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Close up of barley chicken & vegetable soup with striped napkin
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Barley Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Barley Chicken & Vegetable Soup is just what the doctor ordered for a warm-up on cold days. The soup starts out with cooked chicken, so it can be done in just about an hour—just be sure to meal-prep the veggies and soak the barley overnight. OR, use my suggested modifications to make the soup in your slow-cooker.
Course Soup
Cuisine American/Comfort Food
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 –6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pearl barley (see Recipe Note #1)
  • 3 tsp mixed herbs (e.g., Italian or Herbs de Provence)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 qts chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks or thick slices
  • 3 cups cooked chicken (or see Recipe Note #2)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup Romano cheese (for serving, optional)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions

TO MAKE THE SOUP ON THE STOVETOP

  • Add the oil to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened slightly, 5–7 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic, mushrooms, barley (pre-soaked and drained), mixed herbs, and bay leaves; sauté an additional minute.
  • Pour in the chicken stock and water, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover partially with a lid (I crack the lid open about 1/2") and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the cooked chicken. Continue simmering for 25 additional minutes. Check the barley for texture: if you prefer a softer consistency, continue to simmer up to 1 hour. (If the broth gets low, add an additional cup of water.) 
  • Check the seasoning of the soup, adjusting if needed. Serve topped with a sprinkling of Romano cheese, parsley, and a couple grinds of black pepper. 

TO MAKE THE SOUP IN THE SLOW-COOKER

  • The night before: sauté the mushrooms in a skillet until they give up their juices. Scrape the mushrooms and any juice into a plastic container and keep in the refrigerator.
  • Add all ingredients through the chicken stock and water to the slow-cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Set on low and cook for at least 6 and up to 8 hours. 
  • Check the broth: if it's low, add an additional cup of water. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Cook for an additional 15–20 minutes until warmed through. Check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Serve topped with a sprinkling of Romano cheese, parsley, and a couple grinds of black pepper.

Notes

  1. If you are using the stovetop method to make the soup, soak the barley overnight in 2 cups of water. Drain the barley before use.
  2. You can use uncooked chicken breasts and/or thighs: cut into bite-size pieces to make 3 cups.
    • For the stovetop method, add the chicken to the pot after the carrots, onions, and celery have sautéed for 3 minutes, then continue with the recipe.
    • For the crockpot method, add the chicken at the beginning of the slow-cook.
  3. If you're not a fan of mushrooms, zucchini would be a wonderful alternative. Slice it into half- or quarter-rings about 1/4" thick. For the stovetop method, add it during the last 15 minutes of cooking, checking to be sure that it doesn't overcook. For the crockpot method, do a pre-sauté the night before until the zucchini is just tender, then add to the crockpot for the last 5 minutes before serving so to warm it through.
WORK-AHEAD: prep the veggies and the chicken the night before. Alternatively, the completed soup will be even better 1–3 days after you make it. Just keep it covered in the refrigerator!