This easy chicken barley soup is packed with healthy vegetables like kale and squash, so delicious and good for you too!

Front view of chicken barley soup in white bowl, with spoon along side, on a blue patterned cloth. Text overlay reads "Chicken barley soup with butternut squash & kale."

Stir-fry is one of my “clean-out the fridge” meals. Well, so is soup. And spaghetti too, for that matter. Apparently I’m always cleaning out my fridge.

Not cleaning my fridge (obviously), cleaning out my fridge.

Let’s not get confused here.

Cleaning OUT the fridge happens for a number of reasons:

  • I didn’t menu plan and am scrambling to make a meal.
  • I need to go grocery shopping but I’m putting it off until the weekend so I don’t have to take the kids with me.
  • I had a plan but I’m either a) too lazy exhausted to carry through with it or b) bored with the idea before I even make it. Happens all the time.

I’m super duper not good at measuring ingredients and writing down recipes when I make these clean-out-the-fridge-no-recipe-fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants meals.

But for this chicken barley soup, I actually wrote down the ingredients as I made it and translated my scribblings into a recipe that I can share with you. And it’s so delicious that I’m super excited to share it with you. I love it when good things happen. 

Closer view of chicken barley soup in white bowl with spoon alongside, on a blue patterned cloth.

This chicken barley soup is full of stuff that is really good for you and it really is simple to make. The butternut squash adds a subtle sweetness that balances the leafy green kale. I also add onions and celery, and you could easily add more veggies if you like.

Healthy gluten-free barley in this soup is perfect for the chewy bite it lends. Barley is so good in this vegan casserole with barley, bulgur, and vegetables or southwestern style barley casserole with ground turkey, made in a slow cooker.

And chicken is a must for my meat-loving husband. I use chicken thighs for this recipe but you could easily substitute breasts if you’re not a fan of thighs. For a vegetarian soup, simply leave the chicken out. This barley soup is plenty filling without chicken.

You could take this chicken barley soup a step further into easy-land by buying pre-cut squash, pre-washed and cut kale, and a rotisserie chicken from the store. Then all you’ll have to do is de-bone that beast (hate that job!) and throw it all together until the barley is nice and tender.

Snuggle up with a bowl of this soup, a blanket, and a fire in the fireplace or your favorite show on TV. Who says comfort food has to be unhealthy and laden with fat?

Looking for more easy soup recipes?


Closer view of chicken barley soup in white bowl with spoon alongside, on a blue patterned cloth.

Chicken Barley Soup with Kale and Butternut Squash

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This easy chicken barley soup is packed with healthy vegetables like kale and squash, so delicious and good for you too!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley (not quick cooking)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the onions and celery (stirring frequently) until onions are softened and translucent (about 7 minutes).
  2. Add chicken, kale, squash, broth, water and herbs and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, add barley, stir and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Cover and cook for 50 minutes or until barley is tender.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 of 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 254Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 548mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 31g sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: Love this soup! Good thing too, because it makes a ton.
Husband’s take: He like this a lot too — maybe even more than I do.
Changes I would make: None are necessary but like I said, this is a clean-out-the-fridge meal so if I didn’t have squash, I might throw in sweet potatoes or carrots. If I didn’t have kale, I might throw in chard or spinach.
Difficulty: Very easy.