Basic Chicken Soup


This simple recipe delivers classic chicken soup flavor and comfort in less than an hour.


Chicken soup is good for the soul, it’s a comforting, hearty meal to serve when the weather gets cooler. Our chicken soup recipe is streamlined, delivering maximum flavor with minimum time and effort. It simmers for just over an hour and will fill your kitchen with the most delicious aromas. It’s flavored simply with onion, celery, carrots, and garlic, which makes it endlessly adaptable. 

The soup starts with a whole chicken. You’re essentially making stock and soup at the same time, and the bones and skin from the whole chicken add depth of flavor to the soup as it simmers. Not only is this technique a huge time saver, it also creates a rich chicken stock. Cutting the whole chicken into pieces helps to keep the stock concentrated: Doing this means the pieces fit more snugly into the pot without needing to add more water to cover, which would dilute the flavor. This rich, fragrant, golden soup is what you’ll want to eat all winter long.

Basic Chicken Soup -

Diana Chistruga

The Best Chicken for Chicken Soup:

We prefer using a whole chicken in this soup. Chicken bones contain a lot of collagen, and the skin adds fat and flavor to the stock. If you opt for using chicken breasts or thighs instead, make sure you use bone-in, skin-on pieces.

You’ll need a whole chicken cut into pieces, for this recipe. You can follow these instructions for cutting up a whole chicken or ask the butcher to do it.

4 Ways to Customize Chicken Soup

  • Stir in cooked egg noodles, orzo, or white rice to make this soup even heartier.
  • Add even more protein—a hard-boiled egg or sliced kielbasa sausage will ensure this soup will keep you full for a long time.
  • Go heavy on the vegetables—hearty greens, like Swiss chard and spinach, or frozen vegetables like green beans and corn will add color and fiber to your soup.
  • Finish fresh—herbs like chopped dill or parsley are great for stirring into the soup at the last minute.


  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into pieces (including back)

  • 8 cups water

  • Coarse salt

  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced (4 cups)

  • 2 celery stalks, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 6 medium carrots, sliced ½ inch thick


Basic Chicken Soup - ingredients

Diana Chistruga

  1. Bring chicken and water to a boil:

    Bring chicken, water, and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large stockpot.

    Basic Chicken Soup - cooking

    Diana Chistruga

  2. Add onions, celery, and garlic and simmer:

    Skim foam. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

    Basic Chicken Soup - stovetop

    Diana Chistruga

    Skimming the soup: We recommend periodically skimming the surface of the soup. Coagulated proteins and other impurities will inevitably rise to the surface as the chicken cooks. Use a large spoon to separate these bits from the stock so you end up with a clear, appetizing soup.

  3. Remove breast, add carrots, and cook:

    Remove chicken breast, and set aside. Add carrots. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes.

    Basic Chicken Soup - stovetop

    Diana Chistruga

  4. Remove rest of chicken and cut meat into pieces:

    Remove remaining chicken; discard back and wings. Let cool slightly. Remove meat from bones, and cut into bite-size pieces.

    Basic Chicken Soup - chicken

    Diana Chistruga

  5. Add chicken to soup and season with salt:

    Stir in desired amount of chicken; reserve the rest for another use. Skim fat. Season with salt.

    Basic Chicken Soup - stovetop

    Diana Chistruga

How to Store the Soup:

Store soup in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The soup can also be stored in the freezer for up to six months. Make an extra batch to have on hand in the freezer for when you need it.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Should you use chicken stock or chicken broth?

    As a general rule, chicken stock is made using bones, while chicken broth is usually made without. Broth relies on meat and vegetables for flavor.

    This recipe uses a whole chicken to make stock, which turns into a flavorful soup.

    How do I freeze leftovers?

    Before freezing, let the soup cool completely at room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers, leaving about 1/2-inch of space at the top (the liquid will expand slightly in the freezer).

    Store for up to six months, then thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.

    How long will it keep fresh in the refrigerator?

    Chicken soup will last up to three days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

    More Chicken Soup Recipes to Try:

    Originally appeared: Martha Stewart Living, January 2010
    Updated by
    Riley Wofford

    Riley is an associate food editor for Martha Stewart Living.

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