Soup's On: Making Super-Flavorful Chicken Soup

By: Stacy Fraser  |  Tuesday, August 25, 2015

We’ve simmered down our favorite technique for making homemade chicken soup into one easy-to-follow changeable chicken soup recipe. Every great pot starts with garlic, onions, bone-in chicken breast and low-sodium broth. After that, you add your favorite seasonings, vegetables and whole-grains and/or beans. Start with a classic combination of carrots, celery, peas and egg noodles or go for a different blend of vegetables and seasonings to create your new favorite chicken soup. Whichever path you follow, you’ll be serving up bowls of homemade soup brimming with vegetables and fiber with a fraction of the sodium found in traditional soups.
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Step 1: Lay the Base

The best soups start with a combination of aromatic vegetables cooked in oil to bring out their flavor. To start, heat 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; add 1 cup chopped onion and 2 large minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 to 4 tsp. seasonings (see chart). Cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Dried Ground Minced
bay leaf allspice chipotle chiles in adobo
marjoram cayenne ginger
oregano chili powder lemongrass
rosemary chipotle  
sage cinnamon  
thyme coriander  
  curry powder  

Step 2: Hack “Homemade” Broth

Save time by using boxed or canned broth (look for low-sodium options with about 150 mg sodium per cup). Make it taste like homemade stock by cooking the chicken for the soup in the broth before adding other ingredients. Pour 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth into the pot with the seasonings. Add 2 lb. bone-in chicken breasts (without skin); simmer until cooked through (165°F on an instant-read thermometer), 20 to 22 minutes. While it cooks, skim any foam from the surface to keep the broth clear. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board to cool, then shred or chop into bite-size pieces.

Step 3: Load it with Vegetables

A bowl of soup can be a great way to help you get more vegetables into your day. Add 6 to 8 cups vegetables (see chart) to the broth after you take out the chicken. Return to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 10 minutes.

Vegetables (fresh or frozen, thawed)

Diced Chopped Sliced Whole
bell pepper broccoli or broccolini cabbage corn kernels
celeriac cauliflower carrots shelled peas
potato, yellow or red chard celery
rutabaga collards fennel
sweet potato green beans mushrooms
turnip kale zucchini or summer squash
winter squash spinach  

Step 4: Bump up Fiber

Add 3 cups cooked whole grains (see chart) or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans (or one 15-oz. can rinsed beans) to the pot. Stir in the chicken, 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Cook until heated through.
Whole-wheat Grains Beans
egg noodles barley black beans
fusilli brown rice cannellini or navy beans
macaroni couscous, whole-wheat chickpeas
orzo farro kidney beans
spaghetti freekeh  
wagon wheels millet  
  wheat berries  

Step 5: Go for Big Flavor

Just before serving, add one more layer of flavor (see chart). You can add a pop of freshness with something as simple as chopped parsley or a squeeze of lime. For a more complex finish, stir in some pesto or chile paste.
Flavor Boost
Herbs (1-3 Tbsp.) Herb sauces (2-4 Tbsp.) Hot sauces (1-3 tsp.) Acid (1-3 Tbsp.) Umami (1-3 Tbsp.)
basil chimichurri chile-garlic lemon juice fish sauce
chives pesto curry paste lime juice miso
cilantro salsa verde harissa vinegar reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
dill   sriracha    
Make Ahead Tip
Store cooked noodles or grains separately from the rest of the soup and add them just before serving. If left in the soup, they absorb too much broth and turn the soup into a stew.