This is an easy, homemade, healing chicken soup recipe made from scratch, including the chicken stock! It has chunky texture, but it is low carb at the same time. This old, healthy recipe is my go to in cold and flu season. It heals the body and nurtures the soul.
Some doctors say that steaming hot chicken soup helps to clear congestion and hydrates your body, flushing out viral bugs. Others that the soup is comfort food, which calms the body and mind to support our natural immune system so it can work more effectively, which would point toward psychosomatic benefits above anything else.
Either way, chicken soup has been considered a natural home remedy since ancient times. I think that’s long enough to give the humble soup and its healing power some validation.
In support of both, it is important that the chicken soup consists of quality ingredients, including real stock, as opposed to stock cube pretender (fake stock).
How to make homemade, nourishing chicken soup from scratch
The magic of the flavour and the health benefits value is of course in the chicken stock
Funny enough, it is really quite easy to make. You put the chicken parts in a pan, cover them with water and in 90 minutes your delicious, natural, healthy and rich stock is ready!
I get it, there is some effort there, but not that much, really…
The chicken stock becomes chicken soup thanks to whatever you choose to add for texture and extra flavour: grains & vegetables and some chicken meat. Then you can leave it chunky or cream it. But let’s start from the beginning.
Quality chicken stock is your base
I like to buy a whole, organic chicken (no GMO, grass fed, antibiotic-free etc. – easy enough to check on the packaging these days) to make good homemade stock. It works great in soups, sauces and risottos and the freshness shines through in flavour like no other stock cube or carton alternative.
I usually remove legs and breasts and freeze them for other chicken recipes and use only the carcass bones along with the wings. On average this leaves me with 1.5 to 2 lbs of chicken bones, which will produce about 700ml quality stock. If you want to to produce more or richer stock, simply add more chicken, legs for example (this should give you about 1.2l of chicken stock).
I chop the chicken bones into as small pieces as I can, submerge them in water and boil for about an hour, often two, adding more water if needed to keep the bones submerged for the duration of cooking. Covering the pan with a lid is helpful to retain the water.
When my stock is ready, I drain the bones, keep the stock and, when the bones are cool enough to handle, I pick through them to remove any meat that’s worth keeping. This meat can be added to the soup when it is ready. I discard the bones.
You can use chicken wings, drumsticks, thighs or even whole legs. I sometimes add other bones, like a wing of a turkey, or even some pork bones.
Bones are where the goodness and the flavour is hiding. This is why I never cared too much about the meatier, “quality” parts.
Adding vegetables to the chicken bones to make the chicken stock
Adding vegetables to the bones to make the chicken stock is a common practice, but I prefer not to. Instead, I like to (make a lot of it and ) freeze it, so that I can use it in various recipes. I don’t necessarily appreciate the extra flavour that the veggies add to the stock (carrots and parsnips for example add a lot of sweetness). I prefer to use plain stock, which gives me more flexibility with flavouring the dishes I want to use it in as I make them.
Having said that, this actually is a chicken vegetable soup recipe made from scratch where vegetables play an important part. The vegetables are added later to cook together with barley, as the combined cooking time of the stock as well as the soup would simply be too much for the veggies to retain their pleasant, and “cooked just right” texture.
Ultimate, Nourishing Chicken Soup with Turmeric & Barley
To make my ultimate, nourishing chicken soup I like to add some garlic (which in this case is more for the flavour rather than health benefits), barley and turmeric on the top of usual, chopped root vegetables like carrots or celery.
Barley is high in antioxidants, mineral and vitamins, which support our natural immunity. In my chicken soup, barley also adds to the substance and texture, to make it a nice comfort food style meal.
Note that barley contains gluten, so if you’re not supposed to have it simply switch it for quinoa or brown rice. You could also replace it with an egg and a gluten free flour like in this recipe, where I used a very rich and reduced version of my homemade chicken stock.
Turmeric, the superhero of spices, above all it has great anti inflammatory properties, which is so very helpful during viral or antibacterial infection. It also helps to keep us happy and stimulates the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.Print
- 2 lb fresh, raw, organic chicken bones (chicken carcass, wings, thighs or drumsticks, including giblets – the more bones, the richer the stock), chopped or divided into small pieces
- 1.5 liters (6 cups) of water or enough to submerge the chicken bones
- 150g (5 oz) leek (white and green parts)
- 200g (7 oz) carrot (2 medium carrots)
- 120g (4 oz) celery
- 6 large, raw garlic cloves
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 60g (2 oz / ¼ cup) pearl barley
- fresh parsley leaves, chopped chives or spring onions
- In a large pan, set over a medium heat, submerge chicken parts in water (put the lid on) and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 60-90min. (You might want to skim off and discard any scum from the surface after about 20 minutes if you like).
- Meanwhile, chop your leek and garlic finely and soften them gently in oil, in a deep and wide saucepan, set over a medium-low heat, until the leek is completely limp and lost most of its volume (about 10-15 minutes).
- Chop carrot and celery into small pieces and add them into the pan with leek and garlic and stir in the turmeric and barley. Turn the heat under the saucepan off completely, add bay leaves and leave it all until your stock is ready.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the stock. Place the chicken bones in a bowl to cool off and pour the stock into the saucepan with the vegetables. Cover the saucepan and simmer the chicken soup for 45 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and barley is cooked.
- Meanwhile, pick through the bones, remove and reserve any meat you wish to add to the soup before serving. When done, discard the bones.
- When your chicken soup is ready, season it with salt and pepper and serve with lots of fresh parsley leaves, chopped chives or spring onions. You might want to add some water to loosen the soup up if you feel it is necessary, as barley absorbs a lot of the water.
1. If you wish to make the stock to reserve it for future, strain any bones and meat and reserve them separately from the stock. Let the stock cool completely, transfer it to a container/s and refrigerate until completely chilled. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 5-6 months.
2. When refrigerated your stock might turn into a jelly (especially if you chose to reduce it for storage at the end of cooking by removing the lid of the pan and letting the stock cook down, or if you used a lot of bones). It is a good sign and a proof you made rich stock. Simmering the bones breaks down the collagen and turns it into gelatin. (It is not the same as fat. Fat thickens the stock, but it will not cause it to gel.)
3. Cooking Barley When cooked, barley absorbs a lot of liquid from your soup, you might need to add a bit of water to loosen things up before you eat it.
I hope you’ll find this recipe useful and as tasty and nurturing as I do. Stay healthy and happy my friends.