I’ve been working on this post since the beginning of winter, when I first started thinking about chicken soups. The variety of chicken soups across so many cultures is just so interesting to me. They are all different, yet share that common bond, the ability to comfort anyone, and make each of us think of home.

Chicken Orzo Soup

There isn’t anything scientific in the post. I did not set out to prove or disprove anything, or even test any theories. This is not about one being better than the others. I just wanted to try several different recipes and methods, just to take notice and appreciate what each had to offer, and each one did have something special to offer. I will make all of these again, and I hope this post is useful for you each and every winter.

If you’re like me and just sit around daydreaming about cooking, you may like to take note of these differences in each recipe:

  • when salt it added in the process
  • what starch (pasta, rice, etc.) is used (if any) in final stages
  • how much meat/bone vs. water
  • what vegetables or aromatics are used
  • cooking time


My mother-in-law, Bonnie, makes a wonderful chicken soup, also known as Jewish penicillin. She uses a ton of vegetables, more than any other recipe I’ve ever seen for chicken soup, which results in a much sweeter soup, but it’s a natural sweetness. The fresh dill also brightens it giving it a light feel. On most special occasions, this is served with a matzoh ball, and that in itself is enough to celebrate.

making Bonnie's Chicken Soup 2

Jewish Penicillin

  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 lb chicken, cut up (include giblets, but no liver)
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 3 to 4 parnsips, cut in 3″ segments
  • 1 lb carrots, cut in 3″ segments
  • 2 medium leeks, cut in 3″ segments
  • 1/4 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 4 to 5 stalk celery with leaves. cut in 3″ segments
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped dill to garnish (optional)

Instructions –

1. Place chicken pieces in a large pot and cover with enough water to cover 1 1/2″ over the chicken. Add the vegetables and herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

2. As the soup cooks, clear off the schum occasionally (about 3 to 4 times throughout) and discard.

3. Cook soup on medium low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Adjust seasoning as it cooks.

4. Serve with egg noodles, matzoh balls, and dill, if desired.

Bonnie's Chicken Soup 4


I don’t know if I’ve ever had chicken soup in an Italian restaurant but I could have guessed that it would include tomatoes, when none of the others do. This recipe is an adaptation from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, and she uses some turkey wings for her own twist. This recipe is a lot of meat, bone, and aromatics vs. the amount of water. The result is a very richly flavor and collagen filled soup. She uses rice for a quick soup to serve.

making Lidia's chicken soup

Italian Brodo di Pollo

  • 3 lbs chicken, cut up (giblets but no liver)
  • 1 pound turkey wings
  • 5 quartz water
  • 1 large onion, cut in half
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in 3″ segments
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 10 sprigs Italian parsley
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • salt to taste

Instructions –

1. Rinse chicken and turey in a colander under cold running water and drain well.

2. Place them in a 10 quart pot. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Boil for a minute or two, allowing the foam to come to the surface. Skim the foam and turn down to a strong simmer. Cook 1 hour and skim occasionally.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Bring to a boil and then adjust back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 2 to 3 hours, skimming fat occasionally.

5. Strain through a fin sieve for a broth or serve with pieces of chicken and some cooked rice.

Lidia's chicken soup


My mom uses fowl for chicken soup. Notice that they don’t have the plump breasts regular chickens do. This easy 3-ingredient (no including water) soup is just the fowl, ginger, and dry aged ham. Those are the flavors you get, pure and simple. My mom serves the soup with the fowl pieces which have an interesting snap to the skin and  meat. When we got sick as kids, my mom would give us this chicken soup with some Chinese noodles added for a light meal.

fowl hanging on pot

Chinese Chicken Soup

  • 1.5 lb fowl
  • 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and smashed
  • piece (about 2″ x 1″ x 1″) of smoked and aged ham (optional)

Instructions –

1. Wash fowl and chop into 16 pieces. Discard tail. Place in a medium sized pot and cover with cold water.

2. Add ginger and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes. Add ham and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve.

Chinese Chicken Soup

South East Asian

This South East Asian version is adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It is similar to the Chinese Chicken soup in that it uses ginger. There are more ingredients here, and most interesting to me is the finishing with fish sauce. Rice noodles can be added to make it a meal.

South East Asian Chicken Soup 2

Basic South East Asian Broth

  • 1 whole chicken (cut up) or 3 to 4 pounds chicken necks and wings (or 1 carcass)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 to 3 shallots, halved or 2 scallions trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths (optional)
  • 10 black peppercorns or Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 3 thick slices ginger (optional)
  • 2 whole coriander plants (including  roots), well washed (optional)
  • Salt and/or fish sauce to taste

Instructions –

1. Rinse the chicken. Put in a large heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, skimming off any foam on the surface. Discard foam.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except for salt/fish sauce. Stir them in and simmer, half covered for about 40 minutes. (If you are using a carcass, simmer for 2 hours.)

3. Set aside meat for another purpose and strain the broth through a sieve, into a seal-able container. Let the broth cool completely. Cover and refrigerate.

4. After a layer of fat has solidified on the top, skim it off and use the broth as you wish. Heat and season with salt and/or fish sauce if you want to have it as chicken soup.

South East Asian Chicken Soup


This recipe is the basis for Michael Psilakis’ Avgolemeno (from How to Roast a Lamb) and it is everything you imagine a simple chicken soup to be. The roasting of the chicken gives this a deeper flavor than most, which makes it feel more substantial. With the added orzo, it’s a one-bowl lunch. I also like that the vegetables are chopped up.

How to Roast a Lamb Chicken Orzo Soup 2

Greek Chicken and Orzo Soup

  • 1 (3 1/2 pound) chicken, without breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • water as needed
  • 1/2 cup orzo

Instructions –

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Separate the legs from the chicken. Remove the skin and discard. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour.

3. In a large pot, heat the two oils. Add the carrot, celery, onion, and stir until softened, but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Deglaze with white wine and stir until it completely evaporates.

4. Add the roasted chicken carcass (not legs) and season generously. Cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and, cover and cook for 1 hour. Add the legs and simmer for another 45 minutes.

5. Skim off any skum and fat (if you prefer). Lift the chicken pieces out and cool until you can handle it. Pull the meat off and return it to the soup, discarding bones.

6. Bring the soup to a boil and orzo. Cook until orzo is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve.

Chicken Orzo Soup

posted by jessica at 05:06 PM Filed under Basics, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.