My 3 Key Ingredients for the Best Rotisserie Chicken Soup

In this installment of Diaspora Dining, Jessica B. Harris' series on foods of the African diaspora, the author and historian contemplates change and chicken soup, and how her own chicken soup tastes and methods have evolved. For her favorite version, Harris loves using lemon, avocado and cilantro, plus her favorite time-saving hack: the store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Rotisserie Chicken Soup
Photo: Brittany Conerly
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins

I have always liked chicken soup. I am one of those people who believes in the medicinal properties of it all—from the red and white Campbell's cans of my youth to the sophisticated mix of chicken broth, yolks, lemon and rice in avgolemono that I learned to enjoy in Greece. And there's just something warm and comforting about a bowl of canjica, the versatile, homestyle soup that I found out about in Brazil. It's thick like avgolemono or a rice pudding, and made with white corn or hominy. The dish's origins stretch back to communities of enslaved Africans and Afro Brazilians. I usually make my own version after I've roasted a chicken for dinner and picked at the carcass for as long as I can. But several years back I discovered that I can jump-start my chicken soup preparation by beginning with a simple rotisserie chicken. The spit-cooked bird that I can pick up in my local supermarket gives me a similar depth of flavor that I'd get from the taste of roasted meat, with a little less work.

However I prepare it, I like to ring in the changes with my chicken soup. Sometimes, I'll add a dash or two of soy sauce and cut up some radishes, snow peas and scallions to drop in, and perhaps plop in some precooked noodles. At other times I might add a squeeze or two of lime juice. But I discovered my all-time favorite way with chicken soup years ago while sharing a lunch with some friends in New Orleans at the late and much-lamented culinary antique shop, Lucullus. There one day, a member of the staff who was from Mexico added some cut-up avocado to the chicken soup that was the lunch's centerpiece. She explained that the soup was usually eaten that way in her home (as with posole or tortilla soup, too). It was a revelation. It was magical: the creaminess of the avocado somehow went perfectly with the tang of the chicken soup that was created by a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I was hooked. But, being me, I had to keep toying with additions. I found that a few snippets of cilantro, which I adore but know is not everyone's favorite herb, enhanced that magical feeling I had when I first tasted the chicken soup with avocado at Lucullus. And I've never been one to say no to a spoonful or two of minced scallion.

Now, every time that I savor my fast, cheating chicken soup with bits of avocado and cilantro, I think of the Crescent City at the bend in the Mississippi River and a surprising revelation from Latin America that turned up in the bowl one afternoon many years ago, ringing in changes.

This essay is part of the series Diaspora Dining: Foods of the African Diaspora. In this monthly column with essays and recipes by Jessica B. Harris, Ph.D., we explore the rich culinary traditions of the African diaspora. Harris is a culinary historian and the author of 13 books related to the African diaspora, including Vintage Postcards from the African World (University Press of Mississippi), My Soul Looks Back (Scribner) and High on the Hog (Bloomsbury USA), on which the Netflix documentary series High on the Hog is based. She is the 2020 recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. For more from Harris on EatingWell, see Migration Meals: How African American Food Transformed the Taste of America and her Juneteenth Celebration Menu. Follow her on Instagram @drjessicabharris.

Rotisserie Chicken Soup
Brittany Conerly


  • 1 medium rotisserie chicken (about 2 to 3 pounds)

  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, divided

  • 4 stalks celery, diced (1/2-inch), divided

  • 2 medium carrots, diced (1/2-inch), divided

  • 2 medium onions, cut into small chunks, divided

  • cup white rice

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 avocado, diced

  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 4 scallions, finely chopped


  1. Separate the legs, thighs, wings and breasts of the chicken. Place the chicken pieces in a stockpot. Add broth. Add water as needed to cover the chicken by at least 1 inch. Add 4 whole cloves garlic, half the celery and carrots, and the onion chunks, reserving 1 chunk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook, covered, until the meat falls off the bone, about 30 minutes.

  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and vegetables, reserving the broth in the stockpot; discard the bones and vegetables. Cut the chicken meat into small pieces and return to the broth. Finely chop the remaining garlic; add to the pot, along with rice, the remaining celery and carrots and the reserved onion chunk. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer; cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt (since there is salt in the broth and chicken, use your discretion).

  3. Serve the soup hot alongside small bowls of avocado, cilantro and scallions to garnish.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

260 Calories
10g Fat
20g Carbs
26g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 10
Calories 260
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 26g 52%
Total Fat 10g 13%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 73mg 24%
Vitamin A 1649IU 33%
Vitamin C 8mg 9%
Vitamin E 1mg 4%
Folate 101mcg 25%
Vitamin K 28mcg 23%
Sodium 393mg 17%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Magnesium 35mg 8%
Potassium 646mg 14%
Zinc 2mg 18%
Vitamin B12 1mcg 42%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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