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Chicken Soup: Basic Recipe + 4 Global Variations

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Basic chicken broth

Basic chicken broth

I live on good soup, not on fine words.

— Moliere

When Was Chicken Soup Invented?

There is no way to come up with a definitive answer, but the advent of combining ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, easy-to-digest meal (“soup”) probably occurred some moments after the discovery of fire, or perhaps more precisely, when prehistoric man took that first step in learning how to cook—learning how to boil water.

And, after learning to boil water, man made yet another discovery. Boiling foods not only makes them taste better, but it also creates new flavors. Cereal grains and some root vegetables, when heated in water, break down, soften, and release starchy granules. These starches then thicken the cooking liquid, the flavors of the individual ingredients combine, and soup is created.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Sop was the name given to the thick gruel which was made in that first cooking of grain or vegetables with meat and water. The “wealthy” made sop with broth poured on sliced bread.

Many nations have sops (soups) that they have claimed as their own—Spanish gazpacho, Scottish (mutton) broth with barley, and Russian cabbage soup. Each different soup was borne, not out of ethnic pride or a desire for individuality, but from a need for frugality and using local ingredients that could be easily obtained.

Here a Chick, There a Chick

And here’s where the chicken enters the story. The domesticated chicken has a long, complicated genealogy stretching back perhaps as much as 7,000 to 10,000 years. Fossil bones of what is believed to be a domesticated breed of poultry have been discovered in northeastern China—they date back to about 5,400 B.C. And that is just the beginning.

Researchers assume that the ancestors of that northeast China chicken originated in a drier, warmer climate. The habitat of those ancestors, the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) was vast, stretching from northeastern India to the Philippines.

DNA analysis has identified three other species of fowl that may also be the progenitor of the red junglefowl and thus modern chicken.

Let's Do The Math

Chicken was popular—easy to raise and quick to maturity. It was taken to Africa; it was taken to Europe. Yet another variety of chicken has its origins in South America.

The chicken, dear friends, is ubiquitous.

1.u·biq·ui·tous [yoo-bik-wi-tuhs]

ADJECTIVE

Existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent

Chicken is a local ingredient (unless, of course, you live in Antarctica). It's ubiquitous. And guess what? Soup is ubiquitous. You needn’t be a mathematical genius to understand this equation:

A = chicken

B = soup

C = ubiquitous

If A = C, and B = C, does it not stand to reason that A + B = C?

Yes, chicken soup is everywhere!

A first rate soup is more creative than a second rate painting.

— Abraham Maslow

Equipment You Will Need

  • 1 large stockpot
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large spoon
  • can opener
  • strainer or colander
  • food processor (if making your own noodles)
  • plastic wrap (if making your own noodles)

Recipes in This Article

The Basic Recipes to Get You Started

  • Basic chicken broth recipe (the foundation)
  • Basic homemade noodles recipe (if you're in the mood to make your own)
  • Basic chicken noodle soup recipe

4 Variations From Around the World

  • Tex-Mex chicken noodle soup
  • Asian chicken noodle soup
  • Moroccan chicken noodle soup
  • Italian chicken noodle soup
Chicken soup with homemade noodles

Chicken soup with homemade noodles

Basic Homemade Chicken Broth Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 4-pound whole chicken (remove and discard the bag of giblets before cooking; see note below)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 4 quarters
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • About 4 quarts (16 cups) of water

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken, onion, carrots, and celery in a stockpot. Pour in enough water to completely cover the chicken and vegetables. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about one hour or until the chicken is tender. While cooking, use a large spoon to skim any scum or large globules of fat from the surface.
  2. Carefully remove the chicken from the stockpot; set aside to cool slightly. Continue to simmer the broth. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones. Place in a covered container and refrigerate. Return the chicken bones to the stockpot. Continue to simmer the stock for one hour.
  3. Strain broth into several large containers. If not planning to use it immediately, place stock-filled containers in a sink filled with cold water and ice. (This will speed up the cooling process.) Cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 3 quarts (12 cups).

Note: At the start of this recipe I recommended removing (and discarding) the bag of giblets. If you like the taste of them, by all means, take them out of the paper bag and add them to the stockpot with your whole chicken. I personally do not care for the taste of chicken liver cooked with my broth. To each his own.

By the way: Are you wondering why we discard the vegetables, and then add new vegetables to the stock to make chicken soup? The vegetables used in this portion of the recipe are completely used up. All flavor and texture have been rendered out of them. Allow them to rest in peace.

Homemade noodles (if you're In the mood)

Homemade noodles (if you're In the mood)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well
  • 1/2 cup milk (approximate)

Instructions

  1. Place flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.
  2. With the machine running, pour in eggs. Process until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.
  3. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the milk. Depending upon humidity you might not need the entire 1/2 cup. Add just enough to make a smooth, firm dough.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let sit for one hour (this will allow the gluten in the dough to relax so that the dough is easier to roll out).
  5. With a large rolling pin or pasta machine, roll dough to a thickness of 1/16th inch. Cut into ½-inch wide strips, and then cut each strip into 3-inch long pieces. Sprinkle flour over cut noodles and toss to coat (so that they don’t stick together) while waiting for water or broth (stock) to come to a boil.
  6. Drop into water/broth/stock by handfuls, stirring constantly. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.

Basic Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, pared and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken stock (see recipe above, or use low-sodium canned chicken stock)
  • 8 ounces dried noodles (or see the recipe above for homemade noodles)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced (from the above recipe for chicken stock, or use leftover rotisserie chicken)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in noodles and then reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally until noodles are cooked (they will be soft, but not mushy).
  4. Stir in chicken, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to heat the chicken. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Makes about 6 servings

Variation 1. Tex-Mex Chicken Noodle Soup

To the basic chicken noodle soup recipe add:

  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup salsa (mild or medium, depending on your heat preference)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, minced

Variation 2. Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

From the basic chicken noodle soup delete:

  • Noodles and replace with 2 cups cooked white rice, or cooked (steamed) won tons (2 or 3 for each bowl)

And then add:

  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Variation 3. Moroccan Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

From the basic chicken noodle soup recipe delete

  • Noodles and replace them with 1.1/2 cups of orzo

And then add:

  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

Variation 4. Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

From the basic chicken noodle soup recipe delete:

  • Noodles and replace with ditalini, macaroni, or other short pasta

And then add:

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 cups fresh kale (ribs removed) chopped
  • 1 cup salad croutons (yes, trust me on this. Seasoned dried bread cubes are the heart and soul of ribollita soup)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Simmer for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked and kale is wilted/tender.

© 2016 Linda Lum