Chicken Soup, from Scratch

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Chicken Vegetable Soup

By Cat, Nov 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

I grew up with Campbell’s canned soups for lunch, and chicken noodle was my favorite. (Dad sometimes made soup from scratch for dinner, but that was not very frequent). When I spent time at the neighbor’s, the Dad made us split pea soup using a package of Knorr’s dehydrated soup. But by the time I was in my 30s, the use of MSG and other additives became rampant and I shunned these easy soups.

I started to explore the world of homemade soups, first with Borscht and then Pasta Fagioli; I froze most of it in pint jars for future lunchtimes – as much as my small freezer could hold. But it wasn’t until I retired and had the time to make my own stocks that I tried making a basic chicken & vegetable soup that I can freeze. Upon thawing, I can add rice, barley or noodles as desired to make it more filling.

Chicken Soup, from Scratch

For my first attempt, I bought a 6 pound whole chicken from a local Hutterite colony, renowned for the quality and taste of their chickens. They don’t use antibiotics, and their chicken are raised free-range.  It’s thawing now, in a pan of cold water on my counter.

I’ve based my recipe on Chicken Noodle Soup from Homecooking (About) (1), and Chicken Rice Soup from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions (2).

For just myself, I make a batch of soup without the rice, barley or noodles to freeze soup in pint freezer jars (remember to leave about an inch at the top for the ice to expand; can be frozen for up to 3 months).  When I want a serving, I thaw a jar, heat soup in saucepan, then and add rice, barley or noodles as desired (see Variations, below).

Or if serving a group, I add the pre-cooked rice or barley, or dried noodles to the pot of soup, cook until heated through (or noodles are done).

To make the stock, you can use the chicken whole, or cut into pieces. Here are some options:

  • Whole: you’ll get better broth if you cut off the wings and cut them into their 3 parts; cut neck into small rounds, and chop giblets.  If feet and or head are available, add them also – they provide vital nutrients.  I don’t like to use the tail, nor the glands at the base of the tail.
  • Cut into pieces:  The bony dark meat pieces make the most delicious and nutritious stock, because of the bone marrow. Use thighs, drumsticks, wings (cut each into 3 parts), backs, neck (cut into small rounds), and chop giblets.  Reserve the breasts for another use, if desired.
  • Another alternative- my usual. When I buy a whole chicken, I cut the meaty pieces to use for baked or fried chicken, etc.,  and freeze the giblets, neck and back pieces for future stock/soup. When I bake/fry the chicken pieces, I save and freeze the long bones for future stock/soup. Then I thaw these saved giblets, necks, backs and cooked bones to make stock, adding fresh bone-in thighs for the meat and the bones, when I’m ready to make a batch of soup.
  • If using breasts for the soup, brine them first to help retain moisture as they cook.

I’ve tested this recipe many times and can attest that 24-hour (or more) simmer time yields the best, richest flavor. It does take awhile to make the stock (but not much work); turning it into soup is really quick.

Note that you need two sets of veggies: one for the stock (these are removed to compost after stock is finished); and another for the soup.

If you’re short on time, you can use commercial chicken stock/broth; but read the ingredients and avoid any brand that includes any corn or soy products, or ‘yeast extract’ (another name for MSG). Kitchen Basics is a good brand, at least as of this Nov 2014 update.

Serves 12 or so.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Stock: Make your stock using this recipe or my Rich Chicken Stock recipe
  • 1 whole chicken (6 – 7 pounds), whole or cut up
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into ¼” slices
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 – 6 cloves garlic, sliced (optional)
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed, cut into ¼” rounds
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar or white wine
  • 1 tsp dried green peppercorns, crushed
  • 4 quarts filtered water, or enough to cover chicken
  • 1 bunch parsley, trimmed
  • Soup:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced chicken meat and giblets
  • 1½ cups diced or thinly sliced vegetables (carrot, celery, red pepper, green beans, leek, onion, mushrooms)
  • 2 quarts stock (from above)
  • zest of 1-2 lemons
  • herbs (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
  • 1¼ tsp nutmeg (optional, to taste)
  • Unrefined sea salt or fish sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Equipment
  • Large stock pot
  • large bowl
  • strainer
  • freezer jars (optional)


  1. Stock: Wash chicken, inside and out.  Use whole or cut into pieces (as described above). If desired, remove breast meat from bone, setting meat aside for another use, and using bone for the stock.
  2. Add chicken or pieces, giblets and veggies to pot, with vinegar or wine, and crushed peppercorns.  Add enough filtered water to cover by 2″.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Bring to boil over medium heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.  Reduce heat to lowest setting.  Simmer gently; do not boil, for 2 – 24 hours.  The longer it cooks, the more flavorful it will be.  About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley to impart additional flavor and minerals to the broth.
  5. Remove chicken pieces and strain stock, removing veggies to compost pile. If you want to remove the fat, chill the stock to coagulate the fat, then remove it by spoonful from the top.
  6. Remove any meat from bones (save bones for a second batch of stock, if desired).  Remove skin (can feed to pets), and cut meat into bite-size cubes.
  7. Soup: Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat.  Add diced veggies, and cook, stirring often until softened, 10 minutes.
  8. Add reserved chicken to pot and add enough of the stock to cover, at least 2 quarts.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Add herbs, nutmeg and lemon zest.
  9. Finish: Reduce heat to low, add rice, barley or noodles (see Variations below, for quantities per serving) and simmer about 10 minutes, until heated through (or until noodles are done).  Adjust seasoning.
  10. Or prepare soup without rice, barley or noodles, adjust seasoning, and pour into freezer jars and freeze.  When ready to use, thaw, bring to a boil and then simmer, adding rice, barley or noodles as desired.

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • Garnish servings with chopped fresh parsley;
  • Add a dollop of sour cream to each serving;
  • Serve with hot toast and butter;
  • Serve with a green salad;


Chicken Rice Soup:

Chicken Barley Soup:

Chicken Noodle Soup:

  • add 1 – 2 oz egg noodles per serving


10/5/18: Although I’ve made this many times before, with this new batch, I am recording my testing. Prepared the stock using the recipe above, as written, using back, neck and giblets from a fresh whole chicken, frozen bones from chicken wings, thighs and drumsticks, and two bone-in, skin-on thighs for the meat. Brought all but parsley to a boil, then reduced heat and set over my simmer plate at Noon. Simmered overnight (24 hours); added parsley (only used half the amount so can put the other half in the soup). Removed from heat. Removed bones when cool enough to handle; removed meat and set aside for soup. Then strained to remove veggies. Got about 1¾ quarts of stock; I did not remove the fat. Soup: cut up 4 white button mushrooms, 1 long carrot, 1 leek, 1 celery stalk with leaves, and about 2 Tbsp red onion that I needed to use up; total about 1½ cups cut-up veggies. Sautéed in olive oil, then added shredded/cut-up chicken from the thighs, plus the giblets and a bit of meat from the neck and back, a good 1½ cups of meat (added the skins to compost along with spent veggies from the stock). Added 1¼ quarts of stock, brought to boil, reduced heat and added lemon zest (about 1/16 tsp), about 1 tsp thyme leaves, 2 small bay leaves, 1 Tbsp chopped parsley, some powdered garlic, 1¼ tsp ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp each unrefined sea salt and black pepper. Simmered for 10 min, then tasted. Needed more salt and pepper. Let cool, then transferred to pint jars for freezer, reserving 2 servings for the fridge. Result: Delicious! For my test bowl, I added 1 serving of egg noodles.


  1. Homecooking Chicken Noodle Soup recipe (
  2. Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.

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