Before you clamor, I’m going to repeat our mantra. Being dairy-free isn’t just about alternatives. It’s mostly about enjoying what is dairy free. And this chicken barley soup offers a lot of naturally dairy-free comfort in the cooler months. When I first made it, my husband asked, “Where did you learn to make such good soup?” I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a compliment, but I did take it as a firm nod of approval for this soup.
The Best Dairy-Free Chicken Barley Soup
I first shared this easy recipe back in 2010. It has made many repeat appearances in our home ever since. Consequently, I have made some updates to the recipe, and also have some tips and options to offer for the ingredients.
- More Onion – You can certainly use 1 whole yellow onion, if you like.
- Garlic – Garlic fans can sauté 1 minced garlic clove with the other vegetables.
- Barley – I use pearl barley, which is the more common type, and cooks more quickly. If you use hulled barley, or barley groats, you will need to extend the cook time.
- Herbs – Thyme is my favorite in this dairy-free chicken barley soup. But you can mix things up with sage, oregano, or parsley. And you can use fresh instead of dried, if you prefer. 1 tablespoon fresh herbs is roughly equivalent to 1 teaspoon dried.
- Broth – Be aware that some chicken broths do contain milk. Read the label and see our Best Dairy-Free Broth Guide for suggestions.
- Chicken – This chicken barley soup is a great way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken or diced chicken breast. If preparing it fresh, 1 pound of chicken breasts makes about 3 cups of diced chicken. For a different spin, you can use dairy-free chicken sausage. One 8 or 12 ounce package (cooked) works great in this recipe. When using sausage, or if the chicken is salted, I omit the added salt altogether.
Special Diet Notes: Chicken Barley Soup
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and soy-free.
For gluten-free chicken soup, substitute 1 cup short-grain brown rice or quinoa for the barley. Reduce the cooking time to 30 to 40 minutes for the rice or about 20 minutes
for the quinoa.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped or diced
- 1 cup sliced celery, about ¼-inch thick (optional)
- ½ cup pearl barley (see post above for gluten-free option)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 cups dairy-free chicken broth
- 3 cups cooked shredded or diced chicken
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Ground pepper, to taste (optional)
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and celery (if using), and sauté for a few minutes, or until the onions are soft.
- Add the barley and thyme, and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the broth, chicken, and salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to low and cover. Let the soup simmer for 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
- Season to taste with fresh ground pepper, if desired.