5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Chicken Noodle Soup

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

There are few foods as comforting as homemade chicken noodle soup. It’s the first thing I turn to when I’m sick. And once the winter chill sets in, I feel like I could eat this warming soup for lunch day after day.

Homemade chicken noodle soup is an essential go-to recipe that every home cook should have in their back pocket. But, before you get your soup simmering, be sure you’re not making one of these five common mistakes.

1. Using only breast meat.

It’s not wrong to use chicken breast when making this classic soup. You can use any (or every) part of the chicken, but chicken breast is bland, so using this cut alone doesn’t add any extra flavor or richness to the soup.

→ Follow this tip: If you’re not using a whole chicken, use chicken thighs (preferably bone-in), or a combination of thigh and breast meat. Chicken thighs have tender, juicy meat that’s full of flavor and adds more richness to the soup than breast meat alone.

2. Adding all the vegetables at the same time.

Whether it’s thick-cut carrots, peas, green beans, corn, or perhaps leafy greens, chicken noodle soup isn’t complete without a hearty mix of vegetables. Keep in mind that these veggies don’t all require the same cook time. Add quick-cooking vegetables too soon, and they’ll be overcooked and mushy by the time your soup is ready.

→ Follow this tip: Add hearty vegetables that take longer to cook, like carrots, early on, and toss in the quicker-cooking vegetables, like peas and corn, just a couple minutes before the soup is finished cooking.

3. Adding the noodles too soon.

I’m sure we’ve all eaten a bowl of chicken soup with overcooked, completely mushy noodles. It’s disappointing. When added too soon to a pot of simmering soup, the noodles turn out overcooked and gummy.

→ Follow this tip: Adding noodles to the soup should be the very last thing you do before taking the pot off the heat. Wait until the soup is just about finished, mix in the noodles, and simmer until the noodles are about halfway cooked. The residual heat from the soup will continue to cook the pasta. The result: delicious, perfectly cooked noodles.

4. Leaving an oil slick on the top of your soup.

As the soup simmers, you’ll notice a layer of grease develop around the outer edges of the pot. It’s totally natural and unavoidable. This comes from the fat from the meat, as well as the oil used to sauté the vegetables, and rises to the top of the pot as the soup cooks. Just remember to remove this layer before serving.

→ Follow this tip: Skim the grease from the edges of the soup periodically as it simmers.

5. Adding noodles when freezing the soup.

While chicken soup is a great freezer meal, there’s one component that doesn’t hold up very well when defrosted and reheated: the noodles.

→ Follow this tip: If you plan on freezing leftover soup, don’t add the noodles just yet. Instead, wait to add noodles until you take the soup from the freezer and reheat it. Not only will you avoid sad, mushy noodles, they’ll also taste more fresh.

What are your best tips for making chicken noodle soup?