Chicken Barley Soup

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As the days get colder, warm up with a bowl of Chicken and Barley Soup, made with carrots, onions, celery, chicken breasts, and pearl barley.

Chicken Barley Soup
Chicken Barley Soup

On those cold nights when I can’t seem to get the chill out of my bones, I love making soup. One of my favorite soups growing up was Beef Barley Soup, but this chicken version which is a bit lighter, is also delicious. I use chicken on the bone because it gives it even more flavor. It’s a soup my whole family loves and is a nice alternative to classic chicken noodle soup. For more of soup recipes, click here.

Chicken Barley Soup in a pot with ladle.

What are the benefits of eating barley?

I love the chewy texture of barley, which feels like pasta when you eat it. I use pearl barley in this soup, which cooks faster than hulled barley. Using barley in your chicken soup makes for a more nutritious dish than chicken noodle soup. Barley has a ton of fiber, which helps with weight loss and digestion. It also has some protein and vitamins and minerals, like B6, niacin, phosphorous, and selenium.

Do you have to cook barley before putting it in the soup?

No, you don’t need to cook the barley before adding it to the soup. The barley cooks right in the soup.

Meal Prep Tips:

This hearty chicken barley soup is great for meal prep since the leftovers are even better the next day. It takes a while to cook, so make it when you have more time and then eat the leftovers throughout the week. You can also freeze this soup in portions to eat later.

How to Freeze Chicken Barley Soup:

Freeze leftovers in individual containers or in one large container for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator for one or two days depending on the size and then reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

Variations:

  • If you can’t find barley, sub it with farro or quinoa as a gluten-free option. Pasta can also be used, adjust cook time as directed.
  • If you have leftover rotisserie chicken you can use that instead.

Chicken Barley Soup in a bowl with spoon.Chicken Barley Soup in a pot.

More Chicken Soup Recipes You’ll Love:

Chicken Barley Soup
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5 from 24 votes
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Chicken Barley Soup

3
5
1
SP
262 Cals 31 Protein 24 Carbs 4 Fats
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Yield: 6
COURSE: Soup
CUISINE: American
As the days get colder, warm up with a bowl of Chicken and Barley Soup, made with carrots, onions, celery, chicken breasts, and barley.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 lbs skinless bone-in chicken breast, makes 14 oz cooked
  • 7 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 cup dry pearl barley
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Heat a large heavy pot or dutch oven on medium heat. Add the oil, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to the pot and stir.
    vegetables in a dutch oven.
  • Add chicken, broth, parsley, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer covered over low heat until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
    chicken soup in a pot
  • Remove the chicken, shred or cut the meat, discard the bones and return the chicken to the pot along with the barley, adjust the salt if needed and add fresh ground pepper. Simmer an additional 30 minutes, or until the barley is cooked.
  • Discard the bay leaves and serve. Makes about 9 cups.

Nutrition

Serving: 11/2 cups, Calories: 262kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 83mg, Sodium: 744mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 2g
Blue Smart Points: 3
Green Smart Points: 5
Purple Smart Points: 1
Points +: 6
Keywords: barley, chicken and vegetable soup, chicken barley soup, hearty chicken soup

 

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141 comments

  1. That was excellent. I used Costco’s pulled rotisserie chicken and Quick Pearled Barley. Plus I have leftovers!

  2. Another winner of course. This soup is delicious and my 95 year old mother in law went bananas over it, ha! I made it a week ago and will make it again tomorrow. Thanks again Gina for another wonderful meal!

  3. Any tips on using leftover rotisserie chicken? Do I just add it in the last 15/20 minutes of cooking?

  4. Maybe a stupid question, do you cook the chicken before adding it to the soup? Thanks! Looks amazing!!

  5. Just made this soup in the crock pot following another person’s review and IT WAS DELICIOUS. Everyone loved it! I did not have bone-in chicken breast so I added 1 tsp of Better than Bouillon. I also added potatoes based on another review. Last weekend I made Gina’s Instant Pot Turkey Meatball and Ditalini soup which was a huge hit with the family and next weekend I already have plans to try her chicken noodle soup.

    Gina- your recipes are so delicious and healthy! Keep them coming!

    Heidi

  6. Oh my goodness this was good! Even my very picky son who HATES soup loved it! A bit of advice though.. don’t forget about it after you cook it the barley will expand! I cooked it in my instant pot and it only took me 16 minutes. DEFINITLY making this again 😊

  7. This soup is delicious and so satisfying. My husband and really enjoyed it.

  8. Update for those looking to make this in slow cooker- I added all ingredients to slow cooker (chicken first), cooked on LOW for 5 hours. Then added barley and cooked for another 2 hours, for a total of 7 hours. I also skipped out on the oil and added more seasonings. Came out amazing. 

  9. Has anyone made this in a crockpot? What time did you use and when did you add the barley?

  10. YUMMY! Never thought my kids would like barley…but they did! What a great substitute for pasta in soup. We will definitely use it more often. I couldn’t find bone in chicken breast so I had to use some Better then Bullion to add some flavor, but that is the only change I made. Will definitely hold onto this recipe and make again.

  11. My family loved this soup. i added some fresh diced tomatoes when i put the barley in for more flavor. Also, i noticed when it was done there was not too much liquid so i had to add some more low sodium broth. But i will def make again with the two tweeks i made.

  12. Made this for dinner tonight and it was a big hit!!  Very yummy!! 

  13. Can you make this in the instapot?

  14. Can I ask. I’m not a fan of actually eating celery. Can I cook it in big sections for the flavour, then remove? 

  15. Does this recipe absorb the broth like Left over chicken noodle soup ? Hate that:(

  16. Is there an instant pot version? I haven’t cooked barley in my IP yet but would love to try this recipe! Thanks!

    • Ck the IP instructions for barley. I know that older stovetop manual pressure cookers had cautions about barley & beans being cooked in them.

  17. I have made this twice in the last two weeks. It is a new family favorite and will be added to my regular rotation! I think the garlic and fresh parsley really make this special. I like a lot of barley, so I used 1 cup and raised the broth to 8 cups instead of 7. I also add some salt. (About 3/4 tsp.) Thank you so much for this easy and wonderful soup!

  18. Great recipe–I always double it and add a rinsed can of Great Northern beans, 8-10 quartered small potatoes, and a handful or 2 of spinach. Delish!

  19. BEST SOUP EVER! BETTER THAN CLASSIC CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP, IN MY OPINION!

  20. This soup is so good. And my family did not know it was low cal. They all loved it!

  21. I loved this soup & will definitely make again!  Here are some notes I have:

    I used 1 Tbsp dried parsley instead fresh (I hate dealing with fresh herbs & using dried saves time)

    I bought 1.75 lbs bone-in chicken breast.  After taking the skin off and cooking it, i ended up with a little under 14 oz of shredded chicken.  

    I rinsed the barley, which is usual when cooking barley but the recipes doesn’t state that. 

    I used chicken stock, not low sodium & it did not come out too salty.  

    It didn’t come out very soupy so the next time I make it, I will either be very careful to level off the measuring cup of barley or I will use 8 cups of broth.  

    This recipe is a keeper & I really enjoyed it!  

  22. Soooo good! I made a few mistakes but it didn’t seem to affect the soup in any negative way. I add 2/3 c of brown rice at the beginning with the chicken instead of half way through. Then I left the soup simmering for three and 1/2 hours after I shredded the chicken. This seemed to really concentrate the flavor. I ended up adding 3 more cups of broth to make it more soup like but it was still so flavorful. I’ll definitely be making it again!!!

  23. Just wanted to let you know that when you print the recipe, the smart points are different than on the website. I LOVE your recipes. They are my go to recipes for most things. Keep them coming!

  24. Gina,

    Thank you for all you do for tasty healthy cooking. I love this recipie. It’s one of my favorite. I’m lazy today. (; How would I adapt your Chicken Barely soup from stovetop to instant Pot?

    • So good! Made this tonight with leftover roast chicken (also a Skinny Taste recipe to roast the chicken) – it is great! Lots of flavor with adding in the roast chicken drippings (minus the fat, skimmed that off) and the barley makes it so filling. Both hubby and I love it, will be making again!

  25. Me and my fiance love this soup!!!

  26. I added herbes de provence and about a cup of half and half and a cup of chardonnay, switching out for the cups of broth. It is excellent.

  27. Do you have a slow cooker version of this? I don’t know how to adapt for slow cooker. Thanks.

  28. This recipe is amazing! Incredibly filling, and tasty. It had so much in it I could barely finish the serving size amount. 

  29. All of my favorite soup ingredients! Do you have an Instant Pot version?

  30. There is no mention as to what type of barley to use, whole or pearl, can you clarify?

    I made it this weekend with pearl barley because that’s what I had on-hand and it’s delicious! Just wondering how/if the cooking should be altered if using whole barley.

    Thanks!

  31. LOVED this recipe–I will be making another pot of it this weekend. I used chicken bone broth and the soup is so delicious and filling. Perfect for my winter lunches!

  32. This came out delish. I used shredded chicken that I cooked in my instapot the day before. I put it in after the soup was done. Came out perfect,  

  33. Would it be ok to throw everything into a crockpot and let it cook on low for about 4 hours? Can I put the barley in at that time or should I wait? If so, when should I put in the barley?

  34. My entire family loves this soup! I frequently make it with boneless chicken thighs – so easy and so full of flavor! Worth the added points for thighs instead of breasts!

  35. I had some chicken breasts to burn up and did a search on “Chicken Soup” and came across this gem. You know how you feel when you eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup, or chicken corn rivel, or chicken and rice? This soup emanates that same nostalgic vibe. It’s a keeper! Yummalicious!

  36. Great flavor! This will now be on my go to soup list.

  37. HI! I’m just curious why this recipe is 3 smart points. I think you only have to count the barley and the oil. Am I correct? 

  38. Could these be converted to instant pot?

  39. I love all your recipes but especially your soups. I did this in the instant pot. Sautéed the veggies, then put the barley in to sauté and get brown then add my chicken and broth, bay leaf and put it on manual for 20 minutes, natural release 10. Yummy!! Thank you Gina!

  40. Canada Thanksgiving was this past weekend, I used the left over Turkey and broth instead of chicken. I have made it both ways but I  think the turkey is best! 

  41. I just want to say I love your website, it’s helps me such much with dinner ideas. I made this soup twice last week, it was such a hit i love it!

  42. I make this soup every week!   It’s a great go-to with a salad for a quick dinner.  And, I 
    bring a small container for lunch all week –  Everyone comments on how deliciious 
    it smell!  

  43. Do you soak the barley first? 

  44. Amazing recipe!  Big hit with husband which is surprising since I wasn’t sure if he would like barley.  Loved it so much had to write a comment!

  45. Just made it for the first time…my apartment (and the outside hall!) smell A-MAZ-ING! Another winner. Thanks Gina!

  46. Absolutely delicious recipe Gina.  Better than any chicken soup recipe I have ever made ! (Sorry Grandma)…..

  47. Hi Gina I love all of your recipes, they have changed my life! Question for this recipe, what if you wanted to use quick barley?

  48. Gina, I love your recipes and this is one of my favorite. I have a nasty summer cold and want to make this soup but prefer to do it in the slow cooker. It will just be easier. What do you recommend for time?

  49. Made this today for a chilly Sunday lunch. So yummy!! Only thing I did different was I cooked the barley on the side at the same time as the chicken was cooking to save time. Looking forward to making a lot of recipes off of this site!

  50. Made this recipe in my instant pot using the soup function. Chicken fell off the bone and easy to shred. Would add more carrots next time. Did not use low sodium chicken broth and needed to add salt. Added thyme. My family enjoyed!

  51. So good! I substituted cilantro for the parsley, delicious!

  52. This is an awesome soup recipe. Cooked in a soup maker and it turned out fabulous. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe Gina.

  53. Do you think this would work with boneless chicken or is there a reason to have bone-in chicken (more flavour??)?

  54. My husband doesn't "think" he likes chicken soup, but changed his mind today. I'm going to make another batch soon.

  55. After you add the barley do you simmer it covered or uncovered?

  56. I made this yesterday for my lunches this week. Delicious! Thanks for the great recipe.

  57. Hi there! If I wanted to do a crock pot version of this, would the recipe amounts be the same and it all goes into the crock pot at the same time? yes…i'm looking for something easy-peazy 🙂

  58. I use boneless chicken and very low sodium broth for my dad who is on a salt restricted diet. He loves it!!

  59. Thank you Gina! Currently cooking and it smells delicious 🙂 Added a bit more garlic for my husband suffering from man-flu. From your #1 fan in New Zealand 🙂

  60. If u cook the chicken raw from the start with all the ingredients, what happens with the fat skimming that is mentioned in other recipes? Wouldn't this need it too? I thought that is why the chicken is cooked first separately.

  61. This soup is amazing! Easy to eat and filling, great for lunch. Thanks, Gina.

  62. This soup was over the top. Since I had the rotisserie chicken, I added it shredded after the onions and carrots cooked for 15 minutes, along with the all the rest of the ingredients except the barley. Added more kosher salt and pepper and cooked another 15 minutes. Then added about a teaspoon of curry(not hot) and the barley. Cooked the 40 minutes and viola…. Fantastic soup. Had two helpings. My husband lived it as well.
    Thank you.

  63. Making this now, sans my idea of first roasting skin on bone in chicken breasts. Mainly because I had purchased a rotisserie chicken from Costco and only used a small amount for dinner.
    Using pearl barley so I hope I am using the right type. You never answered our question on this. Too busy probably.
    Added some curry.
    So when it is done will let you know if it turned out.

  64. Wow! This looks amazing! I am in the process of creating my meal plan for next week and this is going on the list! Can't wait to make this! Thanks for sharing!

  65. Made this tonight for dinner and it was a hit with everyone in the family! It smelled so good cooking it. I used chicken breast instead because that is what I had dried parsley and it was still delicious! Thanks for such a wonderful recipe! will definitely be making it again! Love this website and your cookbook.

  66. Is there a way to make this in a crock pot? It looks absolutely delicious, but I rarely have the time.

  67. Any ideas on swapping out the chicken for a vegetarian substitute?

  68. Cold and snowy day today so decided to make this soup for supper tonight with an Italian bread. It was delicious. Will definitely make it again. Thanks Gina.

  69. I saw this recipe when you posted it a week ago and made a note of it. Yesterday I cooked an oven roaster chicken (over six pounds). They were on sale for $0.99/pound. I had some for dinner then took most of the meat off the bone and put the carcass in a pot to boil. By the time it was done, it was too hot to put in the fridge so I stuck it outside on the brick patio overnight. This morning it was simple to skim off the hardened fat and remove whatever meat remained. So I started your recipe with a bunch of fresh stock and cooked chicken. The only thing that I added to your recipe was a little thyme. Excellent soup!

    The rest of the chicken is going into black bean, corn & chicken enchiladas and chicken fried rice (not) from Stacey Snacks. I think I got my money's worth 😉

  70. so i made this soup last week and while it was delicious, my barley soaked up all the the stock – there was no liquid left! help! what did i do wrong?

    • Nothing. Barley, rice or noodles tend to do that in soup. Either add a little water since the seasoning from the stock is still in there or maybe make a little cup of bouillon on the side and add that.

  71. Thank you for this delicious, easy recipe. Then entire family, even my 6 year old, absolutely loved it!

  72. 'tis the season! That looks like a must-try!

  73. I made this over the weekend and it was delicious! My husband and I both loved it and we will be making it again soon! Thanks Gina for a great recipe!

  74. Can you use boneless chicken breast also?

  75. Thanks for sharing this recipe – I made it yesterday and it was thoroughly enjoyed! Reminded me very much of a soup my (Polish) nana used to make 🙂

  76. Gina~
    I am wondering if you used pearled barley or quick cooking barley, and would it change the amount used in the recipe either way? Thanks for the simple recipes, and I am looking forward to making this recipe!

  77. Thanks for this recipe I didn't have bone in chicken breast but I had 11oz of chicken thigh bone in skinless. What would be the point difference.
    Thanks Bunny

  78. Gina dear, with a pot of soup you can add what ever your hear or family desire

  79. Today I made your beef barley soup and thought of if I can make it with chicken. Voila! You answered my question. Love all of your recipes. You never bring us down Gina. Can't wait to try this soon!

  80. I made this today and it was absolutely wonderful!! My husband and son gobbled it up!! I love your recipes and frankly…I don't care where your recipes come from…they are AWESOME!! Thank you for sharing them all with us. Have a wonderful weekend.

  81. I just bought everything to make this but forgot the barley! Would quinoa or farro work?

  82. After last week (when I had a really bad cold, and lost my voice for two days), soups are my favourites! This one looks delicious!

  83. Soup certainly is perfect for these cold days!

  84. Wow Chicken Barley Soup

  85. Oh wow this looks delicious and super healthy. Thanks for sharing.

    Jess x

    http://chasinglifeandme.blogspot.co.uk

  86. I love that you added barley! So much healthier than regular noodles!

  87. This would be perfect for the gloomy weather we are having in the Pacific Northwest right now. I'm adding all the ingredients to my shopping list right now!

  88. As soon as I saw the recipe, I went out and bought the ingredients and its cooking right now. Looks great. Thanks for the recipe.

  89. Looks amazing – can I use ground turkey instead of chicken?

    • I just made soup last week with ground turkey breast and it was delicious! My other ingredients were the same as this recipe. I do make sure to use "Bob's Red Mill Hull-less Barley" which is whole grain with only the very outermost inedible layer removed. Pearl barley tastes great and cooks a lot faster but a lot of the best nutrition is removed in the "pearling" process.

  90. I would love to make this in the slow cooker too. I would love your input on that as well. 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful inspiration!!!

  91. I made this last night for dinner. It was delicious!! Thanks Gina!

  92. I too, am interested in a slow cooker variation. Would you add the barley in at the beginning?

  93. @ashley … Honestly some people are envious of others success. Probably the first thing that happened when human's cultivated barley was to ferment it making beer. Then second thing human beings did with barley was to make chicken soup. I bet the barley beer went well with the soup.

    Gina thank you for all your great recipes. This looks look great.

  94. I love the idea of this soup. I think I would like to roast the the chicken then add. The skin and bones would give the flavor to the chicken but after the chicken cools and is shredded, one can eliminate the fat of the chicken leaching into the broth.
    Can one use quick cooking barley or would you stick with the regular? Need to go and but some.

  95. Wow – looks like the comments are as interesting as this lovely soup recipe. I make one similar also, but it is not exactly the same. This version looks wonderful, thanks for sharing it.

  96. Possibly one of the dumbest comments I've ever seen. A), the recipe is INHERENTLY a different recipe once it's altered even by one ingredient or amount, and B) I just checked the Real Simple recipe and it's totally different, and C) – Gina, ARE you in grad school? Perhaps some people are newer to cooking than others and don't know that there aren't laws governing the millions of recipe variations on the internet. Gina than you for providing YOUR low fat VERSION of a soup that has been around since soup was invented.

  97. HI Gina,
    I've made this recipe twice now from the Real Simple magazine. Why didn't you give them credit? You only changed the thighs to breasts, didn't mention pearl barley, added bay leaves. If you were in grad school you would need to list your inspiration or source.

    • I don't read Real Simple magazine, but it's just a basic chicken soup recipe that I adapted from my Beef Barley soup. The fact that they are similar doesn't surprise me since it is has a basic soup base. Whenever I adapt a recipe I always give credit to the original source.

    • Ashley, I agree with the others. Gina is sharing recipes that she uses, and by the comments, you can see how her recipes are with everyone. Why would you want to make such nasty comments. The changes Gina made changed the recipe from the one you saw to the one she makes. Might I suggest that if you have a problem with her recipes that you don't visit them anymore? I think you have been outvoted all of us to 1. Have a great week. S2

    • Ashley, Gina gets millions of visitors a month to her blog she recently published a cookbook thats been on the NY times best sellers list for several weeks…. do you really think she gained all that web traffic and published a successful debut cookbook by copying and pasting other peoples works? Apparently grad school doesn't teach common sense.

    • Ashley, how about you fck way off? Thanks for the original recipes Gina, you are my source for kitchen inspiration.

  98. How would you make this in a crockpot?

  99. I just made a big pot of chicken soup yesterday. I love barley in anything but hedging towards noodles for a change. Comfort food at its best.

  100. I like to use leeks instead of onion but this soup looks really good. I love barley soups.

  101. I has been SERIOUSLY cold here, and I need something to warm me up. I love barley…but I've actually never had it with chicken so clearly I've been missing out on life, as this look incr-EDIBLE. Pinned!

  102. This looks absolutely gorgeous! I am thinking about making it this weekend but substituting the barley for short grain brown rice. Do you think the measurement would be 1:1?

  103. Not sure if this is a stupid question but do I cook the chicken before I add it? Or do I add it raw and let it cook in the broth. Seems the first is safest but wanted to make sure!

  104. I have some rotisserie chicken breast that I need to use up. Wonder if it would work ok just adding it with the barley.

  105. Maybe Olaf can give you a nice warm hug for us because this is our kind of soup!!! Barley is just the best. And you cannot beat a huge pot of delicious soup ~ I'll gladly eat it for a week or more and re-heat (you can beat a great re-heat either) for lunch each day. And when a soup is just excellent, I have zero problems for eating the same thing for lunch and dinner!

  106. making this weekend! Adding dill instead of parsley. Love the dill flavor in my chicken soup.

  107. I love barley with chicken soup rather than noodles. Much healthier.

  108. Oh my gosh, my favorite kind of soup in the winter! That looks delicious!