Growing up, I was always given a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and a handful of saltines when I was feeling under the weather. These days, I make a heartier homemade version, and usually even make my own chicken stock.
Whenever you make a roast chicken or bring home a rotisserie version, save the bones and make a big batch of stock. Thanks to the popularity of Instant Pots and other pressure cookers, you can make a rich, flavorful stock in an hour, as opposed to the four hours it takes on the stovetop. And once you set the machine, it’s a totally hands-off process.
Chicken stock has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects, is a low-calorie source of protein, and also contains calcium, iron and potassium. There are also bone broths, which have become more popular in the last few years ― they’re essentially great stocks that are cooked for a longer period of time, resulting in a higher concentration of collagen in the broth.
Whether you’re using homemade or store-bought stock, your chicken soup can be adjusted to suit your taste. Lemon and fresh dill are great if you’re looking for a bright and clean soup. Add egg noodles for a bowl of straight comfort, or toss in soy for some umami flavor. A dash of hot sauce will help clear out the sinuses in the wintertime.
Here’s a delicious one-pot recipe for comforting and healthy chicken soup, with some additional ideas to customize with what you may already have in the pantry. We’ve also included an easy chicken stock recipe if you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker at home.
Basic Homemade Chicken Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup egg noodles (2 ounces)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
1. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, celery, carrots, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. Add garlic and stir to combine.
2. Add chicken and stock, and bring to a boil. Add egg noodles, simmering for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked through.
3. Stir in lemon juice. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Note: Using shredded rotisserie chicken in this recipe saves time, and the bones can then be used (or frozen for later) to make stock.
Add some flavor
It’s easy to add flavor and garnishes, depending on your mood and what pantry items you have available. Here are some ideas to add at three stages of cooking.
In the beginning (add with the garlic):
- Fresh grated ginger
- Fresh or dried turmeric
- Fresh or dried thyme
In the middle (in place of egg noodles):
- Other pasta shapes, such as orzo or ditalini
- Pasta alphabet letters, which are fun for kids
- Diced Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes, for a heartier version
- Diced sweet potatoes or winter squash, for a touch of sweetness
- White or brown rice, to keep it gluten-free
- Canned beans, such as cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
At the end:
- Some spinach or kale in the last 2 minutes of cooking for another nutritional boost
- A handful of frozen peas
- Even more lemon juice and dill for brightness
- Soy sauce, fish sauce or sesame oil for an umami burst
- Fresh tender herbs, such as chives or parsley
- A dash of hot sauce
- Saltine crackers — a classic!
- Avocados are OK to put on everything, including soups and stews
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
Homemade Chicken Stock (for Instant Pot or pressure cooker)
- 2 pounds (roughly) of chicken bones
- 1 onion, halved
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 carrots, halved lengthwise
- 2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch thyme, optional
- 2-3 quarts water
1. Place all ingredients in an Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker). Add water to the fill line. Set the steam function to “sealed,” then lock the lid. Set to high pressure for 60 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally.
2. Unlock the lid and discard the large solids. Pour the remaining liquid through a fine mesh strainer.
3. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or put in the freezer for future use.
Note: For a more deeply flavored stock, brown the bones using the sauté function in the Instant Pot before adding the rest of the ingredients.