Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Barley Soup Recipe

It may not be that creative, but Chicken Barley Soup is still one of my all-time favorites.

(First posted in 2006; updated with new photos and better instructions and added to Recipe Favorites February 2012.)  It's getting cold in Utah, which always puts me the mood for soup.  I love soup with barley, and there's  a very similar recipe using leftover turkey on the blog, as well as a recipe for Mushroom Barley Soup with Ham and Leeks that's similar too.  This recipe may be my favorite barley soup though, because you can start with a couple of chicken breasts, an onion, some carrots, some celery, and some barley and a little over an hour later you have a delicious soup.

Don't be tempted to increase the amount of barley. If you haven't cooked with barley that much, you'll be surprised how much it increases. Barley has a delightfully nutty flavor that I think combines perfectly with chicken.


I simmered two chicken breasts in water with a little Better Than Bouillon Organic Low Sodium Chicken Base to get the chicken.

While the chicken cooks, combine the chicken stock, water, vegetable bouillon, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, and dried parsley and let it simmer while you prep other ingredients.

Chop up an onion and a cup of finely chopped celery and add it to the simmering soup pot.

Then slice the carrots and add them to the soup with 1/2 cup of pearl barley and continue simmering.

When it is cool enough to handle, chop up the chicken (or use 2 cups diced leftover chicken.) 

When the barley is nearly tender, add the chicken and continue cooking until the barley is as tender as you'd like it.

I cooked the soup at a very low simmer for about an hour and 15 minutes total.  Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.

And just for fun, here's the original ultra close-up photo of this soup from back in 2006!

Chicken Barley Soup Recipe
(Makes about 6-8 servings, recipe created by Kalyn)

2 cups diced cooked chicken (or 2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts)
8 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned
1 quart water
1 generous T Better Than Bouillon organic vegetable soup base (optional, but recommended for best flavor, other types of veggie stock cubes can be used)
1 tsp. dried thyme (or use frozen thyme leaves if you have them)
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 T dried parsley
1 onion, chopped small
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced or diced carrots (or more if you really like carrots)
1/2 cup pearl barley
fresh ground black pepper to taste, salt if desired

If you don't have leftover chicken,  put two chicken breasts in a small saucepan with some water and a little bit of Better Than Bouillon Organic Low Sodium Chicken Base and simmer over very low heat about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is barely done.  Let chicken cool, then dice into small pieces.

In a large stock pot, combine chicken stock, water, vegetable soup base, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, and dried parsley. Simmer 15 minutes while you chop veggies and chicken.

After 15 minutes, add chopped onion, chopped celery, sliced carrots, and barley. Start to simmer, and when the barley is nearly done (about 45 minutes) add the diced chicken.  You may want to add a cup or so of water if the soup reduces too much.

When the barley is done to your liking, season the soup with fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste, and serve hot. (Be sure to taste before adding salt if using canned chicken stock, which can be rather salty.)

South Beach Suggestions:
This soup is a great meal for phase two or three of the South Beach Diet. You could make the same soup with brown rice, or wild rice, which would still be great for South Beach.   For phase three you could add some toasted 100% whole wheat bread, which would be great to dip into the soup!

More Tasty Soups with Barley:
Comforting Ground Beef and Barley Soup from Kalyn's Kitchen
Barley Minestrone with Canadian Bacon, Savoy Cabbage, and Rosemary from Kalyn's Kitchen
Mushroom Barley Soup with Ham and Leeks from Kalyn's Kitchen
Beef and Barley Stew with Mushrooms from Simply Recipes
Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup from Andrea Meyers
Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale from TasteFood
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More to Chew On:


  1. It's getting cold here, too - just 2C this morning! - so soon there will be lots of stews and soups cooking in my kitchen. Who knows, maybe one of them will be a chicken barley soup!?

  2. I'd be pondering some parmesan on top of that ;)

  3. Hi Pille. I hate the cold, but I do like to make soup.

    Bill, I think parmesan on this sounds great.

  4. Be sure to try toasting the barley next time before adding it - the depth of flavor is nice!

  5. That looks looks perfect for me. I've been eating too much rich food--so that would be healthy and comforting to the max!

  6. Hi Kalyn,
    I am new to blogging and specifically about food. Your site looks sooooooooo good and very very professional.
    I have never made soup with barley before and shall surely try this.

  7. sounds yummy...can't wait to try!

  8. kalyn

    thanks for a recipe which has become a staple! it's yummy and filling and is weight watcher's core friendly. of course, i had to tweak it a bit - i can never leave well enough alone! thanks so much! i love your blog.

  9. Thanks everyone for the nice comments. (I can see I didn't get back here to respond, my apologies.)

    Jane, thanks for letting me know it turned out for you, and certainly I would never be one to complain if someone tweaks a recipe. I never make them as written myself! That's the fun of cooking isn't it?

  10. Kalyn, can this be used like the all the cabbage soup receipes,using it as a main meal maybe twice a day?

  11. For phase three you could eat this as much as you wanted. For phase two, I'm not sure if I'd eat it for more than one meal in a day. However, one of the things I like about South Beach is they don't recommend counting carbs or calories. Instead, when you leave phase one they recommend adding back foods with more grains or sugars and watching to see if you are still losing weight. It's hard for me to predict whether you could eat this for 2 meals in a day and still keep losing weight if you're on phase 2. I'd say try it for a day and see.

  12. I think your chicken barley soup recipe makes a really nice soup. Next time I make it, however, I will cut down on the Better than Bouillon, as it is very salty. Thanks for the tip on leaving the barley crunchy - much nicer than the mushy variety I've had in the past!

  13. Thanks for the BASIC information (link to types of barley) its cooking now.Smells great so I knowit will be fine, btw, I made stock from chicken legs so I could keep stock cooking bone after removing the chicken which I will add back just before serving.

  14. I made this tonight. It was easy and delicious. Added some kale at the end of cooking which was easier than doing a salad or green veggie on the side. mmm...

  15. I LOVE the idea of adding kale to this. What a brilliant addition!

  16. Kalyn, your collection of recipes and ideas is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE site. I have recommended your recipes to all my friends! Thank you for sharing so generously.

  17. Tamra, thanks for the nice feedback!

  18. Barley is under-appreciated, but you always make it sing!

  19. I don't eat meat but my family would just love this!
    Happy Valentines Day!

  20. could you use a slow cooker?

  21. Yes, this could be made in a slow cooker but use a lot less liquid. I would still not add the chicken until the barley is done.

  22. Just gorgeous and hearty looking!!!

  23. Thanks Kalyn! I've been meaning to make some soup with barley and your recipe was just the reminder I needed. It's such a healthy grain. Even though it's not that cold in Md this year, this is a great "soup for the soul". =)

  24. Finially got around to making this lovely soup last night for dinner. I followed the recipe but somehow came out with too much broth. I loved the recipe Kalyn,I've always enjoyed barley but this is the first time with chicken. For my taste I would add another veggie to this,not sure what though,and the next time I'll
    reduce the poultry seasoning as that taste was overpowering for us As always your sharing these wonderful healthy recipes are appreciated! rj

  25. I added 1 - 10 Pkg. Frozen Peas and increased amounts as follows:

    3 Boneless, Skinless Breasts
    1 Large Onion, chopped
    2 Stalks Celery, diced
    2 Large Carrots, large diced

  26. I love chicken soup, often cook :) Thanks for the recipe

  27. Hej from Sweden !
    Looks great will try for sure!!
    Thanks for posting!

  28. Hi! Just wanted to drop by and let you know I featured this delicious soup (with some changes) on my blog, KitchenJoy! Thanks for a great recipe!

  29. Jenn, so glad you enjoyed it!

  30. Any idea how one would adapt this if using a leftover chicken carcass? It has quite a bit of meat left on it. I've never made my own chicken broth before but I really want to try it! Should I add extra cooked chicken, as well?

  31. There is a link in this post for homemade chicken stock. I'd pull off all the meat you can from the bones (to use in the soup), then make the stock and use it in the recipe.

  32. My goodness! I made this tonight, and it was SO amazing! Next time I will add about 3x the barley (we really like barley), but the taste is just perfect! Thanks for sharing ... so glad I found you on Pinterest!

  33. I just made chicken barley soup..using the same ingredients..sort of...but how I actually made the soup was different..it is absolutely delicious...OMG so so good!

    in huge stock pot 5 quarts of water..added 2 chicken breasts (on the bone) added seasonings- adobo, black pepper, dried thyme, dried parsley and poultry seasoning with chopped onions, chopped carrots and chopped celery. let all that cook for several hours. took chicken out of pot to cut off the bone. added better than bouillion chicken reduced sodium and then added the barley.cooked all that for another 45mins..towards the end added some corn starch to thicken it slightly. Muuahhh! Tasty!!


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