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."
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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.

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?

More Soup Recipes


Chicken Barley Soup with Kale and Butternut Squash

4.80 from 5 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
This easy chicken barley soup is packed with healthy vegetables like kale and squash, so delicious and good for you too!
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  • 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


  • 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).
  • Add chicken, kale, squash, broth, water and herbs and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, add barley, stir and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cover and cook for 50 minutes or until barley is tender.


Serving: 1of 8, Calories: 254kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 138mg, Sodium: 548mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.80 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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  1. Robin W. says:

    My family loves this recipe – including my daughter, who is fortunately a good eater, but not big on bitter greens or squash, so this is any easy way to get them both into her with no complaints. Great as is, but I often make it after Thanksgiving and use left over turkey and turkey stock instead of chicken.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad to hear it! I bet it’s great with leftover turkey, yum!