Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Mom's Easiest Chicken Barley Chili

So I know it might appear as though I am posting this chili recipe because the Superbowl is upon us.  But lets be honest, if I actually wanted you to make this chili for the big game day, I probably should have posted this days ago so that you could get prepared, buy the necessary ingredients, and plan ahead how much time you would need for prep and cooking.  Right?  

Wrong.  Because this chili requires virtually no prep time, most of the ingredients are canned (gasp!  Yes, I said canned!), and the whole thing is done in 45 minutes total, you could decide to make this chili on a whim any day... including Superbowl Sunday.  

Growing up, I remember my mom used to make a traditional chili several weekends a month during football season; when I say traditional chili, I mean the hearty, meaty, deep-red stuff that is best enjoyed alongside a cold beer, a bowl of chips, and a healthy serving of masculinity.  It was the stuff that real men enjoy, and my dad loved it.  That chili had beef, lots of it, and sometimes beans (although chili purists think beans are the devil) and it was always spicy and rich.  However, about 5 years ago my mom started making this Chicken Barley Chili recipe, and she has never looked back.  This chili is a little bit different...ok, it is a lot different.

For starters, this chili is healthy.  It has chicken instead of beef, which automatically reduces the artery-clogging properties of traditional chili.  It has several forms of protein: chicken, black beans, and barley; the barley is also a whole grain and a good source of fiber.  Add in the antioxidants from the tomatoes and a vegetable source from the corn, and you have a shockingly healthy meal.

This chili is also different because it can be prepared in only 45 minutes.  Really.   I are thinking that you are slow in the kitchen, and you need time to read the recipe, and what about chopping everything??  Personally I usually find those 'active time' or 'prep time' guidelines to be total crap, but I can assure you that you can do this in 45 minutes.  Ok, lets say 50 minutes to give you 5 minutes to use the can opener.

Which brings me to my next point: this chili uses common ingredients that you already have in your pantry.  And yes, those ingredients are canned.  I know, I know... here on The Cilantropist I am constantly advocating the use of fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, and I hope this recipe using the store-bought stuff doesn't make you don't break rank and head for the hills.  While fresh is always best, sometimes you just need a filling meal that is easy and also delicious.  I learned this from my mom, and she is a pretty smart lady.

Oh, and one last thing:  This recipe makes a boatload of chili.  I make it in a large stockpot that holds at least 4 quarts (the recipe makes about 3 quarts, or 12 cups); the size of the recipe makes it ideal for big parties like the Superbowl, potluck dinners, or weeknight family dinners plus leftovers.  The size does not make it ideal for one Cilantropist to eat all that chili, so I usually do one of two things.  First, I pull out my favorite pyrex and fill up a few containers to put in the freezer; this chili freezes marvelously, and I cannot tell you how many dinners and workweek lunches have been saved by a frozen portion of chili.  Second, I share it with friends!  Because my mom taught me more than how to make a good pot of chili, she also taught me that sharing is caring.     

My Mom's Easiest Chicken Barley Chili
My mom thinks she might have gotten this original recipe from the back of a box of Quaker barley, but she honestly can't remember.  Either way, she uses the recipe religiously, and now my sister and I each have a copy of it as well.  This is my go-to recipe during the winter, when I want an easy, filling, and comforting dish that reminds me of home. 

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with chilis, undrained
1 jar (16 oz) salsa, medium or mild depending on preference
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
4 cups water
1 cup barley (just so you know, 16 oz bag has about 2 1/2 cups barley)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.25 oz) sweet corn, undrained
2-3 cups (about 1-1 1/2 lbs) cooked chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Toppings: (optional)
Fat free sour cream
Shredded mexican cheese
Chopped cilantro 

In a large stockpot, combine the first 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for approximately 35-40 minutes.  Add black beans, sweet corn, and chicken, then bring to a boil again.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low for an additional 5 minutes.  Check barley to make sure it is soft and cooked through.  Chili will thicken upon standing; if you like, thin with additional water, although I usually find the thicker consistency to be perfect.  Serve hot, topped with sour cream, cheese, or chopped cilantro.  


  1. A healthy chili! I love this version. Barley is so delicious.



  2. Mmmm,I do love chili and this sounds so good. Thanks for posting. Love that it's so easy.

  3. Fabulous. I did a chilli today, too - also nothing to do with the Superbowl. I would looove to try this with tofu as barley is one of my favourite grains.

  4. That looks delicious--and, as you said, easy!

  5. LOVE this. I was thinking of making a lasagna today, because I haven't cooked in ages, but maybe I'll make this instead! And speaking of lasagna... can you do a healthy lasagna recipe sometime? :)

  6. i love your version of chili, tho I'll have to leave the chicken out and probably double the amount of barley and black beans.

    have a wonderful Sunday Amanda

  7. That looks so wonderful. I too would leave out the chicken but everything else sounds so fantastic. I have some quinoa chili in my crockpot right now! I love different kinds of chili :-)

  8. Love this chili recipe! Always good in the winter months! Def would recommend a little dollop of sour cream to go with!

  9. I have never cooked with barley, this looks delish and I always love a meal that I can make quickly since I have a 2 year old.

  10. This is on my menu for the week, I heart barley. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  11. I've had a bag of barley for while with no idea what to do with it. Looks like I now know what to do with it! :)

  12. chicken, barley and chilli = delicious!

  13. I love this recipe cause I love barley :) Don't know when.. but I must try this chili :)

  14. Gosh this sounds fabulous! No kidney beans (ick) but chicken AND barley! Love it!

  15. Chili is standard winter fare in my house, too; I'd love to *healthy it up* with your mom's recipe. I'm guessing your dad still liked it! Barley is lurking in my pantry, too.

  16. Fantastic! Love the addition of barley for extra oomph!

  17. Oh yay!! I'm always looking for good chili recipes to try. This one looks so yummy, we won't even tell the hubby that it's good for him. :o)

  18. LOVE barely in soup! I've never tried it in chili...this looks so good!

  19. I know that I loveeee the sweets that you make, but this to me right at this very moment looks like the best thing ever. Maybe I'm just starving? I don't think so... yum!

  20. Bring me some chili, please. I enjoy it immensely but hate making it. Don't ask.

  21. Okay, I love this chili recipe, I'm going to make this tomorrow for my dinner! Love the addition Barley in the chili! Yum!

  22. Your so funny... Definitely a hearty chili, love the barley and all things cumin are good :)

  23. What a great looking bowl of chili and I love that it is quick! You certainly don't lack any flavor. The barley is a great addition.

  24. Nice! I guess I'm not a purist because I HAVE to have beans in my chili! Love the healthier take.

  25. Looks wonderful! I love the fact that it's got a ton of "good-for-you" ingredients. So important! And the addition of barley is brilliant. I need to include that into my meals more often. Thanks for the tasty reminder!

  26. Moms always make the best things. This looks like no exception!

  27. That's a beautiful bowl of chili... I've definitely been craving warm stews these past couple of weeks.

    Great recipe!

  28. OK, I swear that I left you a comment last night. This is very annoying:)
    If it gets repeated, destroy one.
    Anyway, this is a great way to use barley, which we love. And shortcuts are not always that bad:) Thank your mom for me - a great idea for busy mothers.
    BTW, I gave you a Stylish Blogger Award, because I enjoy visiting you:)

  29. This is perfect timing :) I've got some chili in my cabinet that needs to be used, and I just couldn't figure out how I was going to use it.

    Now I know I'll be making this in March!

  30. I can honestly say, I've never had chili with barley. What a great concept! It's nice to have recipes you can pull together from the pantry in a short time. :)

  31. This is a different chili recipe, so I will have to give it a try! I have a few recipes that I go to, but I like that this is really quick to make.

  32. This is a beautiful recipe. Since I don't eat meat do you think I can substitute beans for the chicken?

  33. El: If you don't want the chicken in there, honestly, just leave it out rather than substituting! The consistency will still be the same, and it will still taste just as great. (And I can say this from experience. Sometimes I want to make this but I am too lazy to defrost the chicken. Ha!)

  34. I just made this and it looks/smells amazing!! And I got to try out the Kitchn's tip on how to cook chicken breasts (which worked perfectly and was sooo easy - highly recommended!)

  35. yummy! i've never had barley before, or chicken chili, but this is definitely going on my recipe to try list.

  36. i got myself some barley last week and this recipe looks so delicious. its pefect for today :) thanks for sharing!

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