Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

Deliciously healthy and hearty, this southwestern chicken barley chili has been a family favorite for years! I’ve updated the recipe with Instant Pot and slow cooker directions to make it even easier.

Southwestern Barley Chicken Chili

When you (and by you, I mean, I) make a chili over and over and over again and continue to love it more than ever, it definitely deserves another chance in the spotlight.

I posted this southwestern chicken barley chili over five years ago, but it continues to be a solid family favorite, especially now that I can throw it in the Instant Pot for a hands-off dinner that is ready in a flash.

I wanted to highlight this simple and delicious recipe again so you could take a peek at the updated directions.

The original was written for the stovetop, which still works beautifully; I’ve included notes on how to adapt for the Instant Pot or slow cooker since that’s the way I seem to make it these days.

Southwestern Barley Chicken Chili

If you’ve never tossed pearled barley into chili before, you are missing out. The tender, hearty grain adds a tasty, wholesome dimension to the flavorful chili.

It’s no surprise that this really is one of my favorite chilis of all time.

I make this at least monthly in the cooler months (and sometimes even in the summer, too).

Like many other really great chilis, this southwestern barley chicken chili tastes great the day it’s made but even better the next day when all the flavors have had a chance to get friendly and fall in love.

Thanks to the barley, it will thicken up considerably as it cools (and especially if it’s refrigerated).

We usually dig in without thinning the leftovers, but you can definitely add a splash or three of broth or water to thin it out a bit if you make it in advance.

Have you made this recipe? I’d love to know your thoughts if you have.

Southwestern Barley Chicken Chili

What To ServeA really, great dinner roll (for homemade, I’d suggest French Bread Rolls or Buttery Cornmeal Crescents) or this tasty cornbread
Fresh fruit or a light fruit salad like this Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Sliced cheddar cheese

One Year Ago: BBQ Chicken Braid
Two Years Ago: Asian Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: My Favorite Cheesecake

Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

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Ingredients:

  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 16-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup medium pearled barley (not quick cooking)
  • 4 cups water or additional low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • dash cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces (leave whole if using an Instant Pot/pressure cooker or slow cooker)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips or other toppings

Directions:

  1. Stovetop: In a large pot (about 6 quarts), combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne (if using). Stir well.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and add the chicken. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the chili for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender and chewy and the chicken is no longer pink. Stir occasionally, while it simmers to prevent sticking and to make sure it stays at a steady simmer.
  3. After 40 minutes, add the beans and corn. Stir to combine and simmer for five more minutes. Serve the chili with toppings, if desired.
  4. The chili will thicken considerably upon cooling. Add chicken broth or water as needed to achieve a desirable consistency (especially if reheating the leftovers).
  5. Instant Pot {Pressure Cooker}: In the insert of a 6-quart or larger electric pressure cooker (like the Instant Pot) combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, cayenne (if using), and beans. Stir well.
  6. Nestle the chicken into the mixture. Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 18 minutes (for the Instant Pot, select Manual, then dial down or up to the correct time; it will start automatically).
  7. Let the pressure cooker naturally release pressure for 10 minutes then quick release the remaining pressure (if liquid sputters through the valve, cover with a damp cloth while releasing pressure or wait a few minutes before releasing the rest of the pressure).
  8. Remove the chicken to a cutting board or plate and shred or cut into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and corn back into the pot. Heat through. Serve the chili with toppings, if desired.
  9. The chili will thicken considerably upon cooling. Add chicken broth or water as needed to achieve a desirable consistency (especially if reheating the leftovers).
  10. Slow Cooker: In the insert of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, cayenne (if using), and beans. Stir well.
  11. Nestle the chicken into the mixture. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  12. Remove the chicken to a cutting board or plate and shred or cut into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and corn back into the slow cooker. Heat through. Serve the chili with toppings, if desired.
  13. The chili will thicken considerably upon cooling. Add chicken broth or water as needed to achieve a desirable consistency (especially if reheating the leftovers).

Notes:

UPDATE: I posted this recipe nearly six years ago and updated it today (1/2017) with new photos + directions for using an Instant Pot or slow cooker since over the years, I’ve found I usually make it in either one of those. Please note that I’ve kept the stovetop directions the same since I know many of you still make it that way, but for the Instant Pot and slow cooker directions, I add the beans with the other ingredients and leave the chicken whole (so it doesn’t dry out while cooking); I shred the chicken at the end and stir it back into the soup with the corn to heat through.

Also, this chili takes very well to eliminating the chicken altogether for a meatless endeavor OR cooking it all up without uncooked chicken and adding chopped, cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken would be great here) at the end with the corn to heat through.

All images and text ©.

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Recipe Source: adapted from the back of the Quaker Medium Barley box

Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili