp, there’s nothing quite like cozying up with a warm, hearty stew to embrace the flavors of the season. 

Bison, known for its lean and flavorful meat, takes center stage in this comforting meal. This dish is infused with rich, earthy spices and seasonal ingredients, adding layers of warmth to this nutritious dinner.

Why bison? Well, if you haven’t had bison before, you’re missing out! It has a similar flavor profile to beef, however, it’s higher in micronutrients like zinc and B12, lower in saturated fat, and higher in omega 3s. It is a high-quality source of protein, and my family loves it!

Any cut of meat you’re used to getting from a cow can come from a bison. Every roast, steak, brisket, short rib, etc you think of…you can get! And yes, even bison stew meat.

We get our bison from a local farmer and buy a quarter at a time to fill our deep freezer. If you’ve never bought directly from a small farm before, buying a quarter means that when an animal was processed, the meat was split 4 ways. You can typically buy an eighth, quarter, half, or whole animal. 

Some farms may sell you individual cuts, but that’s going to vary. We always buy a quarter and typically come home with 80 pounds of meat or so, depending on how big the animal was.

If finding a small local farm isn’t an option, many online retailers sell sustainably raised bison meat at varying price points.

With all that said, let’s make this buffalo stew!

bowl of bison stew with wooden spoon

Bison Stew Ingredients

To make this hearty bison stew, you will need:

  • Bison Stew Meat – If you don’t have access to bison stew meat at your grocery store, you could also use ground meat to make this a bison hamburger stew.
  • Beef Broth – If you happen to have bison broth, use that. Otherwise, you can use beef broth for the liquid in this stew.
  • Carrots – I use whole carrots that I chop into coins. Baby carrots can also be used and you can leave them whole.
  • Celery Stalks – Adding celery to a stew is a great way to get some more veggies in!
  • Yellow Onion & Garlic – These aromatics give delicious flavor and nutrition to the stew.
  • Hulled Barley – Hulled barley is more nutritious than pearled barley. It is less processed and contains more fiber. However, pearled barley can be easier to find, so use what you have access to. I got my hulled barley on Amazon.
  • Fingerling Potatoes – Baby potatoes can also be used.
  • Balsamic Vinegar – This ingredient adds some depth and acidity to the flavors.
  • Spices – Turmeric, salt, black pepper, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, and a bay leaf make for a really great stew.
bison stew ingredients on wooden background


Follow the steps below to whip together this easy bison stew.

pouring bison meat into slow cooker.

1. Brown Meat

Brown bison stew meat over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. This step is optional. I enjoy the flavor and tenderness this gives to the stew, but my slow cooker has a stovetop setting where I can do this easily right in the pot. If your crock pot doesn’t have this setting, feel free to just dump & go. It will still be wonderful.

dicing onion and garlic on cutting board

2. Chop Onion & Garlic

While the meat is browning, chop your onion and add it to the pot. Then peel your garlic and grate it right in with the meat & onion. Cook until soft and fragrant.

chopping celery and carrot on cutting board.

3. Chop Veggies

Chop carrots & celery into bite-size pieces and then throw them, plus the potatoes, into the slow cooker. If your potatoes are small enough, throw them in as is. Otherwise, chop them into 1-2 inch pieces first.

pouring beef broth into crockpot.

4. Add Remaining Ingredients

Add 4 cups of beef broth (or bison broth if you have it) into the slow cooker. Next, rinse your barley and throw it into the pot. Add the balsamic vinegar and salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, and bay leaf to the pot. Stir it thoroughly to mix.

crockpot control panel showing 8:00

5. Cook

Finally, turn your slow cooker dial to low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.

bowl of bison stew with wooden spoon.

6. Enjoy!

Enjoy having a warm, nutritious, one-pot meal ready to go after a long day!

Tips & Variations

While this recipe uses stew meat, bison stew meat is not typically sold in grocery stores. You can order it online, or simply pick up ground bison meat and make this a hamburger stew. Simply follow all the same instructions, just swap the meat.

You can also use this recipe with beef, venison, elk, or really anything you like. It will be absolutely delicious with whatever you’re able to find!

Low and slow cooking, like this recipe, is a phenomenal way to cook lean meat like bison to make it tender.

I also suggest making a delicious loaf of whole grain sourdough bread to accompany this meal. You won’t regret it!

bison stew in crockpot with wooden spoon.

Other Bison Recipes

Check out my other bison recipes!

You’ll love my bison chili, my delicious Italian-inspired bison bolognese, or my sour cream & onion bison pot roast!

Nutritional Information

For 1/6 of this stew recipe, the approximate nutrition stats are as follows:

  • Calories: 478
  • Protein: 51 grams
  • Fat: 17 grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 6.7 grams

As you can see, this hearty, delicious meal has phenomenal macros!

bison stew bowl on wood background with potatoes, carrots, barley, leaves

Recipe Notes

Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Eat within 3-4 days. It is best heated up in a pot on the stove over medium heat.

Can’t Find Any Bison?

If you aren’t sure about bison and would rather stick to beef, try our Fall Apart Sirloin Tip Roast Recipe.

This Irish Pork Stew is also a fabulous choice!

Bison FAQs

What is the best way to cook bison?

Bison is often thought to be tough and gamey, however, properly raised (and properly processed) bison is so tender and delicious. Cooking bison well does require some care due to the low fat content, but you shouldn’t need to do anything too out of the ordinary to cook it well. The same cooking techniques that work for other lean meats also work well for bison. Lean meats can dry out if cooked too long, or at too high of a temperature. For that reason, cooking bison low and slow, like we do in this bison stew recipe, is one way to get optimum results.

What does bison taste like?

Bison tastes very close to beef, especially when comparing it to leaner cuts of beef, or very lean ground beef (like 93/7). Honestly, when we have people over and serve them a meal made with bison, they don’t even know they’re not eating beef. If you think you don’t like bison, or have heard it’s tough & gamey, learn some cooking methods for lean meats and you will be so happy. That said, they way a bison is raised can certainly impact the flavor (as it also does with beef). So if you’ve tried it and think you don’t like it, you may like bison from other farms.

Is bison or beef healthier?

Both can be wonderfully nutritious options. “Healthy” is subjective, and we all have different goals we are trying to achieve with our diets. That said, bison is significantly leaner than beef, especially conventionally raised beef, and has higher levels of micronutrients like copper, B vitamins, and selenium. Bison also has slightly more protein per ounce than comparable cuts of beef. But beef is still a healthy option as well, especially when you control for the same level of fat content.

bison stew in slow cooker with wooden serving spoon.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Barley & Bison Stew with Warm Spices

This hearty bison stew with carrots, celery, fingerling potatoes, and barley is seasoned with warm seasonal spices for a highly nutritious one pot meal.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barley, bison, stew
Servings: 6
Calories: 473kcal
Author: Holly Lee
Cost: $20


  • 1 Slow Cooker


  • 3 lbs Bison Stew Meat See notes
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • 4 cups Beef Broth
  • 3 Carrots medium
  • 3 Celery stalks
  • 1 lb Fingerling Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Hulled Barley
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Turmeric ground
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon


  • Turn on your slow cooker to the stove top setting on high (or use a skillet on your stove). Add your tablespoon of olive oil followed by your bison meat. Stir to brown the meat on all sides. If you wish to skip browning the meat, just add your meat to your slowcooker.
  • Dice your onion into small pieces and add to slow cooker. Peel your garlic and mince it, or grate it into the pot. Cook for a few minutes until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Add your 4 cups of beef broth. Turn off the slow cooker.
  • Chop your carrots, potatoes, and celery into bite size pieces and add to the pot.
  • Rinse your 1/2 cup of hulled barley, then add it to the slow cooker.
  • Add your tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the pot, followed by the turmeric, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
  • Set your slow cooker to low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.


YouTube video


If bison stew meat is unavailable, you can use ground bison.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stove over medium heat.


Calories: 473kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 159mg | Sodium: 1551mg | Potassium: 1329mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 5277IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 8mg

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  1. 5 stars
    Yum! Great way for me to use some bison meat I have. We loved the addition of barley. It’s such a well rounded meal!

  2. 5 stars
    I’m loving swapping out beef for bison! The barley was like the icing on a cake. This is very delicious and I will be making this all winter!

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