Homemade Chicken Barley Soup


I love chicken barley soup.

The weather is changing.  I never like to think of myself as old, but in the last few years it’s inevitable that as the season turns from summer to fall and the temperature drops, I begin to feel it in my bones. My first inclination is to start overeating as my body thinks it’s time to prepare to hibernate for a long cold winter’s nap.  Suddenly every doughnut or cookie in site is in danger of being consumed—by me! Thank goodness when it gets this bad, I can always fall back on my easy to make homemade chicken soup.


The way I see it, there are three truly great parts to eating chicken soup.  First off, it always tastes delicious.  Second, I just feel better after eating it. And third, it’s really nice to have an easy-to-cook meal with fewer calories than most other recipes, yet one that satisfies most any day.


I can make this soup in less than an hour.

This simple recipe tastes great but is also very forgiving if you want to add other ingredients.

In today’s recipe I’m doing a very basic and easy to make chicken soup. Once you get the hang of this one, don’t be afraid to experiment and start adding other ingredients.  For example, one of my good friends passed along his chicken soup recipe.  It had tons of spices and ingredients, many of which were unexpected, and it was very delicious.  I hope to talk him into sharing that on another day.


Sometimes I'll buy a whole chicken and use the leftovers for soup.

I found this grilled chicken in the refrigerated section at Costco. Look for a twin pack.


When it comes to preparing chicken soup, one of the things I do to make life easier is buy pre-cooked chicken.  Sometimes I’ll do that at Costco, or I’ll buy a roasted chicken from the grocer, make a meal out of it, and then de-bone the leftovers for my soup the next day.  Of course, I’ve also been known to cut up and brown raw chicken, but that takes a bit more work.


Let’s Gather Our Ingredients


For this recipe we’ll need:


Use fresh ingredients for the best taste.

If you don’t like barley, you can substitue pasta.

1-2 cups of cooked chicken cubed or broken up

2-3 tablespoons olive or other cooking oil

1 large sweet onion chopped

2-3 large raw carrots chopped

1 cup celery chopped

5 chicken bouillon cubes and 5 cups water or equivalent amount of chicken broth

3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon parsley

1/2 cup pearled barley dry

Salt as needed




If you are starting with raw chicken, pour a little oil in the pan and brown it first.


You'll want about one large sweet onion.

Start by chopping up your veggies.

Otherwise, start with the oil and then chop and add the onions on a medium to medium high heat.  If you start the onions on the lower end of the range (i.e. medium), you can chop the other veggies as you go.  Otherwise, if you want to do it all on high heat chop everything first.


Toss the carrots in with the onions.

Try to cut the carrots in roughly equal-sized pieces.

Add the chopped carrots after the onions.  I try to cut them is roughly equal chunks with an aim to keep the pieces relatively small.  This allows them to cook faster and more evenly.


I added my celery.

You don’t need to cook these all the way through. We’re just getting a head start.

Add the celery next.  Now, stir up all the veggies for a few minutes to help raise their temperature.  You aren’t out to cook them all the way through here.  You just want to get them started.


If you didn’t start with raw chicken, add your cooked chicken in now and continue to stir a couple more minutes.


You could use a tea pot to warm the water first.

My instant hot water tap helps me get my soup to a boil in no time.

Add the water next.  I’ve got one of those under the sink mounted hot water “Instant Taps” which I just love.  I can take my water directly from it without the need to run a bunch of water all the way from our main hot water tank.  Starting with hot water instead of cold water speeds up cooking time by several minutes.  As an alternative, you can warm some water in a tea kettle as you’re stir frying the veggies.


Cover the pot and allow to simmer after you've added all the ingredients.

Don’t forget to add the bouillon and other spices. Taste first before adding salt.

Now that the water is in the pan, add the bouillon, pepper, parsley, garlic and especially the barley.  I don’t usually add salt to this recipe as I find the bouillon contains plenty, but adjust to your preference. Bring everything to a boil and then back off the temperature to medium low.  Now, cover the pot and let simmer on a low bubbling boil—the hard work is done.


At this point, the barley and carrots will be the two items to watch to tell you when your soup is done.  You want the carrots to soften so that when you poke them with a fork you don’t meet a lot of resistance.  Also, you want the barley to cook through.  If it’s at all crunchy it’s not done.  If you set the timer for about 40 to 45 minutes after adding the barley, you should be good to go.


When the timer goes off, check for doneness.  If either carrots or barley need a little more time keep cooking.  Otherwise, dish your soup into serving bowls and call everyone to the table.


Serves 4 – 6 depending on serving size and appetite.  Tastes great with crackers, toast or all by itself.


If you’ve been eating chicken soup out of a can, please try this one.  I’m betting you may never go back.




If you enjoyed this recipe you may want to read:
Homemade Cream Of Mushroom Soup
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