Food Discovery: Sweet Potato, Chicken and Barley Soup


I need to confess: Random systems blow.

It’s the unpredictability. I tweaked the system a little and narrowed it down to categories that we know we eat. (There’s no way you’ll get me to eat cold soup). In eliminating some categories, I figured the odds of The Hero picking a recipe I like should increase, right? Nope. Another recipe that we both were like ‘Yeah… so if it’s not good, who’s running to Wendy’s for dinner.’

For the record, I like everything in the recipe. It’s the food combinations that always make me pause. Who eats turnips if they’re not in greens? No, for real. Can you name one person that ever said they ate turnips that weren’t in greens? If you can, I want to meet him or her. Apparently, I’m not living my food life fully enough.

I was also thinking about how we (The Hero and I) only eat sweet potatoes a few ways, none of which include adding them to any kind of soup. I couldn’t imagine what the texture would be like, which added to me considering vetoing the recipe. But, I’m not a cheater, so I decided if it sucked, I could write a pretty good diss post.

Cooking Notes

Although I wanted to stay true to the recipe, I did have to make two substitutions. I couldn’t find parsnips at the store. The Kitchn suggested turnips as an alternative. I also had half the barley on hand so I subbed in kamut to make up the difference. I also only used three potatoes. My Dutch oven is apparently not as big as I thought and, quite honestly, it just looked like a lot of sweet potatoes. I omitted the bay leaves and balsamic vinegar because, well, I couldn’t find them at the store where I was shopping.

I also made my own chicken broth. It was actually really easy. Take the ends of the onion, all the carrot tops, a few celery stalks, a couple cloves of garlic and what’s left of the dill and add them to a pot with the chicken and 12 cups of water. Let it simmer while you dice up the vegetables and measure the barley. Let it cool and strain it for your stock. Done and done. If you can handle hot containers though, feel free to strain the stock as soon as you’re done prepping everything else.

Sweet Potato, Chicken and Barley Soup

  • 3 tbl olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 1¼ cup pearl barley
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • ½ bunch fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbl balsamic vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste


Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the parsnips, barley, stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, chicken and dill. Simmer for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaves and stir in balsamic vinegar.

from New England Soup Factory Cookbook


We had a friend over. All of us agreed that it was… different. Not bad, just different. I had it for leftovers the next day and it was a little less different. I figure one more lunch of it and I’ll probably tell you I like it. It won’t go in the rotation though. I can’t even suggest something to eat with it. Maybe foccacia? If you figure it out, drop a comment.


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