I just LOVE this quick and easy chicken noodle soup recipe. It’s packed with flavor from fresh lemon juice and dill, and made from scratch with a few shortcuts. Chicken breasts are poached directly in the broth, which results in a healthy chicken noodle soup in only 30 minutes total!
If you cook chicken noodle soup from scratch, usually it involves boiling a whole chicken in water, removing the chicken, letting it cool, removing the meat, and adding it back into the pot. It’s labor intensive and takes quite a bit of time, but it does taste excellent.
I wanted to develop a chicken noodle soup recipe that was fast and easy but still had deep, delicious flavor with a from-scratch feel. There are a few tricks I used to get awesome flavor in a short time, as well as make it a little healthier and lower in fat!
Using pre-made chicken broth saves time
To save a lot of time, I used already made chicken broth.
I often have homemade chicken broth in my freezer – I save vegetable scraps and chicken bones in a gallon sized plastic bag in the freezer and when it’s full, I boil everything together to make stock.
But store-bought chicken broth is a great alternative when you’re in a hurry. Unfortunately, it usually has less flavor than homemade.
How to boost the flavor
1. Brown the mirepoix in butter.
Mire-what? Mirepoix. It’s just a fancy name for the vegetable base of this chicken soup- and many other soups and stews. A simple mixture of finely diced onions, carrots, and celery. And do make sure those carrots are finely diced, so they cook all the way in a short amount of time.
Sautéing these veggies in 2 tablespoons of butter until they were browned helps enhance their flavors. As you sauté, the water evaporates from the vegetables, leaving behind a more concentrated flavor with a better texture.
And when browning occurs, it means the sugars in the veggies are caramelizing. This adds an almost unnoticeable hint of sweetness to the soup and deepens the overall flavor when the browned parts get incorporated all into the soup.
2. Poach the chicken breasts directly in the soup.
Cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts ensures you are using all lean meat. And since there are no bones, and it’s already pretty well trimmed with no skin, there’s NO prep involved. Just plop the chicken breasts right in the liquid and let them boil away until they are cooked, which only takes about 15 minutes!
But, chicken breasts are much less flavorful than other cuts of chicken.
Poaching the chicken breasts in the broth enhances the flavor of the chicken, because it absorbs all the flavors of the vegetables and broth as it cooks.
It also helps enhance the flavor of store-bought broth even more- as the chicken cooks, it will help strengthen the chicken-ey flavor of the soup.
Chicken-ey? Is that a word? It is now.
And do make sure you add plenty of salt and pepper at this point- the chicken will absorb it as it cooks, flavoring the meat.
Can I use already cooked chicken?
Shred- don’t chop- the chicken.
There’s something more “homemade” tasting about chicken noodle soup with large chunks of chicken. Maybe because when you eat the canned version, it only has like four teeny microscopic pieces of actual chicken meat.
I wanted the soup to be hearty and filling, which the large chicken pieces help do.
While you’re shredding, add the pasta.
While shredding the chicken, add some pasta into the soup to cook, which only takes about 6 minutes (depending on the size). You can use ANY kind of pasta you want. Whole wheat, regular, and any shape.
I’ve made this chicken noodle soup with spaghetti before, but I broke up the noodles before adding it in so it would be easier to eat.
For a gluten or grain free option, you can use something like chickpea pasta or rice pasta. Or, use actual rice instead of pasta! Just make sure to add it with the chicken so it has time to cook, rather than after.
Boost the flavor with lemon and dill
Finally, after the soup was completely done and I had turned off the heat, I added some fresh lemon juice and fresh dill to the pot.
Gosh. There is just something about homemade chicken noodle soup with lemon and dill. The flavors are a match made in heaven.
And as an added bonus: lemon juice is high in vitamin C, which is great if you are having this soup when you’re sick!
Can you freeze chicken noodle soup?
Before I go, let’s talk about making this ahead of time and freezing, shall we?
I always get asked the question: “can you freeze chicken noodle soup?” Yes, with some adjustments.
The thing about the pasta is that it will get very, VERY mushy if you freeze it. Still edible, but not the tastiest.
If you want to freeze this, I recommend making the soup exactly as directed but without the pasta. Then, when you are ready to make it, you can defrost it, heat it up, and cook the pasta as it heats directly in the soup. It should be perfect and ready to go!
Other easy chicken soup recipes
- Avgolemono (Greek Chicken Soup with Lemon and Egg)
- Chicken Soup with Quinoa, Sweet Potatoes, and Greens.
- Detox Chicken and Vegetable Soup
- Quick and Easy One-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
- Creamy Mushroom, Chicken, and Wild Rice Soup
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Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large carrot finely diced
- 2 ribs celery leaves included, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 6 cups chicken stock/broth
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts about 1 lb.
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 oz. dry pasta any shape or kind (I used rotini)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill
- Melt butter (2 tablespoons) in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Sauté over medium high heat until softened and browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth (6 cups) and chicken breasts (2), along with some kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon) and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon). Bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked (this will depend on how thick the breasts are).
- Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. Add the dry pasta to the soup. Stir, and simmer until cooked through (this will depend on what kind of pasta you are using- about 6-8 minutes).
- Meanwhile, shred the chicken with two forks. I like to shred it into larger pieces. Add back to the pot.
- Once the pasta is cooked through, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and dill. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed and serve.
- For a gluten-free option: Use gluten-free pasta (such as chickpea) or substitute the pasta with 3/4 cup rice. If you use rice, add it when you add the chicken so it fully cooks. I recommend white rice, since it cooks faster than brown.
- For a dairy-free option: Use ghee or olive oil instead of butter to brown the vegetables.
- To make ahead and freeze: Do everything as directed except don’t the pasta. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months. When you are ready to serve, defrost on the stovetop and add the pasta to cook. Otherwise, it will turn very mushy.
- For an even faster version, use already cooked shredded chicken, such as rotisserie, and skip the poaching step.
- To save even more time, you can use already cooked pasta (such as ready pasta) or leftover cooked rice. Just decrease the amount of chicken broth to 4 cups.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.
- Large pot