Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken Soup from Scratch (and other leftover chicken recipes)

My daughter is home from college and so I made a roast chicken last night for her.  Generally, the day after a roast-chicken, I make chicken soup.  Since a friend asked me recently what my "secret" was to making chicken soup.   I thought I would blog my process / recipe.

First, roast a chicken.   You could also roast split chicken breasts or thighs and legs.  Don't use boneless.   My personal theory is that the fat of the skin and the gelatin of the bones adds something to the broth.  There is no scientific support for this theory, but I do know that boneless chicken breasts do not make a good broth.  It also has a different quality if you just go straight to boiling it.  Roast it first.

Then eat it.   We just eat what we want and leave the rest on the carcass.  If I am roasting chicken pieces, I may roast a few extra to use exclusively for soup.  But generally, I think soup is a good way to use all that undiscovered meat after eating a roast chicken.

Take the picked-over carcass and stick it into your crock pot covered with water on low overnight.  You can also put it in a large pot on your stove and boil/simmer it for several hours until it all falls apart.

 In the morning you should have a pile of disconnected bones, cartilage, skin and meat.

Pour off the broth into a large pot (I use a metal colander to catch any falling pieces.)

Then separate the meat from the bones, fat, and "stuff".   I usually wait for everything to cool at little.  Some people might find this skeevy, but this is where chicken soup comes from.  I think we are far too removed from our food.  These are all the parts of a chicken.  My uncle used to suck the marrow out of the bones, which I thought was gross.  But perhaps we would be less wasteful if we knew all the quality nutrients we were just throwing away. 

In our house, there is usually a lot left on the carcass, so I put some meat into the pot of broth and then have two containers or a plastic bag that I put some in and freeze for later use.  

I scooped about 1 c. of broth into each extra container and then topped off with water, maybe another 1/2 c.   Those will go into my freezer for future emergency soup needs.   I also may use my leftover frozen chicken and broth for Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Pot Pie, or Chicken and Dumplings.  I'll post the recipes below.  

I added about another 8 c. of water to the pot and about 4 bouillon cubes.  Is that cheating?  I think of it as adding flavored salt.

Peel and chop about 3 carrots, and chop 3 celery stalks. 

Add to the pot and simmer.  At this point, I just let the whole thing simmer for the rest of the day.  I think the veggies take about 1/2 hour or so to get tender, but simmering longer allows all the flavors to meld in my opinion. 

About 10 - 15 minutes before serving, I add the noodles.   Usually about a cup or 1/2 a bag of noodles is more than enough.

You can use anything really.   I usually use egg noodles, but I have also used leftover pasta.  You could use leftover rice too.

Your soup is ready to serve!

Homemade Chicken Soup

1 chicken carcass or about 3-4 lbs of chicken parts - roasted in the oven.
3 carrots, peeled and chopped.
3 celery stalks, chopped
10-12 cups of water, divided
4 bouillon cubes (optional)
1 c. of noodles (or 8 oz - 1/2 bag)

Cook carcass covered in water, in a crock pot overnight or on your stove top for several hours until falling apart.  Allow to cool.  Pour off broth into a large cook pot.   Separate meat from bones, skin, and other inedible parts.  Put meat into pot of broth, or separate into containers for future use.  Place chopped vegetables into pot and simmer for hours or until veggies are tender.  Add noodles about 10 minutes before serving.  At any point, you can skim the chicken fat off the top of the pot if it is too oily. 

Here is the Enchiladas recipe.  Our dear Columbian friend, Dedie, used to make these for us.

Chicken Enchiladas  by Dedie Belliveau

12 corn or flour tortillas
1 - 2 T. oil
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 lg. onion, chopped fine
1 lb or so of cooked chopped chicken (or turkey!)
2 c. chicken broth
1/4 cup flour (or Wondra - no lumps!)
1/2 t. salt
sliced jalapenos to taste (fresh or pickled)
1 - 8 oz. sour cream

Soften tortillas in a hot oil in skillet (you don’t have to do this with the flour tortillas – they are soft enough to roll).  Saute’ onion until soft.  Mix together cheese, onion and chicken in a bowl.  Spoon onto tortillas; roll to enclose filling.  Place in greased 9x13 pan.  In a saucepan, blend broth, flour and salt.  Cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Add jalapenos.  Blend in sour cream.  Pour over the tortillas.  Bake at 350º for 40- 45 min. or until bubbly.  I have also made up just the rolled tortillas and frozen them in freezer bags for a later time. 

The recipes for Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings are both from  They are tried and true (by me! and others I am sure.)  There were many other less or unsuccessful attempts with other recipes prior.   These recipes are easy (non-processed easy) and they are delicious.

If I am not particularly feeling like 2 nights of soup, I may even divide the pot of broth / meat in two and use it for a second night of pot pie or chicken and dumplings.    Turn your roast chicken into a 3 day meal!


  1. I remember once when my Mom boiled the bones of a chicken until you could actually eat the bone. We could just chew it right up. I bet I got a major calcium boost that day! :)

  2. Oh, and thanks for sharing. I tried this a few days ago, but I did not add enough water, and it was very greasy. I know now about how much water to add. I also added soy sauce and enjoyed it.

    1. Tabetha, as I said below you can let it cool and scrape the fat off the top. But also, as long as it isn't boiling, the fat will make a film on the top which you can skim off easily. Maybe I should put that in the recipe!

  3. If you let it rest and cool for a while, or put it in the fridge, the fat will settle and solidify on the top and you can just scrape it off.

  4. Thanks for this tutorial!! It's perfect for someone who did not grow up making homemade chicken soup.

  5. Thanks, Stephanie! I initially thought, who wouldn't know how to make chicken soup? My husband suggested to me that perhaps quite a few people do not have any experience with this kind of cooking any more.