Chicken Soup

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The best chicken soup doesn’t need much — just tender poached chicken, hearty winter vegetables, and fresh herbs simmered in chicken broth. It’s a simple combination that’s a cozy hug for your taste buds and the best kind of immunity boost.

A big pot of chicken soup.
Photo: Gayle McLeod

I’ve been making this exact chicken soup for over a decade now. It’s my go-to recipe when the cold weather strikes and I’m craving something light, brothy, nourishing, and warm. And while many chicken soup recipes often contain pasta noodles, they’re definitely not needed. I swap those out for parsnips which are equally filling, but add a deliciously sweet flavor that works so well with the fresh herbs.

What’s the secret to making a phenomenal chicken soup? My answer is to keep the ingredient list minimal and simple. This chicken soup is jam-packed with a ton of nutrient-dense vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, leek, celery, and onion, plus fresh herbs. Vegetables are a big component of many of my soups recipes, from my lentil soup, to classic vegetable soup, and cabbage soup. But, it’s the fresh thyme and tarragon that really makes this chicken soup special and unique.

If you’ve made my chicken salad recipe you know that tarragon pairs beautifully with chicken, and I’d say it’s the one ingredient that really gives this soup that “wow factor” as well. So if you’re on the hunt for a chicken soup that’s cozy, healing, and flavorful, this should be at the top of your list!

Ingredients for chicken soup.

Simple Chicken Soup Ingredients

  • Chicken Breast: You’ll need two boneless, skinless chicken breast for poaching. Though you could also swap in chicken thighs if you’d like. Poached chicken is the best method for an easy and healthy way to cook chicken!
  • Vegetables: This is a classic and hearty mix of carrots, parsnips, leek, celery, onion, and garlic. If you’re not a fan of parsnips, you can also use turnips or potatoes. Just keep in mind that potatoes may need a few extra minutes to cook until fork-tender.
  • Fresh Herbs: When it comes to seasoning your chicken soup, sprigs of fresh thyme, tarragon, and a bay leaf lend herbaceous goodness. See my notes below if using dried herbs.
  • Chicken Broth: With a simple ingredient list, it’s important to choose a high-quality chicken broth for the best flavor. If you’re curious about the brand I use, I’ve linked it in the recipe card below.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below

How To Make Chicken Soup

Saute the veggies. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the carrots, parsnips, celery, leek, and onion to the pot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then, add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir for another minute.

Cooked vegetables in a pot.

Poach the chicken. Add the thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, chicken, and broth to the pot. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked. You can also use an instant-read thermometer to see if the chicken has reached 165°F. 

Cooking chicken breast and vegetables in a pot.

Shred the chicken. With tongs, remove the chicken to a cutting board and gently shred the chicken with two forks. Place the shredded chicken back into the pot and simmer for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

Adding chicken to a pot of chicken soup

Garnish and serve. Remove the sprigs of thyme, tarragon, and bay leaf. Don’t forget to garnish the fresh parsley and black pepper before serving. Those little additions will make a difference!

A close up photo of a pot with chicken soup.

Common Questions

Does chicken soup actually help when you have a cold?

While I’m no doctor, I think most would agree that chicken soups are nourishing. And for me personally, it’s always been one of my go-to remedies for when I’m feeling under the weather. The light and warm broth soothes my body and the mix of healthy protein and veggies gives me the nutrients I need to keep my gut happy.

Can I use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs?

While I do feel that fresh is best in this recipe, if you only have dried herbs on hand, go ahead and use them! Just keep in mind that dried herbs are a bit stronger in flavor, so I’d recommend starting with ½ teaspoon of each, and then adding more if you’d like.

What else can I add to this soup?

You can always add more veggies to this soup, like peas or zucchini. In fact, I add zucchini noodles along with spicy ginger and earthy turmeric in the golden chicken zoodle soup recipe in my Healthy Meal Prep cookbook!

A white bowl of chicken soup

Storage Tips

  • To store for the week: Always allow your soup to come to room temperature before storing away in the fridge in an airtight container. This soup will stay good for 4 to 5 days — making it the perfect healthy meal to quickly reheat and enjoy throughout the week!
  • To freeze for later: If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a big fan of freezing extra portions of soups, whether that’s in a glass storage container or this silicone freezing tray. Leftovers will stay good for up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • For reheating: To reheat a single serving, microwave it in a bowl for a few minutes until it’s warm to your liking.

More Healthy Soup Recipes

Soups always have a designated spot on my menus, especially during fall and winter. If you’re looking for some new inspirations, I’ve got plenty of soup recipes to choose from. Give one of these a try next!

  • Butternut Squash Soup: A must-make during winter squash season!
  • Stuffed Pepper Soup: This hearty soup with ground beef, rice, bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes will satisfy even the hungriest bellies.
  • White Chicken Chili: This chicken chili is loaded with white beans and lots of veggies.
  • Avgolemono Soup: A Greek lemon, chicken, and rice soup that’s naturally creamy.
  • Split Pea Soup: Green split peas are simmered with veggies and a meaty ham bone for ultimate flavor.

I hope this chicken soup recipe becomes your new cold-weather favorite. If you make it, I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community.

A bowl of chicken soup next to spoons.

Ultimate Chicken Soup

4.96 from 130 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

This nourishing and healing chicken soup recipe is loaded with poached chicken, carrots, parsnips, celery, leek, onion, garlic and fresh herbs. It's a great cold weather soup! Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen.

Video

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise, sliced, and rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Saute the veggies. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the carrots, parsnips, celery, leek, and onion to the pot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir for another minute.
    Cooking vegetables in a pot for chicken soup.
  • Poach the chicken. Add the thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, chicken, and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
    Cooking chicken breast and vegetables in a pot.
  • Shred the chicken. With tongs, remove the chicken to a cutting board and then gently shred the chicken with two forks. Place the shredded chicken back into the pot and simmer for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
    Process of cooking chicken soup
  • Serve. Remove the sprigs of thyme, tarragon and the bay leaf. Stir in the parsley, and garnish with additional fresh parsley and black pepper before serving.
    A white pot of chicken soup

Lisa’s Tips

  • Those of you with an eagle eye may have noticed I added the garlic first in the video above. While that’s not detrimental, I do believe the steps listed above are best – so follow those.
  • For the shredded chicken hack (using a stand mixer) that I mention in the video, check out my shredded chicken recipe. 

Nutrition

Calories: 319kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 822mg | Potassium: 1302mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 11098IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken soup, chicken soup recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally published January 2016, but updated to include new information and photos for your benefit!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




222 Comments

  1. Unfortunately my family didn’t like this 😔 for some reason it tastes really sweet? Followed the direction 100 percent! I was really looking forward to it as all the positive reviews and the photos looked good.1 star

    1. Hi Edith – I’m not quite sure how it could taste sweet when the ingredients are only chicken and vegetables. But thanks for giving it a try, and hopefully you’ll enjoy some of my other recipes more!

  2. My Husband didn’t feel well so I decided to try and make this soup for him. It came out so good!! Even my Husband loved it!!
    Thank you!! 😊5 stars

  3. Hi there I am new to cooking. I was being asked if I want regular parsley or Italian parsley. Which one should I choose? Thanks in advance!

  4. The most flavourful chicken soup I’ve ever made. My husband requests this soup a few times a month since my first time making it. It’s easy to make so I’m happy to make it over and over again. We often boil some gluten free pasta separately and add it to our bowls to make it even more filling. As always, this recipe is a winner!5 stars

  5. Love your recipes. I still haven’t found one I don’t like. They are all super yummy and you make them seem so easy.5 stars

  6. Made this recipe and took the batch to a new mom when we went to visit. We took sandwichs as well and had lunch with her and left the remainder with her. We all enjoyed it so much I came home and made it again! It is going into the family recipe book. So much flavour and colour! Thank you for sharing!

  7. I just moved to Paris, France and they have these wonderful roast chickens. I wanted something to do with the leftover chicken and was craving some American chicken soup. I found this recipe and saw that it was highly rated. I just made this soup and it is AMAZING! Exactly what I was looking for. I am not sure if it was the spices or the vegetables but it just had the most amazing flavor. If you are looking for a recipe and reading this review, just go make it. You won’t be disappointed!5 stars

  8. I have made chicken soup for years and this is by far the best recipe! The parsnips and leeks just add that special touch. I make my own chicken broth from only pasture raised chicken. I also used pasture raised chicken breasts in this recipe. Pasture raised just elevates the taste and nutrition. Thanks again for a recipe that I will make lifetime.5 stars