ForeverMama's Heirloom Portuguese Watercress Chicken Soup

Prep Time
Cook Time
1h 25m
Ready In

"This recipe has been in my family forever. My mom used to make it all the time here in the States and in Portugal. She learned it from my grandmother who learned it from her mother, and so on. And who knows how further back it goes. I know it's goes back more than 100 years. I grew up on this soup. It has a pleasing delicate flavor. Though my mom and ancestors have made it with rice and tiny pasta stars (found in Portuguese markets), I LOVE to use it with barley, so that is what the ingredients and method will list."

Original is 7 servings


  • Serving Size: 1 (392.9 g)
  • Calories 251
  • Total Fat - 8.9 g
  • Saturated Fat - 3.2 g
  • Cholesterol - 105.4 mg
  • Sodium - 137.8 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate - 20.1 g
  • Dietary Fiber - 2.4 g
  • Sugars - 5.4 g
  • Protein - 22.6 g
  • Calcium - 193.1 mg
  • Iron - 10.6 mg
  • Vitamin C - 5.4 mg
  • Thiamin - 0.7 mg

Step by Step Method

Step 1

Place large pot over med. heat. Once pan is hot enough, add butter or olive oil until it is heated, being careful not to burn butter. Add chopped onions and sauté for 5 minutes, until translucent.

Step 2

Add chicken pieces to brown. (This will bring out the flavor). Be careful not to burn onions.

Step 3

Add water to cover about 2-3” above chicken pieces, adding more or less water as needed. Add chicken bouillon and barley. Let water come to a boil. Reduce heat leaving lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 1 hour; adding water as needed and if necessary; remove scum and extra grease that might come to top of broth. Taste for salt and add if needed while cooking.

Step 4

Once chicken and barley are tender, using tongs, remove chicken pieces to a colander, placing a plate under colander in order to catch juices.

Step 5

Place chicken pieces onto a cutting board; cut chicken off of bone, cutting meat in 1” pieces; discarding bone and tough membrane.

Step 6

Place chicken pieces and any juice left in plate drained from colander back into pot.

Step 7

Add chopped watercress and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until just tender with a very slight crisp.

Step 8

Remove pot off of burner and drizzle lemon juice over all; mixing it in with wooden spoon; adjust with more or less lemon according to taste.

NOTE 1: The addition of lemon in this dish is a MUST as it adds a layer of brightness. Without it, it will be blah. Do be careful not overdo it though as it can over power the soup. Also, do not overcook watercress or it will lose some of its flavor with overcooking it too long. The barley can be substituted with rice or with small pasta stars. If using rice or pasta, add to the end of the cooking process (about 15 minutes before end of cooking)

NOTE 2: For a good product, please don't substitute by using chicken breast. The thigh and drumstick are more flavorful. The bone also adds flavor to the broth creating a tastier end product. Of course, you may choose to use breast meat, but the result won't be the same


No special items needed.

2 Reviews


Awesome soup! DH mentioned several times during dinner that it was delicious and I agree! Made one substitution, used Gai Lan for the watercress (which I can not get here). And I used a combo of thighs & breast meat. Thanks for sharing. Made for Pick Me! tag game.


review by:
(27 Mar 2017)


Delicious! I used the star pasta =).It reminds me of my childhood. The lemon is definitely a MUST.


review by:
(28 Sep 2016)

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