This Chicken Barley Soup is made with juicy chicken, tender barley, and vegetables like onion, carrot, and celery in a comforting chicken broth. Nutritious and filling, warm up with a big bowl of this hearty chicken and barley soup.
Chicken Barley Soup Recipe
This chicken barley soup may be one of the million different ways to make chicken soup, but it’s one of my very favorites. Almost identical to my chicken soup recipe (but with barley) or my chicken noodle soup (but with barley instead of noodles) the same basic process of making the perfect homemade chicken soup applies to this recipe.
Lighter than the more familiar beef barley soup, the ingredients you’ll need to make chicken barley soup are simple:
- chicken thighs
- veggies (carrots, onion, celery – also known as the mirepoix)
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- hulled barley or pearl barley
How to Make Chicken Barley Soup
The first step is to poach the chicken thighs in a large pot of lightly salted water. Poaching is simple, add the chicken to a large pot or Dutch oven, cover with about 10 cups of cold water, add a pinch of salt and a bay leaf or two, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and strain the broth.
Next, cook the mirepoix over medium heat in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes and then add the minced garlic. Cook for another minute or so.
Add the strained chicken broth to the pot and add the hulled barley. Bring to a boil before reducing to a gentle simmer. Cook until the barley is tender.
In the last 10 minutes of cooking, return the chicken back to the soup, stir in the lemon juice, and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
Need a faster chicken barley soup?
Follow these tips to get your chicken barley soup on the table in half the time:
- Use pre-made, store-bought chicken broth or chicken stock.
- Add leftover shredded chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken.
- Swap hulled barley for pearl barley which cooks in half the time.
There is no need to cook barley before adding it to the soup. Pearl barley will thicken the soup more than hulled barley, so depending on your personal preference and which barley you plan to use, you may want to consider cooking ahead of time.
If you find yourself wanting a thicker soup, you can make make a cornstarch slurry with equal parts cornstarch and water. Stir it into your soup as it cooks.
You can substitute the barley with couscous, brown rice, or wild rice.
Allow your soup to cool to room temperature before transferring it to freezer-safe airtight containers or ziplock bags. Freeze for up to 4 months.
Have you tried making this homemade chicken barley soup recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Chicken Barley Soup
- 10 cups cold water
- 2½ pounds chicken thighs (boneless skinless)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion (diced (more if you love onion like I do))
- 6 large carrots (peeled and chopped)
- 4 stalks celery (chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 cup hulled barley (or pearl barley)
- ½ lemon (juiced)
- salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Add the raw chicken thighs, bay leaves, and salt to a large Dutch oven or stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked – about 30-40 minutes.
- Once the chicken is fully cooked, carefully remove the chicken from the simmering broth. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot (we'll be adding the broth back to the pot a little later).
- Return the same pot or Dutch oven that was used to simmer the chicken back to the stovetop. Add the olive oil and set over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot. Mix well to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Return the strained chicken broth back to the pot. Add the hulled barley and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally. Simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
- As the soup simmers, shred the chicken. Add the cooked chicken back to the soup in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Stir in the fresh lemon juice and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve garnished with red chili flakes or fresh parsley, if desired.
- You may use pearl barley or hulled barley. Pearl barley cooks in about 25 minutes whereas hulled barley cooks in about 45 minutes.
- Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- After cooling you may notice that your soup has thickened. This is normal. Simply add additional water or chicken broth until desired thickness is reached.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)