We’ve gone over pho and roasted red pepper soup, but when it comes to cold and flu season there’s nothing like a big bowl of homemade chicken soup. It’s surprisingly easy to make and once you taste the made-from-scratch stuff you’ll never buy a can of it ever again.
This basic chicken soup recipe is meant to be customized to your tastes, so once you get the hang of making it feel free to add other spices like curry and cumin, vegetables like potatoes and torn kale leaves, or even make it creamy with coconut milk. You can also turn it into a fuller meal by adding rice, pasta, or dumplings once the soup has simmered down. It reheats quick and as weird as it sounds, makes for a great breakfast since it’s loaded with protein that will get you through to lunch.
Serves 4 to 6
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
1 small white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 whole chicken, cut into smaller pieces
8 cups water
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil or butter over medium heat and sauté the celery, carrots, garlic, and onion until they begin to soften, the onions begin to turn translucent, and the carrots start to caramelize.
- Add the chicken and stir for one or two minutes. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add the Italian seasoning. Don’t taste it yet—it’ll taste like water and you’ll end up adding way too much salt. Instead, reduce heat and let simmer for at least an hour to let some of the water evaporate and the chicken flavour from the bones, cartilage, and meat permeate the broth. The longer the soup simmers, the more intense the flavour will be.
- Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Take the chicken out of the pot and with a fork, remove the skin and shred the meat off the bones (the meat should be fall-off-the-bone by now). Discard the chicken skin, bones, and cartilage. Put the shredded meat back into the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. If you’re adding pasta, rice, or dumplings, now is the time to add them.
Celery, Carrot, and Onion: The Holy Trio of Flavour
One of the basic flavour elements of French cooking is the mirepoix: the combination of chopped celery, carrot, and onion. It’s used commonly in soup and sauce recipes, and not to mention adds a delicious base to stir-frys (this one is less French).
Other nations have their own version of the mirepoix. In Italy you’ve got the soffritto (basically a mirepoix with garlic, which is the base for this soup); Spain and Latin American and Caribbean nations have the sofrito consisting of bell peppers, onion, garlic, paprika, and tomatoes (even then each country in these regions have their own variations on this); Poland has the wloszczyzna that contains carrots, parsnips, celery root, leeks, and cabbage; and Germany has Suppengrün, which is carrots, leeks, and celeriac.
Save Your Bones
The next time you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, keep the bones to make a future batch of chicken broth (assuming you or your loved ones haven’t sucked on the bones because… gross). Store the bones in a bag in the freezer, and take them out whenever you’re in the mood for soup.
Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.