Is there anything better than classic chicken soup on a cold day… or really any day?
Every year I get really into soups when the weather turns cold. I have my regular go-to’s like this and this. But what I enjoy just as much as my old favorites is trying new things and experimenting with different ways of making something that as far as I can tell, is pretty darn hard to screw up: soup.
This variation of classic chicken soup is one of my favorite recent discoveries in the kitchen. It takes the ease and simplicity of classic chicken soup to a whole new level (see what I did there?).
Whole, as in, because you make this soup by sticking a whole chicken, a bunch of veggies and some seasonings in a pot and that’s about it.
Why the Whole Chicken?
If you’ve been through Dinner in 10, then you know how excited I get about cooking with whole chickens. I know there’s the ick-factor of handling a whole bird, and the thought can be intimidating, but I’m telling you if you haven’t cooked a whole chicken yet, you gotta try it.
I’m a big fan of buying the whole chicken for a few different reasons…
- It’s so much cheaper to buy the whole bird. You get a lot more for your money too versus buying expensive chicken breasts. I can usually get 2-3 meals out of a whole chicken for our family of four (two adults and two toddlers) depending on the size of the bird.
- It’s so much more flavorful. All the flavor of cooking a chicken, gross as it may sound, comes from the bones. That’s why bone-in dark meat has so much more flavor than a plain white chicken breast. Take this recipe for example, you don’t even need to use a broth, when you cook a whole chicken you get that too. Which brings me to…
- You basically get two liters of chicken bone broth for free. It’s just a matter of taking that extra step to return the bones and carcass (yes, I did just say carcass) to the slow cooker, covering them with water, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (helps to draw the minerals out of the bones) and setting it to low for at least 24 hours. If you want a quick tutorial, I can show you exactly how to do it on my Instagram page. Just look for the little blue highlight circle called “bone broth.”
If you’re not ready for the whole chicken, you could do this same recipe with chicken breasts or chicken thighs. If you go that route, I recommend using a chicken or vegetable broth for the liquid to add some more flavor that you’d otherwise get from the whole chicken.
Meet My Personal Chef, My Slow Cooker.
Do I even need to mention the life changing magic of owning and using a slow cooker? I would be lost – so much more stressed and definitely not eating as well – without mine.
Depending on what the day is like, I’ll make dinner in the morning before my day starts or around lunch time when I have a bit of a break, get everything in the pot, set it and leave it for however many hours. If I’m doing in the morning, and it works for the recipe, I’ll cook it on low for 6-8 hours. If it’s not till lunch, then high for 4 hours.
Then I can leave it, go do my thing, and when it’s dinner time, it’s magically ready. And it feels and tastes like there was someone in my kitchen cooking this dinner for hours! I call mine my own personal chef!
The one I have is just a regular ol’ Crock Pot. It has the insert that you can take out to clean. I’m pretty sure they all work that way these days – but if you don’t have one and are in the market, then definitely something to look for. Mine can’t do this, but I wish it could go on the cook top too. That way if you needed to you could brown or cook meat in the same pot. I always think of this when I’m making chili – it would save me the step of having to clean another pan!
In my crockpot dreams….
A few notes on this recipe…
- You can cook the whole chicken with the skin on. Yes, it will add more fat to the broth but fat = flavor. If you want to you, you can skim the fat off the top of the soup once it cools. It will sort of rise and congeal on the surface once you store it in the fridge. You don’t have to do this of course, but if you prefer less fat it’s an easy fix.
- Be extra careful removing the whole chicken from the slow cooker. The slow cooker does a great job at breaking down proteins and tissue in meats and bone so the chicken will easily come apart. Use a set of tongs and a slotted spoon to assist you. Alternatively you can place the chicken inside a cheese cloth for even easier removal.
- I prefer to chop the veggies to their final size and cook them that way. Some say this makes the veg too mushy and I’ve seen recipes where the carrots and celery are cooked in larger chunks and then chopped into smaller pieces at the end. You do you here!
- I wrote the recipe to include potatoes, but you can easily change this recipe up and do different variations as I’ve noted at the end: sub other starchy veg, cabbage, greens, noodles, etc. Make it your own!
Classic Homemade Chicken Soup in a Slow Cooker
- 1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 3-4 carrots, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 yukon gold potatoes, cut in chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 4 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 8 cups water
- ¼ fresh parsley, chopped
- In a slow cooker, place chopped vegetables, spices and seasonings at the bottom.
- Be sure to remove any innards from the whole chicken.
- Season chicken inside and out with some salt and pepper.
- Place chicken on top of vegetables in the slow cooker.
- Cover everything with water.
- Set slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours.
- When timer is done, carefully take out the chicken and place on a carving board. Using forks or your fingers, remove the meat from the bones (it should fall away easily). Shred chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Return about half of the shredded chicken to the slow cooker (you can use the breast meat, thigh, leg meat - whatever you prefer).
- Add fresh parsley and it's done!
- Serve and enjoy!
- This will stay good in the fridge for up to 4-5 days or in the freezer up to 2 months.
I’ve done this soup several different ways using different combos of ingredients. For instance, you could…
- Sub potatoes for sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
- Skip the potatoes and cook your favorite pasta or noodle separately then add it to the soup at the end.
- Add shredded or thinly sliced green cabbage in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking time for a sort-of noodle-like veggie addition.
- Serve over cooked spaghetti squash for another noodle-like alternative.
- Add any kind of chopped dark leafy green (spinach, kale, chard, collards) to the pot in the last 10 minutes of cook time to get more greens in.
Let Us Know What You Think.
If you make this, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Come back here and let us know in the comments what you think and if you have any other ideas of how to make it your own classic chicken soup.
P.S. Want to learn how to improvise recipes and cook on the fly… dare I say, WITHOUT A RECIPE (gasp!), and all on your own? My online cooking class and 4-week meal plan, Dinner in 10, will teach you. Find out all you need to know about what it is and how it works here. You can even give it a little test run with this FREE 3-Day Meal Plan that’s like a little taste.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.