Creamy Pumpkin-Chipotle Soup with Barley and Chicken

by Food Hound on October 8, 2012

in Main Dishes, Meat, Soups and Stews

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I could make a big to-do about my first ‘fall’ recipe by talking about the crisp air redolent of falling leaves and burning wood, the bounty of apples and pumpkins at the local farmers’ market, and the camaraderie of collegiate football athletes all vying for the national title (or, in the case of the University of Tennessee, who can get drunk the fastest by butt-chugging).

But I won’t, because at this point in time, there is an over-saturation of autumn sappiness in the blogosphere.  And I love fall too much to cheapen its arrival with one more poetic tribute to the Starbucks Pumpkin Latte.

All you need to know is that the weather got cold, and it was time to make this killer soup my friend, Brittany, passed along to me.  Yes, it has pumpkin in it, which is the ingredient du jour among food blogs.  I’m sorry, I’m not made of stone and completely impervious to the desire to surround myself in a cocoon of hay bales and cinnamon brooms while pouring spiced cider down my throat reciting, ‘Nature’s first green is gold/Her hardest hue to hold!’

But before you toss this aside as another dime-a-dozen pumpkin recipe to help ring in the season of changing leaves and cozy nights roasting marshmallows by the fire, please try it.  I guarantee it’s not like any pumpkin soup you’ve ever had.  Why?  Glad you asked!

First, this is a chunky pumpkin soup full of aromatics AND warm spices, so you bring out the natural sweetness from the pumpkin but maintain an overall savory flavor in the soup.  I find most soup recipes calling for warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are WAY too overpowered by those flavors at the end, but not this one- you have just a hint of each, and it’s perfect.

Next, this soup has texture.  I’m a huge fan of pureed soups, but I feel like most squash-based soups are pureed, and the fact that this one is chunky makes it a little special.  The same does not apply to a carton of milk.

The chipotle adds some smokey heat, which is balanced out by a little drizzle of honey and the creaminess from the sour cream and small amount of whipping cream.  For those of you scoring at home, we now have a soup involving autumn-y pumpkin, warm spices, aromatic vegetables, chipotle and cream.  Yes.

Then we just get completely cray-cray and toss in chicken and barley.  Why?  Because this is the soup of the century and I like writing ‘cray-cray.’  You could probably leave out the chicken if you’re a vegetarian, or leave out the barley if you’re anti-grain, but I like both.  I’m cray-cray.

I really wanted to call this a ‘bisque’ because, well, if I need to explain my desire to inject French words into my daily life, then you don’t know me at all.  Sadly, though, the word ‘bisque’ is technically only reserved for creamy soups made with crustaceans and thickened with the ground up shells and rice.  So… no, this is not a bisque.  But you can call it a bisque in the privacy of your own home, and I won’t tell anyone.

I also really want to tell you that this is kid-friendly because my kid ate it like it was the last meal she’ll ever receive.  Maybe some day she’ll request that God-awful, blue-boxed mac’n’crap, but for now I’m riding high on the wave of ‘proud mama.’

So… you can make this to celebrate fall, or you can make it to celebrate the annual pumpkin craze.  You can make it for your sophisticated restaurant snob friend, or you can make it for someone who carries a club and wants his soup with meat and heat.  Or you could be cray-cray and make it because it’s just plain awesome.  Period.


Creamy Pumpkin-Chipotle Soup with Barley and Chicken
From my cool photographer friend, Brittany, who found this on the blog 'Life in Grace'
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 3 c cooked chicken (about 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ c barley
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground ginger
  • ¼ t ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 T honey
  • 2 t chipotle peppers, minced
  • 1 c sour cream
  • ¼ c heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven until the butter has melted and the oil is shimmering. Saute the onion, carrot and celery until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more. Season veggies with about 1 t salt and 1 t pepper.
  2. Add the chicken stock (start with 8 cups), pumpkin, chicken, barley, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, honey and chipotle peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is cooked. Check and stir periodically, and add more stock as needed (I needed the full 10 cups).
  3. Once barley is cooked, turn off the heat and whisk in sour cream and heavy cream. Season to taste with salt, and you can bump up the heat with more chipotle, if desired.
I also make this without the barley, and it's still fantastic! Just reduce the broth to 6-8 cups.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan @ girl by the lake October 9, 2012 at 12:09 am

There are so many things going down in this post…I don’t even know where to start! Except at the obvious place. The butt-chugging. The newest trend amongst young college pledges. Made famous by some brillant souls just a few minutes away from my childhood home. (shakes my head.)

Now, on to more fun things! THANK YOU for not waxing poetic about Fall. I’m freaking cold, and I want warm things. Period. That’s all. So thanks! This recipe has been bookmarked, and shall be made stat. That’s all for now!


amy @ fearless homemaker October 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

This sounds absolutely wonderful! I love soup in any form + throw in some barley, chipotle, plus the seasonal wonder that is pumpkin 😉 and i’m a happy camper. =)


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