Soupe Jo is a rich chicken barley soup packed with veggies. Think of it as the Persian version of classic chicken noodle soup. It’s a hearty and comforting soup recipe perfect for welcoming fall’s first chilly days and kicking away the winter blues.

two bowls of soupe jo with spoons garnished with half and half and chopped parsley, surrounded by a small bowl of chopped parsley, and a slice of crusty bread.
Photo Credits: Mariam Hamdy


A Hug in a Bowl

Chicken soup for many brings to mind mom’s special recipe or a comforting dish from our homeland. Whether it’s Greek Avgolemono (lemon chicken soup) or Turkish Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası (red lentil soup) or Italian Pastina, there’s a certain comfort that comes from a warm bowl of homemade soup. It’s medicine in food form, nurturing us as children, and one we later cook for our own families.

For us Persians, Soupe Jo is our medicinal chicken soup—the Persian penicillin. We also have a turnip soup which is a go-to for poor health but it doesn't come close to this recipe for me. This chicken barley soup has a velvety, silky creaminess from the barley and familiar flavors of carrots and celery. Everything marries perfectly with the chicken and other aromatics for a very nutritious and balanced dish.

The traditional recipe is thickened using a bechamel sauce and heavy cream. In this lighter version, I partially blend the soup for the same effect. I also add a touch of half and half or Greek yogurt, which enriches the soup despite its lower fat content.

Table of Contents
  1. A Hug in a Bowl
  2. Chicken Barley Soup Ingredients
  3. How to Make Soupe Jo
    1. Cook the Barley
    2. Cook the Chicken
    3. Finish and Serve
  4. How to Make this Soup Recipe Vegetarian 
  5. How to Store Chicken Barley Soup
  6. What to Serve with Chicken Barley Soup
  7. You'll Also Like: More Chicken Soup Recipes
  8. Soupe Jo (Persian Chicken and Barley Soup) Recipe
ingredients for soupe jo including chicken, chicken stock, olive oil, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves, lemon, half and half, parsley, salt and pepper.


Chicken Barley Soup Ingredients

This traditional Persian chicken barley soup recipe features all easy-to-find ingredients. Your local supermarket should have them all if you don’t already have them in your fridge, freezer or pantry!

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Onion or leek: This fresh aromatic flavors the soup and brings a warming quality thought to relieve cold symptoms. 
  • Garlic: Minced for the strongest flavor (see our tips on how to mince garlic), or crushed for a milder taste.
  • Celery: Gives the soup a rich, earthy and peppery flavor profile.
  • Carrot: Adds sweetness and pops of orange color.
  • Pearl barley: Barley that has been processed to remove its outer hull. It is the most common form of barley because it cooks faster and is less chewy than other grains. You can find pearl barley in the grain aisle, or online at our shop
  • Bay leaves: Add an incredible depth of flavor to the soup.
  • Chicken broth: Use a good quality chicken stock or a homemade version. Remember to adjust seasoning based on whether you are using a low-sodium or standard variety.
  • Chicken: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts add lean yet comforting protein. 
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice lifts the richness. 
  • Half and half, yogurt, or milk: I use “single cream” to add richness, which translates in the US to half and half. You can substitute with Greek yogurt or whole milk if you’d like. 
  • Fresh cilantro: Complements the other flavors with its lemony and peppery profile. You can use parsley in its place. 
  • Salt and pepper: Season the soup.
soupe jo in a large post surrounded by small bowls of chopped parsley and cream, and a plate of sliced crusty bread.


How to Make Soupe Jo

To make this barley chicken soup, you only need a large pot with a lid. Here’s our step-by-step guide:


Cook the Barley

  • Soak the barley (optional). Rinse 1 cup of barley. If you’d like it to be extra fluffy, soak it in cold water for one hour. 
  • Cook the onion. Place a large pot on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, followed by 1 finely diced onion. Cook until the onion turns golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and vegetables. Stir in 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 finely diced celery stalks, and ½ of a large grated carrot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Add the pearled barley. Drain the pearled barley and add to the pan. Stir until the barley is fully incorporated.vegetables and barley being sautéed in a pot with a wooden spoon.
  • Simmer. Add 2 bay leaves and 7 ½ cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.barley, vegetables and bay leaves simmering in a pot of chicken stock.


Cook the Chicken

  • Cook the chicken. Add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and place a lid on the pan. Poach until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the breast, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the soup and set aside to cool. barley, vegetables, bay leaves and chicken breast simmering in a pot of chicken stock.
  • Add fresh lemon juice. Squeeze in the juice from one lemon. Stir and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Leave to simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the pearl barley is tender. Check and stir the soup occasionally. 
  • Shred the chicken. Use two forks to shred the chicken and set aside. 
  • Partially blend of the soup. Take an immersion blender place it into one side of the pot. Blend just a little of the soup to thicken. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle a few cups of the soup into a standard blender, blend, and then mix it back into the soup. 


Finish and Serve

  • Finish the soup. Stir in 3 tablespoons of half and half, the shredded chicken breast, remaining ½ of a grated carrot, and 1 small bunch of minced cilantro (save a little cilantro for garnish). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Simmer the soup for a few minutes to ensure the shredded chicken is warmed through.
  • Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil and a little more half and half (or a dollop of yogurt). Finish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and serve warm.
a ladle-full of soupe jo being lifted from a pot.


How to Make this Soup Recipe Vegetarian 

Make this soup fully vegetarian by substituting sliced mushrooms for the chicken and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock. If you are using mushrooms instead of chicken, saute them in a little olive oil before adding them to the soup to release their nutty flavor.

The half-and-half can be left out or substituted with a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt or milk.


How to Store Chicken Barley Soup

Allow leftovers to cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in your freezer for up to 3 months. 

To reheat, allow frozen soup to thaw in your refrigerator overnight. Microwave the thawed soup, or place in a saucepan over low heat and stir until it’s piping hot.

soupe jo in a bowl garnished with half and half and chopped parsley, surrounded by small bowls of olive oil, chopped parsley and half and half, and slices of crusty bread.


What to Serve with Chicken Barley Soup

The barley makes this chicken soup very hearty and filling, so serving it on its own is absolutely fine. However, some freshly baked crusty bread such as a baguette, barbari, or focaccia drizzled in olive oil are a lovely accompaniment. If you’re attempting to kick a cold, try plenty of lemon ginger tea throughout the day in addition to this warming chicken barley soup.

You'll Also Like: More Chicken Soup Recipes

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Soupe Jo (Persian Chicken and Barley Soup)

photo of author mersedeh prewer.Mersedeh Prewer
soupe jo in a bowl with a spoon garnished with half and half and chopped parsley, surrounded by small bowls of chopped parsley and half and half, and slices of crusty bread.
A traditional Persian chicken soup made with pearl barley, root vegetables and flavored with earthy, peppery and citrusy notes. Nourishing and creamy, this soup is perfect any time you need a little extra comfort.
Prep – 20 minutes
Cook – 45 minutes
Total – 1 hour 5 minutes
Cuisine:
Persian
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 white or yellow onion or medium leek, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons half and half, Greek yogurt, or whole milk
  • Small bunch of fresh cilantro or parsley, leaves and tender stems finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Soak the barley (optional). If you’d like extra fluffy barley, soak it in cold water for one hour.
  • Cook the onion. Place a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, followed by the onion and cook until it turns golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and vegetables. Stir in the garlic, celery, and ½ of the grated carrot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Add the pearled barley. Drain the pearled barley and add to the pan. Stir until the barley is fully incorporated.
  • Simmer. Add the bay leaves and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.
  • Cook the chicken. Add the whole chicken breasts and place a lid on the pan. Poach until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the breast, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the soup and set aside to cool.
  • Add fresh lemon juice. Add the juice from one lemon into the soup. Stir and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Leave to simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the pearl barley is tender. Check and stir the soup occasionally.
  • Shred the chicken. Use two forks to shred the chicken and set aside.
  • Partially blend of the soup. Take an immersion blender place it into one side of the pot. Blend just a little of the soup to thicken. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle a few cups of the soup into a standard blender, blend, and then mix it back into the soup.
  • Finish the soup. Stir in the half and half, shredded chicken breast, remaining grated carrot, and cilantro (save a little cilantro for garnish). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Simmer the soup for a few minutes to ensure the shredded chicken is warmed through.
  • Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil and a little more half and half (or a dollop of yogurt). Finish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Notes

  • To store leftovers: Allow the soup to cool completely. Seal and store in your refrigerator for up to 3 days and your freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 364.3kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 28.2gFat: 11.2gSaturated Fat: 2.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 5.9gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 57.9mgSodium: 551.7mgPotassium: 819.8mgFiber: 6gSugar: 6.6gVitamin A: 1747.8IUVitamin C: 4.6mgCalcium: 35.3mgIron: 2.2mg
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Mersedeh Prewer is a Persian-British recipe developer born, raised and currently living in the United Kingdom. She is passionate about all cuisines but her writing primarily focuses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. She is a recipe contributor to both The Kitchn and Simply Recipes.
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Comments

  1. I usually make beef barley soup, but this sounds delicious! Call me a weirdo, but I detest the taste of lemon. Does adding the lemon make it taste lemony? Could I replace it with white wine or white wine vinegar?

    1. Hello! Yes, you will get a bit of a lemon/citrus flavor in this soup with the addition of the lemon juice. You could just omit it, if you prefer. The white wine or white wine vinegar might work... it's just hard to be certain as it's not something we've tested before. If you give it a try, please stop back and let us know how it went!

    1. Hi, Kathryn! A little vinegar sounds like a lovely addition. Thanks for sharing your tip with the TMD community. Have a great day!

  2. 5 stars
    I don't need to make another chicken soup recipe again. This one is a keeper and will be I'm regular rotation in my kitchen.

    Barley soups have seemed to me in the past to be heavy and stew-like. But this recipe has no hea viness about it. The barley provides nice substance to the broth and a subtle nuttiness. But the classic broth with mire-poix and shredded chicken gets a big boost from 2 secret ingredients- lemon juice and chopped cilantro. I used greek yogurt instead of half and half and I think that tanginess added even more special flavor. My family will enjoy this all week.

  3. 5 stars
    This is a delicious soup. The lemon and cilantro really make the flavors pop. It was enjoyed by all in the house.