Canned chicken noodle soup was the meal my mom warmed up for us on sick days while she balanced getting us well (read: back to school) with getting work done at home. Chicken and rice soup, however, was made from scratch and an all-day affair we savored.
Chicken and rice soup is just the sort of thrifty luxury we should all master in the kitchen. A whole chicken is simmered to both make the rich broth and for the tender chicken it yields. The rest of the soup is built on the bits and bobs you probably have in the kitchen right now: a few banged-up carrots, some limp celery, a partial bag of rice. The resulting soup is nourishing, full of chicken, tender vegetables, and rice that creates a creamy thickness without any cream.
My mom knew what she was doing: Save the chicken noodle soup for sick days and make this chicken and rice soup whenever you need to taste home in a bowl.
Chicken and Rice Soup, a Homemade Luxury
Consider the canon of chicken soups around the globe and throughout history and you'll often find that recipes start with simmering a whole hen or chicken in water to create the broth. This was both to the benefit of the chicken and the soup. Modern chickens are tender, but this was not always the case, and boxed broth certainly wasn't an option when my grandmother was making this soup.
Stewing (not boiling!) the chicken makes for an incredibly tender chicken and a rich, flavorful broth with fat and collagen from the chicken enriching the water. You'd feel restored from the broth alone, but this broth does take time, over an hour of simmering, which makes it a luxury in the modern kitchen where time is a commodity. With that being the case, this is a wonderful recipe to make when you'll be in the house to tend to the pot.
For Your Information
- The chicken and vegetables simmer for one hour. After removing the chicken to shred, the rice cooks in the broth for 30 minutes.
- Use a four- to five-pound broiler/fryer chicken for this recipe. The simmering here is especially transformative if you've got a stewing hen or chicken from a local farm.
- Look long-grain brown rice for this soup — it holds up better to cooking and reheating than its white brethren.
Key Steps for Luxe Chicken and Rice Soup
- Cover the chicken in the pot. You're going to set your seasoned chicken in a large pot or Dutch oven and then cover it with water — this prevents adding too much water but guarantees the chicken is covered.
- Simmer the vegetables with the chicken. After the chicken and water come to a simmer, add the vegetables. This will make for an incredibly flavorful broth but also super-soft vegetables — a quality that adds to the nourishing aspect of this soup. If you prefer crisper vegetables, simply add them about halfway through the chicken's cook time.
- Cook the rice in the broth later. Once tender, you'll remove the whole chicken from the pot and add the rice. While the rice simmers, shred the chicken and return to the pot when the rice is cooked.
Serving and Storing Chicken and Rice Soup
When the rice is tender and the chicken is shredded, be sure to taste the broth and add any additional salt and pepper. Fish out the bay leaves and return the shredded chicken to the pot before serving. Serve the soup in deep bowls, preferably at a table filled with friends or family.
The leftover soup can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, but can be frozen for several months.
How To Make Chicken and Rice Soup
What You Need
1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
Freshly ground black pepper
Chef's knife and cutting board
Measuring cups and spoons
6-quart or large Dutch oven
- Season the chicken and simmer with water. Season the chicken inside and out with the salt — you might not need all of it depending on the size of your chicken. Place the chicken in an 6-quart or larger Dutch oven or pot and cover with water, 6 to 8 cups. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add the vegetables. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaves.
- Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. The broth is ready when the chicken is fork-tender and the broth is light yellow in color from the carrots and chicken fat.
- Remove the chicken, add the rice, and cook for 30 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Don't worry if the chicken falls apart as you try to remove it — pull it out in pieces if needed. Add the rice to the pot and continue to simmer uncovered until tender, about 30 minutes.
- Shred the chicken. While the rice cooks, wait until the chicken is cool enough to handle. Carefully use tongs and a knife to remove the meat from the bones, then chop or shred it into rough pieces. Discard the skin and bones, or save them for another round of chicken broth in the future.
- Add the chicken back to the pot and serve. Return the chopped chicken to the pot and remove the pot from the heat. If you can find them, remove the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Storage: Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for several months.