Chicken soup has played a role in food traditions around the world for millennia. From Asia to the Middle East to North America, the smell of a simmering pot of soup evokes a feeling of home. It’s warmed the belly and made us feel better when we’re sick. It’s simple, comforting, and oh-so-good for you.
While ancient cooks might not have understood how collagen in chicken bones adds amino acids, B vitamins, and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium to soup, they did know that broth was life sustaining.
These days, we also know that antioxidant-containing vegetables that traditionally accompany soup, including garlic, onion, celery, parsley, and carrots, can help with everything from inflammation to immunity. Steam can ease congested sinuses, and the warm liquid can soothe a sore, dry throat.
While you don’t need a broth that’s swimming in fat, a little fat helps you absorb other nutrients, including the extra nutrients from melted bone marrow (especially if the chicken is truly free range). Homemade meat broths are also a cornerstone of the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) and GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) diet, which have been recommended for people suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) since they contain intestinal lining-healing glycosaminoglycans, including glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.
Soup itself isn’t a miracle cure. What you don’t need are the preservatives, high sodium, and additives present in many canned and packaged versions. Fortunately, once you’ve tasted the deep, rich, umami chicken flavour of a homemade broth, it’s hard to go back.
There are plenty of inspirational recipes from all over the world. Plus, variations are endless: from couscous, rice, or spirals in place of noodles to coconut milk, cream, or mouth-numbing chili peppers in place of a simple, clear broth. Chicken noodle soup is a choose-your-own-adventure meal, but the base is usually the same: noodles in a long-simmered broth, traditionally made from an old laying hen that adds plenty of flavour but needs a long time to tenderize.
And while a great from-scratch chicken soup often requires patience, with quality bone broths and preservative-free chicken bouillons now available in stores, there’s always a simpler (but still healthy) version that will get dinner on the table fast. So, this cold and flu season, it’s time for a chicken noodle soup revival—whether it’s you, a friend, or the soup that’s being revived.
Chicken noodle soup—revived
These recipes for chicken noodle soup range from rustic to gastronomic. Before there were bouillon cubes and cartons of broth, chicken soup could only be made from fresh chicken, which is why our Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup recipe and our Vietnamese Phở’ Gà call for doing just that. It’s a more labour-intensive method, but the results (and the aromas) are worth it.
Before refrigeration, soup was an all-day affair, but now you can make the broth in advance and refrigerate or freeze it until needed, which works for any of these recipes—in fact, it’s our preference for the Soupe au Poulet à la Française, a French-style chicken noodle soup with vermouth, fennel, and tarragon, and our Kid-Friendly Chicken Noodle Soup, which is also parent friendly, since it gets your meal on the table faster and doesn’t come from a can or a takeaway.
If you’re really craving soup and don’t have time to make broth, you can still make these recipes. Look for a gluten-free, MSG-free, low-sodium chicken broth or bone broth. Nowadays, you can even find quality bouillon cubes or powder, which is the key ingredient in our giftable Mason Jar Chicken Noodle Soup. Either way, these recipes should help you enjoy more healthy soups—and you can take comfort in that.