Easy Chicken Soup
In college, I really only ate at two establishments outside of the dining hall (when sober). One was a “healthier” fast casual restaurant called B.GOOD that provided me with my daily salad or turkey burger and shockingly delicious oven fries. The other was a soup chain called Boston Chowder Co.
Boston Chowder was located inside a food court of sorts called “The Garage,” and I was inexplicably obsessed with their chicken soup. I ate it four to five times a week for FOUR YEARS—flagrantly ignoring seasons and the fact that I was often privy to the transfer of said soup from giant plastic bag to heating vessel—without getting sick of it. ‘Twas a college miracle.
In hindsight, I think the soup love was partially experiential, since one of my best friends happened to share my unbridled soup fetish. Annabel and I had regular dates in The Garage, and we’d convene at a high top to swap deep thoughts on the contents of our Styrofoam containers. We’d talk chicken quality and quantity, ratio of chicken to vegetables, level of freshness, and broth temperature like the intellectual soup connoisseurs that we were. (Shades of my future…) And I can honestly say that few things brought us weird soup ladies greater joy than an “EXCELLENT SOUP DAY!!”
*On days when our schedules did not align, it became de rigueur for the first diner to alert the other if it was, in fact, an excellent soup day. Just to fluff her for her lunch.
I haven’t had Boston Chowder in almost a decade, but my inner weird soup lady is still very much alive and kicking, and I stand by chicken soup being the ultimate feel good food. It’s tasty and nourishing, and while it’s obviously great when sick, I’m just as into chicken soup as a casual weeknight dinner or #sassydesklunch. Over the years, I’ve slowly perfected my easy chicken soup “recipe” (it’s really more of a roadmap), which I’m very excited to finally share with you today.
This chicken soup is loaded with the usual suspects—onions, carrots, celery, and tender chicken breasts—but I also like to throw in a diced sweet potato for texture, sweetness, and extra fiber, and a big piece of ginger for kick. Bone broth adds extra flavor and nutrients/collagen, but regular broth is 100% fine. A big squeeze of lemon brightens things up, and I like to top each beautiful bowl with plenty of fresh cilantro and creamy avocado. It’s quite the chicken soup experience, if I do say so myself.
As much as I appreciate a luxuriously slow-simmered soup with homemade broth, I’m rarely down with the time commitment, which is why I’m thrilled to report that this easy chicken soup comes together in about 40 minutes from start to finish thanks to the quick-cooking nature of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which I slice in half before adding to the soup) and my affinity for store-bought bone broth. I also love that there are endless you do you options for this one pot wonder.
A few fun ways to riff on this easy chicken soup depending on your mood:
-Give it a Mexican flair by adding a minced chipotle pepper in adobo and subbing lime juice for lemon. (I usually ditch the cayenne and ginger in this iteration.)
-Go a lemon-herb route. Skip the ginger and add a teaspoon or two of Herbes de Provence or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme along with an extra squeeze of lemon juice.
-Throw in a few handfuls of baby kale or spinach for an added nutrient boost.
-Swap butternut squash or regular potatoes for the sweet potatoes.
-Forego the potatoes and add a can of white beans.
-Stir in ¼ cup of quinoa when you simmer the chicken for a heartier, more stew-like situation. Farro or a ½ cup of your favorite noodles would also be great.
-Get creative with garnishes! All manner of fresh herbs are delightful, as are scallions, sliced jalapeños, Parmesan cheese, crumbled crackers, and even crispy bacon when you’re feeling wild.
May this recipe provide you with many excellent soup days, friends! For the record, it freezes very well, so I recommend keeping a batch in the freezer for future busy weeknights and sick days.
Your Weird Blog/Soup Lady
Easy Chicken Soup (Serves 4)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced into half moons
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾ inch dice (roughly 3 cups diced sweet potato)
6 cups chicken bone broth (or low-sodium chicken broth)
1½-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced in half
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of half a lemon.
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
-Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the carrots, celery ribs, onion, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the vegetables are beginning to soften.
-Add the sweet potato, bone broth (6 cups for a thicker soup, 7 cups for a brothier soup), ginger, and cayenne (if using), and bring to a simmer.
-When the soup is simmering, slice the chicken breasts in half crosswise (this will help them cook more quickly!), and add them to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potato is tender.
-Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Fish the pieces of ginger from the soup and discard.
-Return the shredded chicken to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice.
-Taste the soup and season with extra salt and pepper if needed. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and avocado or toppings of your choice!
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