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Chicken Soup Recipe: Create Your Own

Scott Phillips

I’m lucky to have wonderful childhood memories of the chicken soup made by both of my Jewish grandmothers. Once I got old enough to cook for a living and travel a bit, I realized that lots of other people think of chicken soup just as fondly, since it holds a beloved place in almost every cuisine. Its flavors and ingredients might vary, but its standing as the most comforting of meals is universal.

The great thing about chicken soup is that once you learn the basic method, you can flavor it however you like. It starts with an easy, homemade broth—just throw a chicken and some vegetables into a pot and let them simmer. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it, shred the meat, and return it to the soup later. Then, it’s simply a matter of adding your own favorite ingredients, from spices, fresh herbs, and vegetables to noodles, grains, and beans.

You can go traditional with classic chicken noodle, or branch out to Tex-Mex chile-lime chicken soup, or Asian chicken noodle soup with bok choy and shiitake. Or invent your own version. No matter what flavors you choose, your soup will make a delicious one-pot meal for a chilly winter night. And just think—it might even create delicious memories for the soup-eaters in your family, too.

Homemade Chicken Broth

Homemade broth serves as the base for any style of chicken soup. This broth is made from a whole chicken. If you’re pressed for time, you could substitute store-bought broth and use a rotisserie chicken for the meat, but you won’t get the same depth of flavor.

Serves 6 to 8

Using a small sharp knife and your fingers, remove and discard the skin from 1 3-lb. chicken.

Rinse the chicken well and put it in a large (at least 8-quart), heavy-duty pot or Dutch oven. Add enough cold water to submerge the chicken (about 5 quarts). Cover the pot, with the lid slightly ajar. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook, occasionally skimming off any foam that accumulates on the surface, until foam no longer rises, about 30 minutes.

Add 2 medium peeled and chopped carrots, 2 medium celery stalks cut into 2-inch pieces, 1 medium yellow onion cut into 1/2-inch wedges, 1-1/2 Tbs. kosher salt, and 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Simmer until the vegetables start to soften and the chicken is completely cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using  tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet. Let cool for 10 minutes; meanwhile, continue simmering the broth, partially covered. Using your fingers, pull the meat from the bones and shred it into bite-size pieces; discard any gristle or fat. Set aside the shredded chicken while you finish the broth.

Return the carcass to the broth and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are completely soft and the flavor has intensified, about 30 minutes more. If at any time the water level drops below the solids, add water to cover and return to a simmer.

Remove the carcass from the broth and discard. Strain the broth through a fine sieve set over another pot or a bowl large enough to hold the broth. Gently press on the solids with a large spoon to squeeze out any remaining broth. You will have about 3 quarts. (The broth can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.)


Choose up to three base aromatics (4 cups total)

Carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Shallot, finely chopped

Leeks, finely chopped

Celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice

Fennel, cut into 1/4-inch dice


Choose up to three extra aromatics (optional)


Fresh chiles (jalapeño, Anaheim,
poblano, Thai bird): 1 or 2, cut into
thin disks

Lemongrass: 1 or 2 stalks, trimmed,
cut into 4-inch pieces, and smashed
with the side of a chef’s knife

Ginger: 2-inch knob, peeled and
thinly sliced

Garlic: 1 or 2 medium cloves, minced

Season and infuse the broth

Add your choice of spices or hardy herbs, if using (see options below), and cook, stirring, until they become fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add 3 quarts of the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are completely tender and the aromatics have infused the broth, 20 to 30 minutes. Fish out and discard any large aromatics or spices.


Choose 1 or 2 spices or hardy herbs (optional)

Bay leaves: 1 or 2

 Chili powder: up to 2 tsp.

Ground coriander: up to 1 tsp.

Cinnamon stick: 1, about 3 inches

Ground cumin: up to 2 tsp.

Dried chipotle chile: 1

Chopped fresh thyme: up to 2 tsp.

Chopped fresh rosemary: up to 2 tsp.

Add the starches and vegetables

Starches like noodles and potatoes need to be pre-cooked, or they’ll absorb too much broth. The exception is canned beans, which of course are already cooked, and can be added to the soup after a thorough rinse.

Cook your choice of starches (see options below) in boiling water until barely tender, (they’ll continue to cook in the soup). If using soba, udon, egg or ramen noodles, rinse them after cooking. Stir them in to the soup, along with the reserved shredded chicken and your choice of vegetables (see options below). Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all are tender and the flavors meld, 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose one or two starches

Diced Potatoes (red or yellow):
up to 4 cups

Tiny pastas (ditalini, acini de
pepe, orzo): up to 4 cups

Canned beans (cannellini, black,
kidney, pinto, garbanzo): up to
3 cups, rinsed well (up to 3 cups)

Noodles (egg, udon, soba, ramen):
up to 5 cups

Rice (long-grain white or brown):
up to 3 cups

Grains (barley, farro, bulgur,
hominy): up to 3 cups

Choose one or two vegetables


Spinach: up to 10 oz., stemmed if
large, and cut into 2-inch pieces

Napa cabbage: cored, cut into
1-1/2-inch pieces (up to 6 cups)
Escarole: cored, cut into 1-inch
pieces (up to 9 cups)

Swiss chard: up to 3/4 lb., stemmed
and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Baby bok choy: up to 1/2 lb.,
thinly sliced

Mushrooms (shiitake, oyster): up
to 8 oz., stemmed if necessary
and thinly sliced

Fresh or frozen corn kernels: up
to 1-1/2 cups (thaw if frozen)

Fresh or frozen peas: up to 1-1/2
cups (thaw if frozen)

Canned diced tomatoes (drained):
up to 1-/12 cups

Finish the soup

It’s a good idea to include either vinegar or lemon or lime juice in your choice of finishes—their acid adds brightness and enhances the flavor of any soup.

Stir in your choice of finishes (see options below), adding a little at a time and adjusting the flavor as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Choose up to four finishes; if you choose multiple herbs, use no more than 1/4 cup total

Lemon juice: up to 4 Tbs.

Lime juice: up to 4 Tbs

Soy sauce: up to 3 Tbs.

Sesame oil: up to 1 Tbs.

Red wine vinegar: up to 2 Tbs.

White wine vinegar: up to 2 Tbs.

Sherry vinegar: up to 2 Tbs.

Cider vinegar: up to 2 Tbs.

Rice vinegar: up to 2 Tbs.

Heavy cream: up to 1/2 cup

Fish sauce: up to 2 Tbs.

Chopped fresh basil: up to 1/4 cup

Chopped fresh cilantro : up to 1/4 cup

Chopped fresh tarragon: up to 1/4 cup

Chopped fresh parsley: up to 1/4 cup

Chopped fresh dill: up to 1/4 cup

Chopped fresh mint: up to 1/4 cup

Thinly sliced fresh chives: up to 1/4 cup

Hot sauce (like Tabasco or Sriracha): up to 2 tsp.

Sugar or brown sugar: up to 2 Tbs.


Garnish the soup

Ladle into bowls and garnish, if you like, with a small handful of the tortilla strips or 1 Tbs. of the other garnishes (see options below) on each serving.

Chose up to two garnishes (optional)

Crisp tortilla strips

Crisp bacon, crumbled

Scallions, thinly sliced

Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated



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