When we were sick as kids, many of us cherish fond memories of our mothers bringing us a bedside bowl of chicken soup, usually made from condensed commercial soup.

Today, we know that many commercial soups contain unhealthful excesses of sodium and fat. Even "reduced sodium" versions are still too high in salt to recommend for many people's health needs. Making homemade soups is a rewarding as well as healthy alternative, as it creates aromas as comforting and soothing as the finished soup.

You'll need a few hours to cook this soup, but the cook's time is minimal. You can start the soup while putting together dinner, or on the weekend. Constant attention is unnecessary, as a soup-in-the-making requires only occasional monitoring and adjustments. During the simmering stage, just a few brief checks are needed to adjust the heat and occasionally skim off the foam that accumulates on top of the broth.

A full-bodied broth involves two key strategies: sauteing the vegetables and chicken before adding to the soup brings out all their rich flavor; and a long, gentle simmer fully releases flavors in seasonings like garlic, spices and herbs.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup

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Makes 4 servings.


  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 of each: turnip, parsnip, carrot cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (with bones) rinsed and dried
  • 46 whole peppercorns
  • 46 whole cloves
  • 24 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 tsp. fresh (or 1/2 tsp. dried) thyme, marjoram, or tarragon
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups (about) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth


  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with canola oil spray. Heat over high heat. Add turnip, parsnip, carrot and onion. Saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, eing careful to avoid burnt spots. Transfer them to a bowl or dish and set aside.
  2. Respray the pot and heat on medium-high. Add chicken and saute, turning often, until lightly browned. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and cook about 10 minutes.
  3. Return vegetables to the pot. Add peppercorns, cloves, herbs, garlic, a generous pinch of salt and enough broth to cover contents about two inches. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Do not allow soup to boil, which produces a muddy flavor and an off-putting, cloudy liquid. While the soup is simmering, occasionally skim off the foam that accumulates on top of the broth.
  4. Cook soup, adjusting heat so broth continues to simmer gently. Add more broth if the liquid no longer covers the chicken and vegetables. Simmer until chicken is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 2 hours.
  5. Transfer cooked chicken to a large dish. Strain broth into a large pot. Transfer any pieces of chicken in the strainer to the pot. Discard vegetables, garlic, spices and herbs. (All their flavor is now in the broth. Fresh vegetables can be added later if desired.) When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove from the bones, cut into bite-sized pieces and add, along with any juices, to soup. Discard bones. Heat soup until hot. (Add fresh vegetables at this point, if desired, and simmer until tender.) Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. (Cooked pasta or rice can be added at the end, if desired.)

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
58 calories
less than 1 g. fat (0 g. saturated fat)
3 g. carbohydrate
10 g. protein
less than 1g. dietary fiber
590 mg. sodium