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).
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!
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.
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
- Borscht with Lamb and Beets
- Rustic Chickpea Tomato Soup
- Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
- Chicken Squash Stew with Cranberries
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
- 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.