chicken barley stew
chicken barley stew

Chicken Barley Soup

Pearled barley and chicken breasts cook directly into the soup, creating a flavorful broth and an easy one-pot meal in 1 hour. Dairy free, vegan optional, gluten free optional

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour
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Recipe Rundown

chicken barley soup with carrots, celery, thyme in a bowl

Chicken barley soup is a heat and repeat Winter meal. With very few ingredients and a large soup pot, you get leftovers that you actually look forward to eating all week long.

What’s great about working with dried barley is that you can add it directly to the soup pot – no need to measure or anything – and just cook it down until tender (about 50 minutes).

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You’re probably familiar with beef and barley soup, but I thought I’d try chicken this time because it’s what was in the fridge. With a broth infused with chicken breast, thyme, and vegetables — the flavor reminds me of chicken and dumpling soup, only easier to make with pearled barley, a definite time saver!

Winter carrots are so fresh and affordable right now so making stew is a practical way to enjoy them. Of course, you might also want to use them up with this delicious Farmer’s Carrot Cake or a slightly less sweet option, this healthy and moist zucchini-carrot-parsnip bread.

Do you cook barley before adding to soup?

There’s no need to precook barley for soup. As the barley cooks in the soup, it expands and you may need to add more water. Cooked barley gives soup a slightly thickened quality that can be desirable. If you want a clear broth soup, you can cook the barley in a separate pot of water and add it at the end.

Should you rinse barley?

Yes, rinse that barley! I always recommend rinsing grains and seeds to remove dust. The best method is to swoosh everything under water inside of a mesh strainer, so you can just lift the strainer up out of a larger bowl filled with water.

How to Make Chicken Barley Soup – Step by Step

Step 1: Chop the vegetables.

Step 2: Sweat the vegetables in olive oil with salt in a large stock pot.

Step 3: Add whole chicken breasts and barley. Fill the pot with water. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Step 4: Remove chicken breasts to shred.

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Assemble the dish by adding the shredded chicken back to the soup pot. Ladle hot into bowls and garnish with your favorite fresh herbs like chopped parsley, thyme, or dill.

Add some freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt if it needs it and serve!

Serving Suggestions

I serve this hearty soup as-is for a healthy lunch or dinner, but if you want to serve it as a side, it would be great with a grilled cheese or a smoky Caesar salad with some homemade croutons.

chicken and barley soup with carrots, celery, and thyme

Top Tips for Cooking Barley inside Soup

  • Simmer the barley with the vegetable so that they both become tender around the same time.
  • Only simmer barley until tender and chewy, about 50 minutes for pearl barley. You can overcook barley. Imagine a really thick soup with very expanded, mushy barley.
  • Always keep the barley submerged. Be prepared to add water throughout the simmer.
  • Barley comes in many forms, making it difficult to offer a precise cooking time. When in doubt, read the label for the recommended cooking time. You may need to add the barley later in the recipe if you bought “quick barley.”

More Delicious Stews You Might Like

Are you making this soup? What kind of barley did you find? Feel free to share any adjustments to the recipe or questions in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

Chicken Barley Soup

Pearled barley and chicken breasts cook directly into the soup, creating a flavorful broth and an easy one-pot meal in 1 hour. Dairy free, vegan optional, gluten free optional
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barley, chicken, dairy free, soup, stew, vegetable, winter
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 213kcal
Author: Chef Sara Furcini


  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 6 ribs celery washed and chopped
  • 4 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 pound pearl barley
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • fresh herbs (for garnish) parsley, dill, thyme, tarragon


  • Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables and salt. Sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, whole chicken breasts, rinsed barley*, and black pepper. Fill the pot 3/4 full with filtered water and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer, covered, until the barley is tender and chewy – about 50 minutes. You may need to add extra water to the pot to keep the barley submerged. Serve hot soup with fresh herbs sprinkled on top. Store leftovers in the fridge.


Barley Tip

Since barley thickens as it cools, you may want to reduce the amount of barley in the recipe by half if you are planning for leftovers. You may also cook the barley separately and store outside of the soup. Add to the stock and reheat as needed.

Gluten Free Chicken Soup

No problem! This soup is made to be adapted. You can use any gluten free rice in this recipe, just be sure to reduce the cooking time according to the package instructions. Wild rice would be an excellent alternative because it has that nice toothsome quality that’s fun in soup.

Vegan Barley Soup

If you want a hearty vegetable and barley soup, you are going to love this soup with mushrooms. Simply add a medley of mushrooms (shiitakes, button, cremini) to the oil to caramelize. When the mushrooms look a bit brown, add the rest of the vegetables to sweat and proceed with the recipe. Please note that you may want to add vegetable stock in place of water for a richer flavor.


Calories: 213kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 465mg | Potassium: 376mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 3513IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg

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Pamela Orange
Pamela Orange
4 years ago

This time of the year we have soup for dinner two or three times a week. Love the stuff! And bet this would be quite welcome on our table — this is loaded with wonderful flavor. Plus it looks really, really nice! Good stuff

Pamela Orange
Pamela Orange
4 years ago

This is so good! My husband can’t get enough & wants me to make it again…soon! I have never made Chicken & Dumplings. Who knew it is so easy? I did add some frozen peas to give it a bit mor green but with or without the peas I will keep this around for my husband & an impressive company meal after church.

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