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Chicken Barley Soup

No question—this is my favorite barley soup! It's so filling that I serve it as a hearty main dish, and I have given the recipe to many of our friends and relatives. It simply tastes too good to keep to yourself! —Diana Costello, Marion, Kansas
  • Total Time
    Prep: 35 min. + cooling Cook: 1 hour
  • Makes
    5 servings (about 1-1/2 quarts)


  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (2 to 3 pounds), cut up
  • 8 cups water
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage


  • In a large stockpot, cook chicken in water until tender. Cool broth and skim off fat. Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones; discard bones and cut meat into cubes. Return meat to pan along with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 1 hour or until vegetables and barley are tender. Discard bay leaf.

Chicken Barley Soup Tips

Do you soak barley before cooking?

For this recipe, you do not need to presoak your barley; it will cook and expand sufficiently within the soup. But it’s largely a matter of personal preference. Pre-soaking barley breaks down harder-to-digest proteins in grains (such as gluten) and produces a less chewy texture.

What kind of barley do you use for soup?

You will often discover that pearl barley is used in soups, as it cooks faster than grains such as pot barley, which is less processed and takes longer preparation and cooking time. Check out this article on cooking whole grains, including barley.

How can you thicken barley soup?

To thicken barley soup that is too thin, you can make a “beurre manié”, which is softened butter mixed with an equal number of tablespoons flour. Mix in a small bowl with a fork, then stir gently into your soup as it heats. You can also create a slurry by combining equal parts cornstarch and cold water; stir the slurry into the soup at the end of cooking time. Learn more about thickening soups. Research contributed by Mark Neufang, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant
Nutrition Facts
1 cup: 259 calories, 5g fat (0 saturated fat), 89mg cholesterol, 127mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 31g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2-1/2 lean meat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable.

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  • Michele
    Apr 14, 2020

    How long do you initially cook the chicken in the water for? Thank you

  • Laura
    Jan 7, 2020

    I used chicken breasts, hulled barley to keep the healthy whole grain, and low sodium broth instead of water. Put it all into a pot for an hour and it was so easy. I’m sure it would have been even more flavorful as written, but with more steps and more fat. It thickened up with the barley to a stew like consistency. I’m not sure if it was supposed to do that but I loved it. My family was pleased with it but not raving. My husband thought it felt very light, which is good or bad. To me, the flavors here had depth and this was great healthy comfort food for a cold day- a great recipe and a keeper in my book. . I made sure to get permission from the fam to make it again. ??

  • herbsnflowers
    Mar 19, 2019

    Very good. Have made this several times.

  • cshenry1
    Nov 22, 2018

    I wanted a quick adaptation (no veggie chopping), so I used 1/2 frozen chopped onion and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables instead of the other vegetables and it was great! Next time, I will follow the recipe as onion, celery, and carrots are so good in chicken and noodles so I know they will be in this recipe.

  • doreensanzone
    May 27, 2016

    Full of spiced-up flavor. Roast chicken in soup formI I need to experiment more with the amount of barley. Also be aware that you will have to add liquid if you have any left over to reheat. My mom, sister and I all enjoyed this. I will definitely make it again when the weather turns chilly again.

  • heidiclark1
    Apr 25, 2016

    I came back to this recipe after making it two weeks ago. The broth really is delicious.

  • Dienna
    Sep 2, 2015

    This is one of the best recipes I have ever tried. This is absolutely delicious and very filling. I normally prefer the creamier soups so for this to hit a 5 star rating from me says a LOT about the quality.

  • jetluvs2cook
    Aug 20, 2015

    Very good and healthy soup! I used chicken breast, and instead of water used fat free chicken broth, I was out of bay leaves, so used thyme instead. Will be making this again for sure!

  • Wildroseww
    Jan 18, 2015

    Delicious! The only thing extra that I added was 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed & 2 stalks of celery. My family loved it.

  • Ltoper
    Jan 28, 2014

    My family and I loved it. Ty for the recipe. The only thing I did was to add chicken base. Very filling. Will make many more times.