It may be an age-old wives tale, but according to mothers, grandmothers and any soup lover, there truly is no better cure for anything and everything that ails you than homemade chicken noodle soup made with chunky carrots, celery and always savory chicken stock. It’s the ultimate comfort food and incredibly easy to make.
Typically when I place my grocery haul on the grocery store check-out line conveyer belt, it’s a hodge podge assortment of ingredients that doesn’t give anyone a hint as to what’s going on in my kitchen at home. As voyeurs peeking into other’s lives, do the checkers notice (or even care) that you buy all organic with a side of doughnuts on every trip? That you buy enough food to feed an army or simply pick up a passel of frozen dinners for one? And do they judge your cooking skills—or lack thereof—depending on what exotic—or mundane—ingredients fill your basket?
So it wasn’t much of a shocker when I showed up to the 15 items or fewer line that the grocery store clerk asked me if I had someone at home who was under the weather thanks to my collection of a bottle of Chloraseptic, two different brands of throat losenges and all the fixin’s for homemade chicken noodle soup.
I’ll do everything and anything to cure my little girl’s wicked cold and sore throat. So when my baby doll requested a soother of soup for her sickly sore throat, as her adoring mother, I hopped to and got myself into the grocery store check out line and then straight back into the kitchen to whip up a homemade broth that makes the BEST chicken noodle soup, hands down beating anything out of a can.
How to Make Chicken Noodle Soup from Scratch
Why make homemade soup when you can just pry open a can? Duh! Because it’s exponentially better tasting and better for you! Making homemade chicken noodle soup can sound time-consuming and intimidating, but in reality, it’s one of the easiest recipes to prepare and master. Even the homemade chicken broth is amazingly simple, so long as you follow a few tricks I’m sharing here. And once you’ve made it homemade, you’re going to have a terribly time ever considering going back to the canned stuff.
First, homemade chicken noodle soup starts with a homemade broth, and it suprisingly easy to make. It’s the same broth I use for my matzo ball soup and is one I’ve adapted (loosely) from Ina Garten and one of the many episodes of The Barefoot Contessa I’ve absorbed over the years. Here’s how.
I used 2 chicken breasts and 2 chicken legs in this recipe for stock, but if you have a 3 1/2 to 4 pound whole bird on hand, go ahead and substitute it. You may need to adjust your cooking time, so just test the chicken for doneness and taste the stock for flavor as you go.
I always boil my noodles separately from the chicken broth, then add to the soup, otherwise, they absorb up all of the delicious broth as they cook.
If by chance you accidentally simmer away too much of your broth, have a high quality boxed chicken stock on hand to spread the soupyness a little further.
What You Can Put in Chicken Noodle Soup
There’s so much variety you can do with chicken noodle soup. My standard go-to soup always has onion, carrots, celery, chicken, garlic, and parsley with egg noodles. I always use egg noodles in my soup, but go back and forth between the shorter, fatter, extra wide egg noodles from Manischewitz and these thicker and toothier egg noodles from Montana’s Country Pasta. I always have a bag of each on hand.
To switch things up, you could also think about adding:
- Whole grains such as farro, quinoa
- Matzo balls
- You can make it creamy by adding cream, half and half or even coconut milk.
- Switch out the parsley with cilantro or tarragon for a totally different flavor.
Spices to Add to Chicken Noodle Soup
I like to use fresh herbs and spices in my soup, and mainly when cooking my broth, but always keeping it baseline and simple.
When making the homemade broth I use a big handful of fresh parsley and a few sprigs of thyme. To that I always add 2-3 dried bay leaves with 6-8 black peppercorns. Seasoning the broth with kosher salt is important as that is what provides the pronunciation of its flavor. My secret ingredient is adding 3 chicken bouillon cubes for a bit of extra chicken-y-ness. Once the broth is prepared, I discard all the bones and aromatics, and pour the broth over a strainer to remove any of the fine bits for a pure and delicious stock.
Then to the soup I keep it simple with herbs and add in chopped parsley and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
If you’d like to play around, consider adding these herbs for different flavor combinations:
- Lemongrass, for a fresh lemony bite
- Marjoram, similar to oregano but more subtle in earthyness
- Tarragon, adds a mellow licorice flavor
- Ginger, adds a spicy, somewhat sweet flavor
- Fennel, adds a sweet, perfumey, anise-like flavor
- Dill, added right before serving it gives the soup a bright flavor
Shortcut to Semi-Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Soooo, sometimes there’s no time to make homemade broth and maybe you’ve run out your freezer stash too. What to do? Doctor up the store-bought variety. Here’s how.
Choose a quality chicken stock. At this point you’re going to want to choose stock over broth to get that deeper, chicken flavor.
When you but the stock, purchase twice as much as the recipe calls for. Then, pretend this is the water portion of the homemade broth and boil your vegetables and herbs (leave out the peppercorns) for at least 30 minutes to deepen the stock’s flavor. Strain, and continue on with the recipe.
- 2 split chicken breasts, with ribs and skin on
- 2 chicken drumsticks, with skin
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- 6 carrots, leaving 2 of them unpeeled and cut into halves, and the remaining 4 peeled and cut into ¼ inch rounds
- 6 ribs celery, two of them cut in half and the remaining cut into ¼ inch slices
- 1 parsnip, unpeeled cut into 3-inch chunks
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 3 chicken bouillon cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 ounces extra wide egg noodles
- Add the chicken pieces, onion, head of garlic, two unpeeled and halved carrots, two ribs of celery halves, parsnip halves to a large stock pot. Tie 15 stems of Italian parsley and 15 stems of thyme with a bit of kitchen string and add to the pot.
- Cover with cold water 1-2 inches above the chicken and veggies or 14 cups of water. Add 3 chicken bouillon cubes, bay leaves, black peppercorns and kosher salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a lightly rolling simmer and cook uncovered for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until chicken is cooked through and tender and stock is well flavored. If the stock tastes weak, add another chicken bouillon soup and a bit more salt.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool and remove the vegetables from the stock and discard. Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain the broth. Return the broth to the stock pot and add the chopped carrots and celery. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add the egg noodles and cook for another 8 minutes or until noodles are tender but chewy. Remove the skin from the chicken and shred the chicken with two forks. Depending on the size of the chicken breasts, start by adding ¾ of the shredded chicken to the soup then add more if you have enough broth or reserve for another use. Season with more salt and pepper if desired and stir in 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley and serve hot.
More Ideas for Chicken Noodle Soup
The classics will always be, but sometimes we need to add a little spin for the chicken win. Here are a few food blogs who’ve done just that.
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
- Lemon Chicken Stew
- Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs
- Pho Ga Vietnamese Noodle Soup
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