This homemade chicken soup for cold and flu season will get you feeling better in no time. If you're wondering how to make chicken soup, you'll find that it is much easier than you think. Prep a batch now and stash it in your freezer so you don't have to cook when you are under the weather.
The flu season this year is really scaring me. Last year, the Peanut came down with the flu and it was such an unsettling week. I haven't seen her that sick ever. She was honestly delirious and didn't know what day it was or even what time of day.
Our pediatrician sent us home from our visit with a prescription to make homemade chicken soup:
"The REAL kind, homemade from chicken bones."
How to make chicken soup:
When I went hunting for a real-deal homemade chicken soup for the flu, I only found recipe after recipe that called for adding pre-cooked chicken meat to boxed prepared chicken stock. Those recipes are easy and better than canned soup because they involve fresh vegetables but they don't have the same benefits as chicken soup from scratch offers.
To make the kind of chicken soups that really work as home remedies for colds and flu, you need a few crucial ingredients:
- a whole raw chicken
- a big pot of water
- fresh vegetables
- herbs and spices
This recipe is the best home remedy for cold and flu because it also adds fresh roasted garlic, lemon juice, spicy cayenne pepper to the broth. Garlic, lemon, and spicy seasonings are each known home remedies for cold and flu.
Is homemade chicken soup easy to make?
I have experimented with a couple of different chicken soup recipes in my crockpot and my InstantPot, but felt frustrated that the process for making homemade chicken soup wasn't more simple.
Over our winter break, we were all craving some homemade soups to beat back the cold weather. I stumbled across a new recipe for homemade chicken soup that is just right for chasing the flu away.
It checked off all the boxes I needed to beat the flu:
- a real whole chicken
- oodles of roasted garlic
- fresh squeezed lemon juice
- spicy cayenne powder
It's like all the major home remedies for colds and flu rolled into one totally delicious AND EASY homemade chicken soup.
Why this particular chicken soup recipe is so easy:
- One-pot recipe: Add the chicken to the pot first. Then just add all the veggies as you chop them. It will all simmer together in the one pot for 2.5 hours.
- Little hands-on time: It only takes about 20 minutes to prep everything for the soup pot. Then it is mostly hands-off till the soup is done.
Do I have to make the roasted garlic for this soup?
The roasted garlic takes a little extra time but it sooooo worth it. Roasted garlic has a sweeter, milder flavor and is perfect for picky kids.
Noone wants to take a bite of soup and crunch down on a big chunk of garlic. When you roast it, the cloves are so soft you can just mash them with a fork. When you stir in the mashed, roasted garlic, it will simply dissolve into the broth leaving behind all the garlic goodness without any of the crunch.
How to roast the garlic for the chicken soup:
- Chop off the top of a head of garlic. Drizzle it with some olive oil. Wrap it in tin foil or place in a small ceramic container.
- Roast it at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes or until the cloves are toasted and golden brown.
- Let the garlic cool enough for you to handle it. Use a fork to pop out each individual clove from the head. Add them to a small bowl and mash them.
The whole process for roasting the garlic maybe adds on 5 minutes of work to your soup.
A few notes about using rice in chicken soup:
While the soup is simmering on the stove, I make the rice in our Instant Pot. You can make it however you want, but the Instant Pot method is super easy.
- Use a 1-to-1 ratio of rice to water. Rinse the rice in a strainer and add it to the Instant Pot bowl. Pour in the water and stir. For 3 cups of rice, I used 3 cups of water.
- Cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release and your rice is ready to go.
Rice will change the texture of your soup depending on when you add it:
FOR SOFT TEXTURE: Our family prefers a creamier broth with really soft rice so we add it while the soup is still cooking, directly in the pot.
FOR FIRM TEXTURE: If your family prefers rice to have a firm texture, you will want to keep the rice separate from the soup. Just add a serving of rice to the soup bowls and then ladle the soup over the top. Then be sure to store the rice and the soup separately for your leftovers.
A family review of our favorite chicken soup from my husband and kids:
Handyman Tim took one bite and declared this chicken soup: "Epic! This would be perfect soup when sick!" For a guy that is fairly stingy with his praises, this was a jaw-dropping comment.
Our chicken soup is a lot spicier than regular soup and it does a phenomenal job of clearing your sinuses. That is Tim's very favorite part.
When I made it a second time, the spices seemed not as strong despite using the same quantities. So, be sure to taste test it before serving and adjust as needed. You want the cayenne and cinnamon to really show through so don't be shy about adding a little more if it needs it. Your stuffed up sinuses need to feel the punch and your sore throat will love the lemon.
If you think your kids would shy away from the lemon and spices, you can always reduce the cayenne in the big pot and then just add a sprinkle to your own serving to kick it up. My kids have really learned to love spice thanks to this recipe.
If your kids are really sensitive, you might prefer this milder crockpot chicken soup. It is also made from a real raw chicken breast, but is a little bit easier for you to make with less hands-on time.
With flu season at it's feverish peak right now, I wanted to share this with you. The chicken soup recipe makes a nice big batch so you'll have plenty to stock your freezer with single-serving containers for emergencies. Cook up a batch now because it is one of the best things to eat when you have the flu.
The Best Homemade Chicken Soup for the Flu:
Adapted from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook which is available for only $5 on Kindle right now!
- 20 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 whole raw chicken
- 1 large onion
- 6 carrots
- 3 ribs of celery
- 12 cups of chicken stock
- ¾ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp dried mint leaves or leavees from 3 springs fresh mint
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a small baking dish with a square of tin foil. Slice the top off the head of garlic. Place it into the dish and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Loosely wrap and cover it with the foil. Cover the baking dish and bake for 35 - 40 minutes until the garlic is softened and caramelized. Remove the garlic cloves with a fork and mash them in a small dish. Set aside.
- While the garlic cooks, rinse the chicken in cold water and place it in a large stockpot. Peel the onion and dice it, add it to the pot. Peel the carrots and dice them into bite-sized pieces, add them to the pot. Rinse the celery and chop it into small chunks, add it to the pot.
- Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and dried mint. (If using fresh mint, wait till the end to add it.) Pour the chicken stock over the veggies, spices, and chicken and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 ½ hours.
- While the soup cooks, prepare your rice and reserve.
- Use a pair of large slotted spoons or spatulas to carefully remove the chicken and place it on a plate. The chicken will be so tender, it's wise to use your slotted spoon to check the pot for any remaining small bones that might have broken away. Remove the bay leaves when you find them.
- Stir in the reserved garlic, lemon juice & zest, and fresh mint if using.
- Remove the chicken skin, shred the chicken meat, and return the chicken meat to the soup pot. Stir in half of the reserved cooked rice. If the soup seems too thick, you can add a cup or two of chicken stock or water to help thin it back out.
- Test the seasonings and adjust. The soup should be bright and lemony with a spicy kick from the mint and cayenne.
- Store any leftover soup and the remaining rice separately. You can add more rice and top it off with more stock to maintain your prefered texture when reheating. If you add all the rice to the pot immediately, the rice will absorb the soup and it will be more like a stew.
A note on texture:
If you prefer your rice to retain its shape, consider adding rice to your serving bowls and ladling the soup over the top.
If you add the rice to the soup, it will soften and absorb the liquid. This thickens the broth to make a creamier soup but the rice will essentially disappear into the soup. It is actually the way my husband prefers it!