Get out your Dutch oven (or equally heavy duty cookware!) for this hearty, comforting, whole chicken chicken noodle soup. This recipe makes a large quantity of soup, so you can eat some now and freeze some for later!
One weekend last fall, Josh proclaimed he felt very, very ill. I assumed this meant he had a mild headache, left him in bed with some tylenol, and went about my regular Saturday morning activities. When I returned home, he hadn't moved. NOT EVEN TO EAT. I knew it was serious.
So I loaded the car back up and went in search of comfort food ingredients. What resulted was the best chicken noodle soup I had ever had. At first I though I was maybe just swelling with pride at the fact that I had overcome the usual selfish annoyance that accompanies having a sick husband, or maybe it was that the food fit the mood so perfectly that it couldn't NOT be good.
But then I kept making it. And eating it. And decided it was the real deal best chicken noodle soup.
This soup has the usual carrots/onions/celery, but here are a few ingredients that take it to the next level!
- A whole chicken - Using a whole chicken will give you the perfect amount of meat, and will give the broth so much flavor. Plus, there is something about cooking with a whole chicken that just feels so homecookin'.
- Better than Bouillon - A key ingredient that I use in almost all of my soups! Better than Bouillon chicken base makes the BEST chicken noodle soup. I especially love it because it's easy to store. You can use whatever chicken base you like/is available, but this one is what I recommend. Here, it's used to make a robust broth in which the whole chicken is cooked. So it's like a double concentrate chicken stock that is INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS.
- Really good egg noodles - Noodles are a big part of the appeal of chicken noodle soup, so they better be good! I started making my own after my Mom showed me how easy it is, but if I don't have time for that I'll use Reames egg noodles. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store and they are so good! Once you go Reames, you'll never go back.
- Lemon juice - The finished soup gets a heavy squirt of fresh lemon juice. Which doesn't give it a distinct lemon flavor at all, but works wonders in preventing this soup from feeling too heavy.
How to Make this Recipe
Start by melting some butter in your Dutch oven. Then add the vegetables and garlic and cook until softened.
Add salt and pepper, along with the water and Better than Bouillon. Stir it well to dissolve the base into the water.
(Carefully!) submerge the chicken in the liquid and bring it to a boil. Simmer it covered for an hour, until the chicken is cooked and is falling off the bone.
Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred. Return the meat to the pot and discard the carcass.
Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and the base is done!
Cook the noodles in a separate pot, then drain.
Add noodles to the soup base right before serving, or have everyone add what they want to their bowls before eating.
Why This Recipe Works
The broth is robust - No watery broth here! Using Better than Bouillon and a whole chicken, plus adding a squirt of lemon juice all make a super rich and flavorful broth. It's so good, you could drink it!
It uses a whole chicken - not only does it give the broth so much flavor, but it gives you the perfect amount of meat. Plus, a whole chicken cooked low and slow in liquid will yield such tender pieces of meat. Something about cooking it with the skin on and bone in is like an ultra protection against dry meat!
The noodles + soup are kept separate - This is a game changer for noodle soups. Cook your noodles in a separate pot, then drain them. Reasons for this are:
- It prevents soggy noodles. The noodles will stop cooking once they're out of the liquid, so you won't end up with formless starch blobs.
- It allows people to concoct their ideal soup : noodle ratio. Because of course it's an important topic that people differ on. Some like more noodles, some like less. This way, everyone can have what they want.
- It prevents too much starch being added to the soup. Too much starch changes the flavor and consistency of the broth.
- The noodles won't soak up all the broth as they cook. If you've ever added noodles to soup and watched the broth disappear before your eyes, you know how important this is!
- It makes for a chicken noodle soup base that freezes really well!
If you'd rather cook the noodles directly in the soup, use 12 ounces instead of the 16 ounces listed in the ingredients, as the noodles will soak up liquid as they cook.
Freezing Chicken Noodle Soup
The reason noodle soups usually don't freeze well is that the frozen noodles in the soup get overcooked and mushy when reheated. Since the noodles are kept separate until right before eating here, it is a great chicken noodle soup to freeze!
You'll just freeze the base here, then cook noodles (separately) when you reheat the soup.
To freeze, divvy up the chicken noodle soup base in airtight, freezer-safe containers, and allow to cool to room temperature. Freeze for up to 3 months.
When you're ready to eat, just reheat the soup base, and cook more noodles.
Frequently Asked Questions
I would still cook the whole chicken, then just shred the white meat to return to the pot once it's done cooking. All the fat in the dark meat gives so much flavor to the broth that I think it's definitely worthwhile to cook it in there.
If you REALLY don't like dark meat, or don't want to handle a whole chicken, you can use split (bone-in, skin-on) chicken breasts instead.
I'm no doctor, but I think there's something about a good, homestyle chicken noodle soup that is just good for the SOUL. It's warm, it's comforting, it's something you can make once and then eat for days. So, I say yes! You should eat this soup when you're sick. And when you're well.
A hefty egg noodle makes the best chicken noodle soup! You can go the homemade route, or buy frozen egg noodles. Of course, you could also get away with dried egg noodles or regular noodles.
Chicken Noodle Soup Sides
This soup is hearty enough to be a stand alone meal, but if you want something extra, here are some ideas of what to serve with chicken noodle soup:
- Bread. A good sourdough loaf, soft dinner rolls, garlic bread, or something sweet like pumpkin bread are all good options! Even saltine crackers can get the job done.
- Applesauce. Applesauce and chicken noodle soup are a natural pairing to me! I like to make this baked version.
- A salad. For something green and fresh feeling. Fruit salad could be good for groups, too!
- Sandwiches. Soup and sandwiches are the perfect combination! Regular deli sandwiches, finger sandwiches, or this baked ham and cheese sandwich casserole would all be delicious.
Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 cups water
- 3 tablespoons reduced sodium Better than Bouillon chicken base
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (5-6 pound) chicken, giblets removed
- 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 a small lemon)
- 1 (16 ounce) bag Reames egg noodles (see note)
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened slightly - about 5 minutes. Add the water, Better than Bouillon, salt, and pepper, and stir well to dissolve the chicken base into the water. Gently submerge the chicken in the liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for an hour, until the chicken is cooked to 165 degrees and is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, shred the meat and return to the pot. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning to taste. In a separate pot, cook noodles according to package directions in generously salted water. Strain well. To serve, divide noodles between bowls and ladle soup over top.
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