How to Make Chicken Noodle Soup
Break out your big bowls for this easy homemade recipe. Our Test Kitchen guide shows you how to make the best chicken noodle soup your stockpot's ever seen.
By Ellie Martin Cliffe, Senior Editor, and Gina Nistico, Food Editor
Top Tips for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- Start with bone-in chicken thighs (instead of chicken breasts) for the biggest flavor and best texture.
- Brown chicken in batches to get a good sear.
- Saute the vegetables in the chicken drippings for even more awesome flavor.
- Add the noodles after you take the soup pot off the heat so they can plump up slowly. They'll be chewier this way, and taste homemade.
- Get the tastiest results by cooking the noodles in the broth instead of water.
- Brighten up the broth with a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs.
6 Steps to the Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe
Ladles up! Our ultra-satifying chicken soup brings you from-scratch flavor with a mere 15 minutes of hands-on time. Here's how you get a rich broth and perfect noodles fast.
1. Choose chicken thighs.
If you're starting with a whole chicken, cut it into pieces. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels to help it get a better sear. (We like to use bone-in thighs for their robust flavor, and the fact that they stay juicy and moist. Plus, chicken thighs are super affordable.) Then sprinkle on the seasonings—good ol' salt and pepper.
2. Brown the chicken.
In a large stockpot, brown the chicken, skin side down. Do this in batches to avoid crowding and ensure an even sear. Loading too much meat in the pan reduces the surface area that's in direct contact with heat; it also steams up the pot, which prevents browning.
When the chicken's nice and golden, remove the skin and throw it away (it won't stay crispy in the soup anyway). You can also toss all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.
3. Saute the onion and garlic in the drippings for major flavor.
When the veggies are tender, you'll have a lot of browned bits stuck to the pan. This is a good thing! Add the chicken broth, grab a spatula, and you'll be able to scrape them right up. (Pro tip: The culinary term is "deglazing" the pan.) If you have extra time, make the broth from scratch.
4. Simmer the soup.
Once you've scraped up the browned bits, let the broth come to a boil. Then return the chicken to the pot, adding celery, onions, bay leaves and thyme. Let everything simmer till it's good and tender. Remove the chicken and set it aside to cool a bit.
5. Plump up the noodles.
Take the stockpot off the heat. Add the dry noodles to the soup and put on the lid. In 20 minutes they'll be tender. Letting them plump up this way means they'll be chewy like a homemade noodle, and they'll absorb the delicious broth instead of boring ol' water.
We chose kluski, or Polish egg noodles, because they have a chewy homemade texture without all the work. (We're all for easy.) You might prefer twisty egg noodles or pasta, like rotini or alphabet shapes in your chicken noodle soup. They'll cook up a-OK, but they don't get as plump and won't reheat as well if you have leftovers.
6. Put it all together.
While the noodles finish soaking up all that tasty broth, shred the cooled-down chicken and throw away the bones. Stir the meat back into the soup, along with parsley, pepper and lemon juice to make the broth pop. Pull out the bay leaves and get ready for the most comforting soup you've ever had.
Chicken Noodle Soup Variations
Dress up your chicken soup with these ideas from our friends on the Taste of Home Facebook page. They prove a spritz of lemon juice and a shower of fresh parsley are only the beginning.
- For an Asian flavor, place bean sprouts, shredded chile pepper and a slice of lime in each bowl, then pour the soup over them. —Helen Nelander, Boulder Creek, CA
- If I'm feeling daring, I'll add a little dollop of horseradish to my soup. —Sharon Mansour, Orlando, FL
- I like pesto in my chicken noodle soup. —Anna Sims, Doylestown, PA
- I put diced tomatoes in mine. Adds more vitamins, which is helpful when you're under the weather. —Becky Carver, North Royalton, OH
- This might sound a bit odd, as I make most everything we eat from scratch, but I put ketchup in my bowl of chicken soup. It takes me back to my childhood! —Redawna Kalynchuk, Barrhead, AB
- I make my mom's Cuban chicken noodle soup recipe by adding fresh corn wheels, potatoes and lemon juice. —Marina Castle Kelley, Canyon Country, CA
- Freeze-dried corn. —Lynne Huskey, Littleton, CO
- I make the Italian version, called wedding soup, with meatballs instead of chicken. I top it with garlic-Parmesan croutons and a sprinkle of cheese. If it wasn't 100 here today, I would make some! —Shawn Barto, Winter Garden, FL
- I like to use zoodles instead of noodles for my chicken soup. The zucchini noodles are delicious and low-carb! —Rebecca Yankovich, Springfield, VA