With grains, protein, and vegetables all in one pot, this soup is a complete meal unto itself! Ladled into bowls for a quick weeknight dinner, or stored in a thermos for a comforting hot lunch, it's the perfect antidote to your winter cooking needs.
It's great to have some go-to recipes up your sleeve for using leftover, cooked chicken, and this soup is one of my favorites. With Greek-inspired additions of lemon and oregano, its perky flavor lends a much-needed pop of freshness, making you forget that you're eating leftovers at all.
Since this is weeknight cooking we're talking about, I've used a couple shortcuts to make things quick and easy. For one thing, quick-cooking barley takes just ten minutes to become tender, and you can throw it right into the soup rather than cooking it separately. The Quaker variety is available at most grocery stores, and Trader Joe's also carries their own version.
Store-bought chicken broth also speeds things along considerably, but by all means, use the homemade stuff if you happen to have it on hand. You could make thing simpler still by purchasing a pre-chopped mirepoix mix if you like as well.
Chicken and Barley Soup
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 whole stalks celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth (store-bought or homemade)
1 cup water
1 cup pearled or quick-cooking barley
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
Parsley, to garnish
Heat the oil in a medium (3- to 5-quart) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the carrots, celery, onion, oregano, and salt. Stir to coat the vegetables with the oil, then cover the pot and let the vegetables sweat until the onions are translucent and carrots are softened, about 10 minutes. No need to stir while the vegetables are sweating.
Add the chicken broth, water, and barley to the pot. Bring up to a simmer, then cover and turn down to low. Let simmer until the barley is cooked through, 10 to 30 minutes depending on the variety you’ve used.
Uncover the pot and add the cooked chicken. Allow to warm through, about 2 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper to taste. Serve right away, garnished with parsley if desired.
- I like my soups with a generous squeeze of lemon juice — it really perks things up! Start with one tablespoon, taste, and add more if you like.
- Quick-cooking barley is a relatively new product, and it's a great weeknight staple to keep on hand since it takes only 10 minutes to cook through. I buy mine at Trader Joe's, and Quaker makes a variety as well.
- If you don't have cooked chicken on hand, you can make this recipe with raw chicken. Just add 1 1/2 pounds cubed, raw chicken to the pot after the vegetables have finished sweating, and sauté until opaque and cooked through.