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Cock a leekie Soup, Scottish Chicken & Leek soup

Cock a Leekie or cockaleekie soup is a Scottish Institution, a chicken & leek soup that features barley and prunes that tastes very “modern”!

This simple soup is known as the Scottish national soup and uses simple ingredients in a wonderful chicken broth.

Scottish cock a leekie soup, chicken and leek soup in a white bowl.

Chicken & Leek Soup

Regular readers will probably have formed the opinion that I am largely still a child. So before we go any further go ahead and join me in sniggering at that name.

It is also written as cockaleekie, cock o leeky, cockaleeky soup on occasions, and the flavour makes me smile as much as the name!

Now we have that out of the way, this is a gloriously old-fashioned recipe (dating to the early 1700’s), and I love old fashioned recipes! My site is littered with takes on ancient dishes like oxtail soup, Welsh cawl, Scottish Hotch Potch and Cornish Pasties.

I think that this dish tastes very “new modern”. It embraces grains and dried fruits to add body and taste to what is a very simple recipe.

This recipe relies on simple clean flavours and a great stock!

As a result, you should either make a good chicken stock or buy the very best that you can find.

If you like the combination of chicken and leek you must check out my chicken and leek pasta recipe.

Overhead Scottish cock a leekie soup, chicken and leek soup in a white bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an alternative to pearl barley?

Barley would likely have been a much more common ingredient in the history of this recipe due to its relative affordability and ubiquity in Scotland.

I use it because I prefer it, however brown rice is a perfectly acceptable substitution. Use a like for like amount and so long as you use whole grain rice, the cooking time remains the same.

Don’t worry about having a bag leftover, I also use it in my classic rabbit stew to a very Italian orzotto, a risotto made with barley.

How long will the soup last?

The soup will last in the fridge for 2-3 days and makes a fantastic easy lunch.

It does freeze but not wonderfully, I would skip that option. But if you need to bag it in strong freezer bags in portion sizes, and then pop the bag into simmering water until nice and hot.

I would not freeze for longer than a month.

Can I use chicken breast?

I personally would not, the breast will dry out and become stringy due to the lack of fat.

Close up Scottish cock a leekie soup, chicken and leek soup.

Do I have to use prunes?

Absolutely!!!!!! You may be surprised to see prunes as an ingredient in this recipe.

They are very traditional but even as far back as the early 19th century, many were saying they were not required.

I vehemently disagree! They add wonderful bites of sweetness to the recipe and should not be skipped.

I personally prefer them cooked in the stock which rather than served as a garnish which is common.

As far as I am concerned they are THE thing that sets cock a leekie soup apart in a sea of chicken and leek soups!

At least give it a try before you discount them! You can use leftovers in my delicious pork tenderloin with prunes recipe.

Scottish cock a leekie soup, chicken & leek soup with prunes and barley in a white bowl.

Equipment Used

I only mention brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • 20cm or 8″ saucepan.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Kitchen tongs.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring jug, cups and spoons.
  • Forks for shredding the chicken.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
Scottish cock a leekie soup, chicken & leek soup with prunes and barley.
Yield: 4 Servings

Cock a Leekie or CockaLeekie Soup Recipe

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Recipes for CockaLeekie soup or Cock a Leekie soup date back to the 1500's and my version embraces the traditional use of prunes and pearl barley and it is a real winter warmer!


  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 1½ Litres (1½ Quarts) Chicken Stock
  • 75g (½ Cup) Celery
  • 300g (1½-2 Cups) Leeks
  • 50g (⅓-½ Cup) Prunes
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme
  • 100g (½ Cup) Pearl Barley
  • Salt if needed


  1. Cut the celery into a 5mm (¼") dice.
  2. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a 20cm or 8" saucepan, have a taste of the stock, and add salt if needed.
  3. Add in the diced celery, thyme, bay leaf, and chicken legs and simmer on low for 40 minutes.
  4. Cut the leeks into 5mm (¼") thick rings.
  5. Cut the prunes into 1-2cm (½-¾") chunks.
  6. Add in the white part of the leeks, pearl barley and the prunes and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Throw in the green part of the leeks and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken legs and shred the chicken, discard the bones and skin and return the meat to the pan.
  9. Stir and Serve!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 462Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 175mgSodium: 694mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 42g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!

Lisa B Meyers

Saturday 23rd of December 2023

I am wondering if I can four fold the recipe to serve at an upcoming Bobby Burns Day celebration. This sounds so delicious.

Brian Jones

Saturday 23rd of December 2023

This recipe is perfect for doing that with, there is no searing so you can go as big as you like and the only change in timing would be the extra time everything takes to come up to temperature. It's also awesome made in advance and reheated, just make sure that you add the green parts of the leeks when you are reheating to help them keep a little texture.



Byron Thomas

Friday 27th of September 2019

My dearest Brian, in my world, leaky cocks are not something to be proud of! :) All jokes aside, this soup sounds divine and I love the simplicity of it. I just can't help but wonder what an English guy with a really bad Scottish accent would sound like blurting out the word cockaleekie!?

Brian Jones

Monday 30th of September 2019

PMSL, we are all perfectly imperfect Byron ;) I often chance my arm at accents but they all sound like an Indian pretending to be Welsh apparently

I love this soup it is so gloriously old school and traditional, I grew up hating it as it came from a tin and was a gloopy mess. In fact, that is true of loads of recipes on my site, I'm definitely rediscovering loads of things that definitely aint what I thought they were!


Friday 26th of January 2018

I'm happy to eat anything with leeks! I never considered adding prunes to a soup, what an interesting idea. I love old/different recipes like this. I mean, there are a million chicken soup recipes, so it is refreshing to see something different!

Brian Jones

Saturday 27th of January 2018

We very quickly forget the old recipes in favour of what ever is doing well on Pinterest or Instagram, I'm much more interested in older flavour combinations and recipes.


Friday 26th of January 2018

The name does sound quite funny and cute. I love learning about traditional vintage recipes and this one is very vintage. I love all kinds of soups so I'm sure I would love this one. Perfect comfort food especially now that it's so cold outside.

Brian Jones

Saturday 27th of January 2018

Definitely old fashioned comfort food, enjoy.


Friday 26th of January 2018

What an interesting recipe! I never heard of this soup before, but the combo of chicken and prunes sounds like something I should try. Thanks for a great recipe!

Brian Jones

Saturday 27th of January 2018

Its a very old and traditional combination dating back to a time when travel and refrigeration were much more difficult... But they stand up really well in the modern kitchen.

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