Butter Bean Barley Soup


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours

Serves: 8-10 servings

This is a warm cozy soup just perfect for a cold winter day. Butter beans are high in protein and fiber making them a heart healthy choice. They also have micronutrients, manganese, copper and magnesium, crucial for immunity and brain function. The barley also provides additional whole grain nutrition which include B vitamins and fiber and protein.

The carrots, rainbow chard and celery provide excellent sources of antioxidants to go along with an already nutrient dense soup. Its a win -win dinner!

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Serves: 8-10 servings

This soup is so good it does not seem possible that it is also good for you. I had not cooked butter beans before, they were a last minute addition. I had the dry lima beans on hand that I had bought on a whim at a farmers market so I decided to go for it. I cooked them in a separate pan from the soup with smoked paprika, salt and pepper in vegetable broth.and then added them to my soup. They took about 1 1/2 hours to cook, they were worth it.
* Please note this soup takes a lot of broth, I cooked both the barley and lima beans in their own pans in vegetable broth, plus the broth I used in the soup.
* Check the notes below for some time savers.


  • 3 32oz chicken broth
  • 2 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 1 lb organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c butter beans, dry
  • 3/4 c barley
  • 4 large chard leaves, finely diced
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 3 small celery stalks, diced
  • 3 large garlic gloves, diced and divided
  • 1 large shallot, divided
  • 1 T smoked paprika, divided
  • 2 large clusters fresh thyme
  • 2 t sage
  • 1 1/2 t umami flavor , - I found mine at trader joes and use it in all of my soups for extra depth. You can skip this if you cant find it.
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 parmesan rind , -this gives soup a rich umami flavor too
  • 1/2 c freshly grated parmesan


Butter beans

  • 1)

    Rinse dried butter beans in a colander.

  • 2)

    Add 3 cups of vegetable broth to a pan with your 1 cup of butter beans. Bring to a boil.

  • 3)

    Boil for 20 minutes then turn down to a low boil, almost a simmer, for 1 1/2 hours. Add 1 tsp of smoked paprika and a bunch of thyme leaves. Check occasionally to stir and ensure your broth is not getting too low.

    The beans will look a little dehydrated for awhile, when they are done they will be plump so don’t panic!


  • 1)

    Add olive oil to a large soup pot and turn on to medium low. Once it is hot add 1/2 the diced shallot (the other half will be used cooking the chicken) all of the carrots, celery, garlic, green onion, thyme sage, 1 1/2 tsp paprika and umami (withhold the bay leaves until you add the broth). You may need to add a little more olive oil to the soup pot. Continue to move the vegetables around with a wooden spoon so they do not burn.

  • 2)

    After 10 minutes add chicken broth, bay leaves and parmesan rind. Set soup to a low simmer. Now you can start the barley

    The parmesan rind


  • 1)

    Add 3/4 c barley  and  2 1/2 c vegetable broth to a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. When finished cooking, add to your soup pot.

Chicken -

  • 1)

    Slice 1 pound of chicken into strips. Salt chicken and add 1/2 t smoked paprika. While that mixture sits for a few minutes, prepare your pan with olive oil and turn on medium- low heat. Once hot add the other half of the shallot and your chicken evenly to the pan. Move chicken around with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes so it does not burn. The middle of the thickest chicken should be white when you cut into it. The small pieces should cook fast in less than 10 minutes.

  • 2)

    Add chicken to the soup on low heat.

Putting it all together

  • 1)

    Once the butter beans are finished add to the soup.  Salt and Pepper to taste. Let soup simmer on low for a couple minutes and it is ready to serve!

*Notes- Time savers for this soup-

You can save some time on this soup by adding the barley to the actual soup and bringing it to a boil and reducing your heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. I chose to make my barley in a separate pot because it soaks up so much broth from my soup.

You can also buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it or skip the chicken altogether. The beans and grains make a complete protein in this soup.

You can skip the butter beans. I would not suggest this step though! They made the soup.

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