Chicken Soup with Barley (To Go)

My mom is insecure unless she has a stash of this in her freezer. I’ve been making her chicken soup for as long as I’ve been cooking but the barley has only been part of the equation for a few years. When I started out, it was Chicken Noodle Soup. Well, mom started having issues with her cholesterol and she was eating soup every day for lunch. Then we went to rice. No help. Finally, barley. Works like a charm, its good for her and she likes it. One winter, I think it was in February, I was talking to my mom on the phone and she sounded terrible. She had a bad cold and was all congested. And, she told me, she didn’t have any more chicken soup in the freezer! Well, I felt bad. I went right to work in the kitchen and made a batch of chicken soup. I packaged and froze it. The next afternoon, I took it to UPS and had it overnight expressed. It cost a few bucks but was well worth it and, or course, she loved it and felt better almost immediately.

Probably more so than almost any other recipe, the ingredient list is more guidelines than anything else. This is for a 15 qt pot so you may want to adjust quantities. But, hey, it freezes well and if you’re going to make it, you might as well MAKE IT!

Chicken Soup with Barley (To Go)


  • 1 Chicken – I usually try to find a BIG one, around 5 to 6 lbs
  • Onions, chopped (I use frozen, chopped – 1 bag)
  • 2 cups barley, cooked
  • Celery, chopped (5 or 6 ribs)
  • Carrots, chopped (I use the small, peeled ones, halved – 1 bag- about 8 oz)
  • Chicken bouillon or soup base (not stock)
  • Vegetable bouillon or soup base, optional (not stock)


You may choose to use chicken pieces instead of starting with a whole one. Like I said, guidelines. I, however, start with a whole one. Must be a throw-back to living on the farm when I was little. We raised chickens.

You can also use all white meat or all dark meat but I recommend leaving the skin in and bone in. We’ll deal with undoing that later.
I like to call this “Chicken Deconstructed”.
Toss your chicken in a pot. This is one of my favorite soup pots. It’s a 15 qt. stock pot so take this into consideration when you adjust ingredients for the size pot you have. You do, however, want an entire chicken.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. I find if you leave the lid slightly off center, it reduces the possibility of boil-over.
After 15 or 20 minutes, you’ll notice some frothy stuff forming. Use a small sieve or a spoon and skim it off. Do this two or three times until it is gone.After 15 or 20 minutes, you’ll notice some frothy stuff forming. Use a small sieve or a spoon and skim it off. Do this two or three times until it is gone.
Now, add your carrots, celery and onions.

Cover (lid off center) and continue to simmer. After about an hour, begin to taste for seasoning. This is where I start adding boullion. Add a tablespoon or two at a time making sure it is fully incorporated before tasting to determine if it needs more. I usually don’t add any salt, particularly if I’m cooking for my mom. There’s enough salt in the boullion. For something a little different, you can also add some vegetable boullion. I think it brightens the taste a bit.
After about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or when the chicken is tender, remove it with a large slotted spoon and allow to cool until you can handle it.
Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones. Then shred or chop the chicken. Dealers choice. The chicken is usually tender enough to just pull apart with a fork. Return the shredded/chopped chicken to the pot with its veggie buddies.
Anywhere along the line, while there is a lull in the action, make your noodles, rice, barley or what ever you want to use in your soup. Since this is “mom stuff” and will be frozen for future transport, I made barley. If you’ll be serving this shortly, go ahead and add your noodles/rice/barley to the pot.

I line up my containers on the counter and have at it. I put a little barley in the bottom of each container and fill with the chicken soup. I leave them to cool for awhile then I put the lids on and put them in the freezer.
Barley in waiting.

You can save these containers from deli purchases or maybe your deli or deli section of your grocery store will sell you some. I use so many, I buy them a case at a time at a local restaurant supply store. If you have a restaurant supply store, consider buying a case and sharing with some friends who might be interested.
TA DA! Here it is, ready for the freezer and an eventual trip to mom’s.

This recipe (15 qt pot, remember) makes about 15 12 oz containers plus another two quarts for the cook’s dinner. Serve up your soup and let it snow ……. It's also great to have in the freezer when you have a cold or the flu, or if you have a friend who has a cold or the flu, or a quick lunch, or fill in the blank. Whenever, enjoy!


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