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Homemade Chicken Soup - looking for key ingredients

  • h

When I make a big pot of homemade chicken soup the process begins with split chicken breasts, root vegetables, a large glove of garlic, a finger of fresh ginger and cold water. Boiled down for stock and bits removed.

My spices include salt, black pepper, dried rosemary, dried thyme and one bay leaf.

While the chicken cools a bit for easier handling, I add finger length carrots, large dice celery, chopped onion and eventually the cleaned strips of white meat chicken to the pot.

As those flavors meld and soften, I boil water to prepare the pasta (my favorite is bow ties and I only parboil them).

When the 'ties are ready to be added in, I also add about a half cup of Marsala wine.

Pot boils until everything is married and I yell "soups on."

Nothing super scientific or grand about my method so I'd love to hear what you add to chicken soup. Any special add-in?

Thanks !

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  1. Personally, I discard the "boiled down" chicken as it has already given it's all in the stock process. Plus I make sure, since I will skim and screen my stock, that I get some bones and skin in. I usually make sure I use thighs as well, i think they have more flavor. I add sliced or cubed chicken back in when the presentation veggies are almost done. I never boil after the stock is done, just simmer to meld flavors and finish up the soup. If I add a wine, it is a reduction of vermouth. I also like mushrooms (Hey I'm Polish, it's genetic ) and fresh herbs. I also make a spatzle like noodle for the pasta.

    1. I like a small drop of Asian dark sesame oil in chicken soup. Not enough to be in your face but to add some depth

      1. i start with thighs and legs, rough chopped carrots, leeks, and garlic. sometimes ginger, depends. parsley, bay leaves, thyme. cook for several hours, strain out all solids, then chill overnight. next day, i skim off all the fat, add fresh skinless dark meat chicken, carrots and parsnips, salt. i like small fine noodles, so add about 1/2 pound directly to the pot, then pepper. when it's "done", i squeeze in a lemon.

        i've stopped using celery in stocks and soups because of the bitterness and recently read in escoffier to add black pepper only in the last 7 minutes of cooking, to prevent excessive tannins. seems to work.

        1. A whole chicken gives you more body -- esp if it really is a whole chicken (head and feet, from the Chinese market)
          Or I use legs/thighs
          whole onion and garlic cloves, a carrot, maybe thyme/parsley - all of which is discarded after they give up the goods
          whole black peppercorns (hotoynoodle, talk to me more about the tannin thing you read)

          I pull the chicken out when the meat is almost cooked, strip the meat off for the soup later and return the bones and bits clinging to keep cooking.

          After that, it just depends. We've gotten into chipotle chicken soup the past few years - toss in a canned chipotle and sauce, spinach, and orzo (precooked), finish with a ton of minced cilantro and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Adjust salt and pepper.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pitu

            Wow, the chipotle chicken soup sounds fantastic!!

          2. I think pitu has it. If you use a whole chicken you will see a major difference in your soup. If you strain the stock and put it on the porch overnight (30 degrees here), in the morning you can scrape off the hard fat and underneath it will be the most amazing gelatin. When heated up and stirred back into the soup it adds flavor and body. Geez, now you made me hungry for soup.

            1. I like fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon for traditional chicken soup.

              If it has Asian inspired flavours, I like lime and cilantro.

              1. I recently made chicken stock a couple of times with varied success and I posted about it. The suggestions that I thought were most useful were:
                Use parts with lots of cartilidge for body (wings, feet, backs, necks, etc.)
                Don't peel the onion in the initial simmer for good color.
                Never forget bay leaves. Parsely too.
                DO NOT boil the stock

                The best chicken soup I've ever had was at Artie's Deli in NYC so I try to recreate that. It has celery, carrots, those very fine Manischewitz egg noodles, matzo balls, chicken, and pepper. Must have pepper. I understand about being careful when adding it because it can seem to grow stronger with time.

                The next time I make chicken soup it will have a more Asian bent with sesame oil, mushrooms, green onions, chili.

                Then onto a good chicken tortilla soup with ground up tortillas for flavor and body and then tortilla strip garnish.

                1. I like to use a stewing hen (they aren't always available) and leave it whole. When it's thoroughtly cooked, but not falling apart, I take it out of the pan and remove the meat to use later; it freezes well. The breasts and thigths can be made into neat slices, and the rest, which is not at all neat, can be used in pot pies, janbalays, etc. I then put the carcase back into the pot and cook it for about 3 hours more. I add any left over frozen chicken bones or scraps, a carrot or 2, a stalk of celery, some parsley stems, a parsnip, a bay leaf salt and pepper.

                  1. I would add a whole parsnip to the soup and remove before serving.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: spades

                      I love eating the parsnips, carrots and whole onions separate after the soup has cooked

                      1. re: spades

                        I've heard that there's some secret ingredient, but I can't figure out if it's parsnip, leak, or turnip.

                        1. re: yayadave

                          I use leaks and I used to use parsnips, but have switched to celery root. I felt the parsnips gave the soup a slightly soapy taste. I think turnip would be a little overwhelming for a chicken broth.

                          1. re: yayadave

                            My mother's secret ingredient is a grated yam. It disolves and adds color and flavor.

                            1. re: bklyngrl

                              But wouldn't it cause the broth to turn cloudy?

                        2. Start with a whole chicken and fill the pot with cold water. Add onion cut in half (with peel), celery, carrots, peppercorn and koser salt. Let the simmer for hour and strain- you have your base- to make the soup shred your chicken and heat the stock with celery, carrot and onion (this time peeled and quartered). Add Black pepper to taste and then (this is the key) fresh dill- it is an absolute must! Just throw it on top and put a lid on the pot for 5 min. Then serve (you can add egg noodles if desired)- So wonderful- will cure any cold.... :)

                          1. My fave:

                            Cut several strips of bacon into pieces with kitchen scissors and sautee up some onion and garlic and carrot and celery in a soup pot.

                            Add water once onions become translucent.....

                            Bring to boil and add a whole chicken...skin and all.....

                            Add cubed potatoes....

                            let boil for a while and start to fish out bones and skin and gristle....

                            skim the top to remove fat and use soy sauce for the salt, pepper/oregano to taste.


                            1. For a really rich, flavourful, Jewish-style chicken soup, lots of bones and onions are the key ingredients. And kosher chickens, which have gone through a salt-bath process, are said to make the best chicken soups.

                              Wings provide far more flavour to a broth than any other part of the chicken. I usually use a whole, cut-up chicken, about a dozen wings, some feet if available (the kosher butchers often carry them), and a chicken carcass or two. Cover with water to about 3 inches above the chicken, bring to a low boil and skim off the impurities (the gray floaty stuff). Then I add: about 4 onions, halved; a couple of leeks; 6-8 carrots; a small celery root, cut in chunks; a clove of garlic, and kosher salt and pepper.

                              I make sure that the chicken and the vegetables are covered by the water, bring it all back up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover partially, and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, making sure that the liquid remains at a simmer and does not boil (this prevents the broth from becoming cloudy).

                              I strain the solids from the broth, taste the broth and adjust the salt and pepper. I love to eat "chicken in the pot." To me, boiled chicken is comfort food (the wings and legs, anyway, not the overcooked breast meat), and I'll often serve it as a meal. Some members of my family like to add the well-cooked soup vegetables to their portions of soup, so I serve the soup vegetables on the side.

                              I like to make the soup the day before serving, so that I can skim the congealed fat from the surface.

                              My grandmother used to make latkes out of the chicken soup vegetables.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: FlavoursGal

                                This sounds perfect. Love in a bowl.

                                1. re: Pate

                                  TOTAL perfection. Pure comfort. Throw in a few homemade matzo balls (made with fried onions, no less), and all thoughts of eating in the finest restaurant in the world simply fade away.

                              2. make sure you include the skin of the onion - it makes all the difference!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jcooks

                                  Yes, and it gives the soup a wonderful golden colour.

                                2. a mexican restaurant in the area uses the faintest hint of mint in their 'caldo de pollo' - its fantastic.

                                  1. Try adding fresh or dryed Tarragon...OMG....adds such a wonderful touch. When I make chicken or tuna salad I always add dryed tarragon also......ENJOY....OBX

                                    1. KISS Chicken Soup

                                      Pot, water, half chicken (cleaned), large onion, three carrots (peeled), heat for 2 hours.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        jfood, why not add the whole chicken? Just curious.

                                      2. My mother taught me to add a little curry powder. it makes an amazing difference in the the broth.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: xena

                                          I use turmeric in mine for a lovely flavour and golden colour.

                                          lots of celery and of course lots of salt!

                                        2. I made chicken soup quickly when my dh was sick the other night: browned shallots, carrots, and celery in one pot, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in another. Added garlic, herbs, bay leaf, some white wine, and water. When the chicken was done, I removed it from the pot, put it in a bowl, covered, in a warm oven. I put the veggies/stock in the chicken pot and deglazed the chicken fond. Simmered and skimmed for the next ten minutes, then chopped the chicken and allowed it to cook in the broth another minute or two before I served the soup with bread (guess what kind!). It was fast and good -- and fed our family for two nights.

                                          1. I love Cook's Illustrated's approach, as has everyone I've served it to.

                                            1. Whole chicken - breasts split, the rest of the bird chopped into 2-inch pieces (think big chunks of chicken, bone, skin & all). Brown the breasts & remove. Brown the rest of the bird pieces & remove.
                                            2. Whole onion - chopped into large chunks, skin-on. Sweat until soft.
                                            3. Return chicken pieces to pot with onion. Add bay leaf, cover & sweat for 20 minutes.
                                            4. Add 2 quarts boiling water & chicken breasts & simmer for another 20 minutes.
                                            5. Remove chicken breasts, strain & defat the broth.
                                            6. Saute bite size chunks of carrot and celery in the reserved chicken fat.
                                            7. Add broth, return to simmer & add wide egg noodles. Cook according to package directions.
                                            8. Break the breast meat into bit sized pieces & return to broth with chopped parsley.



                                            1. I like to put barley in my chicken soup instead of pasta. Also, I add some fresh lemon juice and/or lemon pepper.

                                              1. I think that dill is the definitive ingredient – however, I guess that is for “Jewish” chicken soup. I take a nice handful of dill and a second handful of parsley and tie it together with twine. I float this in the simmering soup, and within minutes the house smells like “Jewish penicillin.” Also, if you’re going Jewish-style, thin egg noodles, soup mandlen (nuts), and matzo balls all add to the fun.

                                                I really think the best thing about chicken soup is that it ISN’T a science – you can throw anything into the pot and it’ll turn out fine. My grandma wouldn’t have ever thought about the ingredients in the soup – but to this day, she makes the best chicken soup in the world. Yes, this is an emotional rather than intellectual response, but it’s chicken soup we’re talking about – how could you keep emotion out of it!

                                                1. Today I'm sick with head cold, cough, sore throat, body aches. Got on here and read some of your ideas. So into the pot went olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, celery and ginger...sautee until soft. Added a swirl of dark sesame oil...then seasoned cut up chicken breast. Sauteed a bit, then added 2 qt. chicken broth. A bit of salt and pepper. It's simmering away and smelling glorious..as much as I can smell, anyway! Will add a bit of broccoli and spinach when it's done. I'll probably add a bit of lemon zest at the end.

                                                  As much as I love ginger and sesame oil, I've never put them into chicken soup before so I was delighted with these ideas.

                                                  1. ok nothing beats a creamy Greek lemon/egg and chicken soup:http://www.eatgreektonight.com/recipe...
                                                    . I haved added escarole toward end as well. great stuff!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: lyn

                                                      My Italian nonna's chicien soup always contained escarole - it made such a difference!

                                                    2. I often add white wine or vermouth after browning the chicken. Usually, I don't use a whole bird unless I'm making something specific like chicken and dumplings. For broth, I save up backs, wings, and necks in the freezer, and might use some dark meat to remove early and save for the finished soup. After the wine deglazing, onion, celery, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaf, any herbs (thyme, etc.) go in. Paprika or garlic for some stocks. Potato peels or even fennel for others, depends on what the finished soup will be. Before I used wine or vermouth, I'd simmer them overnight, but with the alcohol find I don't have to unless I'm so inclined. ETA: I forgot leeks--I save up the green parts in the freezer, and they make a wonderful sweet broth. Leeks, carrots, and fennel alone make a great vegetable stock--very delicate.

                                                      1. I'm lucky to have my regular market carry chicken feet. I don't know where I got the idea they added to the soup, but they're cheap and I always use them.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                          YES ON FEET!

                                                          They add lots of body, even a gelatinousness.

                                                        2. I would try adding some whole cloves to the whole stock making process--really gives a nice flavor.

                                                          1. I have only recently begun experimenting with chicken soup. (It's cold and I'm home on maternity leave- it seemed appropriate.) My method has been similar: use a whole chicken (I've just been using a 3-4 lbs fryer from the grocery store, though I would like to try a kosher chicken next), boil/simmer with celery, parsnips, carrots, turnips, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and salt and pepper- turnips are key according to my grandmother, strain, pick apart the chicken to put some back in, and save the carrots. I made matzo balls to go in it... very satisfying. But, I will have to try some of these suggestions.

                                                            1. Chicken breasts are generally a waste of $ for making the broth for the soup. Save them for poaching in the soup after the broth has been made; then remove them and shred (not not cube unless you are not reheating it again, as cubed cooked chicken will get rubbery on reheating).

                                                              Go to an Asian market and get a mess of wings and feet. Backs, necks (with or without heads) and drumsticks too. Very cheap. Very good. These are the parts that provide flavor and body to broth.

                                                              Save the thighs like the breasts for the soup and the eating.

                                                              Yes to a clove stuck into an onion (with skin). Yes to dry French (not Italian) vermouth.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                Can you tell me more about the clove in the onion? I tried this once and the cloves ended up falling out of the onion and making a mess that I had to scoop out of the pot.

                                                                1. re: Food Smith

                                                                  Oh, well, it's just a trick to keep the clove so you can easily remove it. Sometimes, they do fall out. A surer trick is to enclose the clove with herbs in a cheesecloth or muslin wrap.

                                                              2. This entire thread has been so helpful to me. Big pots of stock are simmering as I write. I'm trying several different combinations re: vegetables, broth flavorings.

                                                                My thanks to everyone who has weighed in for bringing a big boost to my soup pot!

                                                                1. When making homemade stock, I always add a few cloves, a few peppercorns, a head of garlic sliced horizontally to expose the cloves, celery with the leaves, quartered onion with the skin, chunked carrots, a quartered lemon, and then of course, the carcass of a chicken (or turkey). Simmer for a few hours...a low simmer, and skim off the foam as it collects on the surface. Cool, then strain...then chill overnight, skim off the fat on top and you're ready to make the most wonderful soup!!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: wyf4lyf

                                                                    I'm making chicken and dumplings in this rainy NorCal weather. (Yea. We need it! And the frogs on the hill are croaking happily.) Although the recipe I pulled out really is just a chicken soup with dumplings. Aren't most chicken and cumpling recipes made with a creamy broth?

                                                                  2. I add a dash of nutmeg to the soup and only use onions and celery for vegetables. It is an old recipe from the Settlement Cookbook. I also use a bit of nutmeg and fresh grated ginger in my matzah balls.

                                                                    1. Love the subtle flavor imparted by a few whole cloves.

                                                                      1. Well, we all seem to agree that making a good soup requires time, patience, and a lot of love, both for the people eating the soup and for the cooking process.

                                                                        My secret ingredient to adding more flavor to the broth is adding a package of turkey neck bones, discarded after cooking. They are cheap and, although not always available in the local supermarket, much more available here than feet and chicken necks.

                                                                        1. Depending on whether I will use the soup for regular chicken soup or Chinese the ingredients that go into the stock pot will vary only with one item.
                                                                          I alway start with cold water, a clean chicken. Clean the cavity well with rinsing with water and then rub salt, (remove any left over bits that will cloud the broth). 2 stalks of celery cut into large pieces, 2 carrots cut into large pieces, 4 cloves of garlic quartered, 1 large onion cut into 8ths, a handful of Italian parsley, and the spices: 5 peppercorns and Kosher Salt
                                                                          Chinese Stock, same except add 5 coins on peeled ginger root

                                                                          Fill the stock pot with water 3/4 to the top, put the veggies and chicken along with the pepper and salt, into the pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off, cover the pot with a lid, the chicken will be cooked and the stock ready in 1 hr.
                                                                          Then remove the chicken to a plate, strain the broth through cheese cloth, remove all veggies and peppercorns and herbs. No fail stock. Great for Chinese chicken soups and Matzo Ball soup!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                            This is how my grandma used to make her chicken soup.
                                                                            Boil one whole washed chicken over night. first thing in the morning add chopped celery and carrots, and two onions quartered. about one hr. before serving remove chicken and clean the skin and fat out. The rest you shred ( including the bones). She always says that its throwing away half the flavor to toss the bones. If you can't add them back add them to your cat or dogs dish. they will love the treat and the bones are so tender you can crush them with your fingers.

                                                                            1. re: mshaver

                                                                              You have a very wise Grandma.

                                                                              I try it different ways now since this posting in 07. But my favorite is pretty close to the way i posted above, I feel the I get more flavor. So important to clean the inside of the chicken and I mean really scrape along the spine. If you do, you'll notice that you won't see near as much scum. Plus it makes me feel better.
                                                                              Celery is now iffy. I like the onion skins too. I also have often left the carrot out. Garlic, is good leeks are better, White pepper corns are a beautiful thing. I no longer pepper the broth, I save that for when I'm actually making the soup.
                                                                              Also pasta if you add it too soon, clouds the broth.
                                                                              I've also added scallions, whole. They work nicely. And always ginger root. For Asian soups I have to have it.

                                                                              Here's my rule, I only add fresh or organic ingredients while making the base of the soup ( the broth). No bottled, canned or frozen items at this point. Later if you want to add those things, go for it. So funny I've been trying to get the right amount of celery, onion, garlic etc. for years... I love the idea of adding chipotle peppers or the sauce to the soup, that is a great idea.

                                                                              About a week ago I made matzoh ball soup (one of my soup loves) and I made the broth from scratch. I don't know why (yes I do) I added a scoop of Knorrs instant boullion. I can taste the metallic, saltiness and although it's not awful, I know better soup. I guess it's okay for some things, but in this soup i was not pulling enough flavor from the other ingredients and it needed it.
                                                                              Use the freshest onions (leeks are best) carrots, celery, parsley etc. that you can get you hands on. It matters.
                                                                              Chicken soup is a personal thing, it's whatever you love, and if you have found a way that is just flavorful, and works for you, that's all that matters.

                                                                          2. I include a few anise seeds when making the stock.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: h2Bn

                                                                              Star anise or the little straw colored seeds used to make European sweets?

                                                                              1. re: amyzan

                                                                                I was referring to the little anise seeds--they somewhat resemble fennel seed in appearance, aroma, and taste.

                                                                                Star anise--now that is an interesting path for chicken soup.

                                                                                1. re: h2Bn

                                                                                  Yeah, I was curious because star anise is used in southeast Asia for chicken soup. It's a very particular flavor, and I was interested to see if you liked an undertone (or overtone!) of it.

                                                                                  Anyhoo, I have some anise seed, so will have to remember that for next time I make broth, probably a couple months considering the weather here. Do you use a tsp. or more to several quarts broth?

                                                                                  1. re: amyzan

                                                                                    At most a teaspoon--slightly crushed. For me it adds a nice subtle back note to my stock that I really like.

                                                                            2. One of the ethnographic film makers shot and showed "Chicken Soup" at the Anthropology meetings in about 1973. It was soloey about an Appalachian woman making chicken soup. The biggest "gasp" was evoked at the amount of salt used. Enough to stagger all the mules on the 20 mule borax team.

                                                                              1. I blanch the chicken and bones first, Chinese style, for a much clearer broth. Bring the water to a boil, toss in the meat, bones, and skin and gently boil for 10 minutes. Skim off the scum, drain and rinse the chicken well under a running tap, wash the scum off the inside of the pot, and start again with fresh water, adding your vegetables and so on here. Doing this gets rid of a lot of the blood and scum, and the end result is much nicer.

                                                                                I save chicken backs and necks from when I do spatchcocked chicken, various giblets, and the carcass after roast chicken, and add it to cheap bones and meat from the grocery store (it's what's left after the boneless skinless breasts have been cut off and is dirt cheap). To this I add onion, celery (mainly the leaves), any old mushrooms I have on hand, a bit of carrot, peppercorns and a bay leaf.

                                                                                After the stock is done I strain it, cool overnight, and skim off the fat. If I'm freezing it, I reduce it to about 1/3 of it's original volume, for easier storage. I prefer not to season it too strongly in the broth/stock stage, so I can adapt it to different flavours easily.

                                                                                For the soup, I don't really have a standard recipe. Sometimes I go with celery, onion, carrots, green beans, corn and tomatoes, with Italian spices, garlic and some rice. Or diced chicken, tomato, celery, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cumin and garlic. Other times, I'll make Chinese medicinal soup, with a packet of the appropriate seasoning and some rice wine (that gives a *really* different flavour!).

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                  After many of year of not making any chicken soup (or anything else for that matter!) i just started cooking it again.....Lots of good ideas for extra ingedients here! Try adding two or three diced-up tomatoes and one or two medium-sized sweet potatoes (also cut up) to your soup. The sweet potatoes with give it about a 10% extra slight zing to its flavor. You can just barely tell it's there. Nice!

                                                                                  1. re: flossy666

                                                                                    P.S. -I need the "edit post" option at all times! lol! Just wanted to add....besides the obvious (at least to me - with everything cut up/diced): carrots, onions (the strong yellow kind and a LOT), celery, garlic, and of course chicken i also aways add spinach. This is high powered stuff and super-good for ya food!

                                                                                2. I only use chicken wings. The most gelatinous/flavorful part of the bird IMHO. Never boil the stock. I only add a handful of whole washed leaks and a few fresh pork neck bones and a dash of fish sauce. No salt. Nothing else. I simmer and skim for a few hours and remove the wings/bones/leaks. Now I add a few carrots sticks. for sweetness. I never use the 'core' of the carrot. The 'core' and the outside of the carrot cook at different rates and the 'core' tends to be bitter. Carrots are 'flavor sponges' so I always add them at the end just before serving when they are barely cooked through. I pour this broth/stock over el dente vermicelli noodles I've placed in each soup bowl. Oh yeah, I remove the meat from the wings and add a bit of it on top of the noodles with a sprinkle of finely sliced green onions just before serving.