The Best Chicken Soup in the Universe

In addition to the all-incompassing photo shoot at the farm this week, we had a house full of sick designers, models and assistants. They were all total troopers- in spite of their runny noses and sore throats! The good news is that all are now on the mend, and I think that is due- at least in part- to my homemade chicken soup.

I want you to make this chicken soup now, while you are healthy and well, and freeze it in serving-size portions for when you catch the inevitable cold. Future, sick you will be all kinds of grateful that past, healthy you took the time and care to fill up the freezer with this magical and healing chicken soup that beats the hell out of anything that comes from a can.

I have been told that this is the best chicken soup in the universe, which may be a slight exaggeration, but it is awfully damned good. There are two top secret reasons for that which I will reveal in this post but only if you promise to keep them under your hat. Discretion is paramount, y’all!

This soup is also dead easy to make and doesn’t ever require homemade chicken stock to be sublime, although homemade stock would make it even…um…sublimer. I have a freezer full of homemade stock but with 46 garments to shoot and a houseful of cold-havers, I didn’t have time for it to thaw. I used boxed stock. So sue me!

2 Medium Yellow Onions
4 Carrots
4 Celery Stalks
3 or 4 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Rosemary Stalk
LOTS of Garlic (1 head, or 1 3.15oz tube of garlic paste)
3 48oz Containers of LOW SODIUM chicken stock
Cooked Whole Chicken (Roasted at home, or unflavored rotisserie)
1 Heaping Tablespoon Chicken Base (Glace de Poulet or Better Than Boullion)
Super Wide Egg Noodles, cooked to serve (Can sub wild rice or couscous)

First make a mirepoix. Mirepoix is two parts diced onions, one part diced carrots, one part diced celery. I used two medium yellow onions, four carrots and four celery stalks.

Gently saute your mirepoix in your largest dutch oven or soup pot. Cook over medium-low heat until they are softened by not mushy.

When the mirepoix is softened, add the leaves from three or four sprigs of thyme, the chopped leaves of one rosemary stalk and lots and lots of garlic. I usually mince an entire head of garlic for this soup but I didn’t have time for all that fiddly chopping this time, so I used an entire tube of concentrated garlic paste. You can used jarred minced garlic, although I think it is a poor substitute for the real deal. Garlic, rosemary and thyme all have medical properties, which is why they are the flavor stars of this soup.

Since we want to make enough soup to portion and freeze, we’re going big! Add three 48 ounces boxes of low sodium chicken stock to your pot and raise the heat to medium high.

You can either roast a chicken on your own or buy rotisserie chicken at the market. If you go the rotisserie route, be sure to get an unflavored chicken, i.e. not bar-b-que or lemon flavored.

Shred the the entire chicken with your hands, discarding the skin this will seem like a lot of chicken but that’s kind of the idea. I like my chicken soup packed. Add the chicken to your soup pot.

Okay, here’s secret ingredient number one. Have you ever wondered why restaurant chicken soup is so much better than yours? Here’s why. In restaurant parlance, it’s called chicken base and now you can get it at the supermarket. Stir a HEAPING tablespoon of chicken base to your soup pat. [I actually great prefer Glace de Poulet to Better Than Bouillon but my grocery store doesn’t carry it. I stock up when I’m in Charlottesville or Baltimore but Better Than Bouillon is a perfectly good substitute. What isn’t a good substitute is bouillon cubes! Don’t be tempted to toss a couple of those in – too salty and too weird tasting. If you find Glace de Poulet, stir into the soup exactly the way I did here, ignoring the package directions.]

Let your soup simmer until thoroughly heated, 20 minutes or so.

Secret number two to the best chicken soup is to cook the noodles in a separate pot of water only when you are ready to serve. Yes, it’s another pot to watch but trust me, it’s entirely worth it. Most chicken soup suffers from mushy, over-cooked noodles and it is entirely unnecessary. The other benefit of cooking the noodles separately is that you aren’t limiting yourself to only noodle soup. Sometimes I like to add wild rice to this soup, or even couscous. In this case, I used super-wide egg noodles.

When you’re ready to eat, simply add your noodles to the bowl and then ladle in the soup.

Reward yourself for all that work with a bowl for lunch.

Tuck the rest away in portion-sized containers for a day when you are too under the weather to feed yourself.


  1. The soup looks wonderful and I’m sure tastes fantastic. Good idea to make ahead and freeze. Also, love the last phote that even captures the steam from the soup!

  2. I LOVE “BTB” soup bases – First ingredient on the label? Chicken, not salt or sugar!!! We use the chicken, mushroom and beef here, but it comes in lots more varieties.
    When using homemade broth, you can raise this soup to “best in the galaxy” if you substitute guinea fowl for the chicken. Guinea fowl carcass makes the best broth ever!!!

  3. Love homemade soup. The best I’ve made to date was from the carcass of the smoked turkey I did this fall. Sublime. I like to oven roast my veggies for extra flavor rather than sautee them, and shredded kale is a wonderful addition too.

  4. Brilliant! Very similar to what we make around here! I will definitely use that noodle idea because I like wild rice and the Mister likes noodles and now ~~ we can have it both ways!

  5. Yuuuummmmy

  6. Sounds soooo good. It might be on my menu this week. Susan, I use Trader Joe’s frozen chopped garlic. They are frozen in clove increments and all you have to do is pop them out of the container. I think it’s a great thing to have in the freezer. I hardly ever use fresh anymore except for my spaghetti sauce. Don’t know if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area but if you do they are definitely worth a try.

  7. Trader Joes Organic Chicken stock is sooo much better than Swansons. Or if you have a Costco nearby they have a great organic Chicken stock. For chicken base I use Pensey’s Spices. You can mail-order from them if you don’t have a store closeby. Chicken soup is a must have at our house- I like to add root vegetables like parsnips and turnips to the soup in big pieces. For holidays I make matza balls.

  8. after years of hospitals and surgeries, i HATE bullion! with a pink, pokadotted passion! i also have to watch my salt intake as i seem a bit sensitive to it…so i like your idea of ‘better than’…

    and without adding the noodles until i need them, i can add any kind of rice to it from my rice cooker (which i sometimes like more than noodles when i am sick).

  9. My best friend has just been diagnosed with breast cancer–stage four. She is the friend who is always there for you….always the room mom, carpool organizer, holiday party host etc. She has a VERY hard time excepting help from others on a good day let alone now that her world has been turned upside down. I have asked several times what I can do and several times she has assured me she’s got it under control. I LOVE the idea a cooking up a huge batch of this soup and freesing it for her it serving size containers. It will be there for her or her family whenver they need it and….if it is as good as you say….maybe it will work some magic in helaing her. Thanks for this timely post…….

  10. Stomach is growling–I will hunt down that base at my grocery store; I love making homemade soup. Heather, I will pray for your friend, and good for you for not taking no for an answer–make that soup!

  11. Thanks babs

  12. Any suggestions for altering this for vegetarians and vegans?

  13. I discovered chicken base recently when it was called for in a crock pot potato soup recipe – it really is a great addition to soup!

  14. Diane Shepherd In Waiting

    December 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Somebody has really good knife skills. Just look @ the diced mirepoix! Bravo & bellissimo!

  15. I’ve always used the bouillon but can’t see if your base is kosher? Any thoughts.
    I have always added a bit of sugar? Like 1teaspoon- because my teacher did?!

  16. I had this soup while I was at the farm and had only a touch of the cold that was being passed around. I am making it today after I’ve been sick with that horrid cold for the past 6 days…It’s too much work to make when you are sick!!!! My sick future self will be eternally grateful for your advice to make enough for the freezer! :)

    BTW…I have made a major leap in my recovery today so this soup is just because it’s so delicious.

  17. It is the best chicken soup in the universe. Hands down. I’m telling you. Any naysayers just haven’t had it yet!

    I definitely need to make some this winter to keep sick-self happy.

    (That’s my hand! On Susie’s blog! Dishing out the best Chicken Soup in the Universe (tm 2011 Lauria))

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