Winter

Belgian Chicken Waterzooi

November 24, 2012
10 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
Author Notes

My father used to make this traditional Belgian dish for my family in winter. Feel free to use white fish or chicken (for this recipe I've used chicken)–both are delicious. It's the ideal comfort food, with loads of vegetables, and can be eaten with potatoes or thick Belgian bread. —MarieGlobetrotter

Test Kitchen Notes

It's no secret that chicken soup is one of our favorite winter dishes, and this Belgian iteration has all the makings of a winner: It's easy to make, is chock-full of vegetables, and has a creaminess that's rewarding after a day of trekking through the cold. Originally from Ghent, a town in northern Belgium, this dish was incredibly popular in the 16th century and has stood the test of time. (While it's traditionally served with white fish, we love how easy this ingredient swap for chicken is.) Up the ante and add some potatoes or serve it with a thick slice of bread to soak up the broth from the bottom of the bowl.

We'd tell you to make a double batch, but that wouldn't be necessary: The entire process takes a little over 30 minutes from start to finish, so feel free to make a fresh pot the next time you need some help defrosting from a winter chill. —Leslie Stephens

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Peel and wash the leeks, then chop them into thin slices. Dice the carrots and celery.
  2. Cut the chicken breasts into medium slices, about 1/2-inch thick.
  3. In a deep pot, melt the butter and sauté the vegetables and the onion for 10 minutes. Add enough chicken broth to just cover the vegetables and bring to a boil, uncovered.
  4. Add the chicken breast and cover the pot. Poach the chicken on medium heat for approximately 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside. Drape some aluminum foil over top to keep it warm.
  5. In a bowl, whisk the cream, cornstarch, and egg yolk. Add this mixture to the broth and vegetables. Add more broth to thin the mixture as desired. Stir constantly until the waterzooi thickens.
  6. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes at a low simmer.
  7. Serve in soup plates, topped with fresh parsley

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Eugenijus Sudeikis
    Eugenijus Sudeikis
  • Adam Moskovitz
    Adam Moskovitz
  • Kaite
    Kaite
  • Windischgirl
    Windischgirl
  • MarieGlobetrotter
    MarieGlobetrotter

84 Reviews

cyanestt February 1, 2021
that looks very nice. Could I ask you a question? I am doing a research about this dish. Why are those ingredients used? like it help in taste or smell.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter February 1, 2021
It's name means "boiling water" in Flemish (I know, weird). The soup dates back to the 18th century and originated in Flanders, in the city of Gand. There was a water mill by the Escaut river that people also used as a grain mill and have flour. A lot of the grains ended up in the river, which attracted A LOT of fish. As a result, fishermen arrived to the city in masses. Fish became a much cheaper and could there be cooked in many ways. When fish became more scarcer and therefore more expensive, people started using chicken instead.


 
Eugenijus S. December 6, 2020
Good recipe
 
101281 November 2, 2019
Ellen Jennings my mum and myself just love this soup but I just have one question to ask
Can you freeze this soup and if you can how long for 2 months or three months or 4 months or less I would like to know that before I make it tomorrow.
Thank you
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter November 2, 2019
Hi, it‘a not a problem at all. I have done it. But be careful when you reheat it. Do it slowly to make sure that the cream doesn’t separate from the rest of the ingredients. Reheat on low heat, stirring frequently.

 
101281 November 3, 2019
Thank you very much for your reply
O
 
JohnnyFox August 11, 2019
Made it last night and it was completely delicious. Two thoughts: when I've had it in Belgium I think it contained small potatoes, is that a reasonable variant? And what does '4 cups chicken broth - divided' mean? Divided between what?

Also, I'm very envious of the china bowls in your beautiful photo!
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter August 11, 2019
Thanks for your comments!
You could absolutely add potatoes. Many Waterzooi do but I usually don’t eat them much in this soup because there is already so much.
About the cups, I divide them because i get to measure how thick i want the soup to be. If I want something thicker, I put less broth.
The China bowl are Food 52’s picture when they tested the recipe.
You try this with fish :)
 
patricia G. November 2, 2019
In my family we usually served watezlooi in shallow soup plates with steamed potatoes on the side. We'd add a potato (or 2) to our plates, lightly crush the spud, and use it to mop up the delicious creamy liquid.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter November 2, 2019
Great idea. At least you control the potato intake and don’t get too full if you don’t want to
 
Barbara January 22, 2019
I would repeat this recipe!
Very tasty and simple to make
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter January 22, 2019
Thank you. It’s an excellent cold weather soup
 
Adam M. December 11, 2018
Thanks for sharing, I have had this several times when living in Europe, and this is bar none the best so far. I just made it tonight for my wife, and she loved it.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter December 12, 2018
Thank you for your kind words
 
Kathy D. October 2, 2018
I had this dish first in Brussels and I loved it! When I got home, i used this recipe and it was awesome. After making it several times, and because I love veggies, I started to add cut up zucchini, summer squash and some potatoes. Still delicious. It's not always bad to mix up a recipe!
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter October 3, 2018
Thank you Kathy !
 
Kaite March 28, 2017
Simple and tasty! Loved the addition of the egg yolk into this soup. The only addition I would make is to add some pieces of yukon gold potatoes.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter March 28, 2017
Thank you!
 
Kathi S. September 17, 2016
Just spent time in Brussels and had this dish for the first time-loved it. This recipe is EXACTLY what the restaurant used!! I am trying this tonight without having to experiment just follow your recipe. Kathi Schue
 
Linda B. February 21, 2016
No, I would not try to freeze it because of the dairy involved.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter February 21, 2016
Yes, dairy is a problem because it can coagulate. I have seen people freeze it though. I just haven't tried it myself. I think it depends on the cream (if you use crème fraîche, which is made for cooking). When you re-heat, try doing it on low-heat.
 
patricia G. February 6, 2016
Fish is used rather than shrimp in Belgium. The local shrimp are very small and would be lost in waterzooi. Again, adjust cooking times.
 
Linda B. February 6, 2016
This should work, but since shrimp needs so much less time to cook, the cooking time would have to be adjusted.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter February 6, 2016
Yes, same with fish. Fish cooks faster.
I've never tried this recipe with shrimps but if it works well with white fish, why not.
 
Connie B. February 21, 2016
This soup probably wouldn't freeze well, do you agree?
 
Ravisharon February 6, 2016
Has anyone made this with shrimp? Wondering how that would work.

 
Sarag January 4, 2016
Feeding this to two teen babies recovering from too much holiday fun, lingering cough and in the case of the elder girl, removal of impacted wisdom teeth and the beginning of an implant. This will be her first real food after a diet of applesauce and jello. She is so excited---even if all she can handle is the creamy broth!
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter January 4, 2016
Awww. Cute. Thank you!
 
Windischgirl November 20, 2015
Tonight's dinner. I had the chicken, vegetables, and potatoes all prepped, so I could talk hubby through the cooking during my commute home. It was delightful to come home to a yummy dinner. Thanks for this recipe!
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter November 21, 2015
Thank you!
 
Danielle April 17, 2015
This soup is so simple and delicious. I save prep time by using pre-chopped mire poix and pre-washed and trimmed leeks (Thank you, Trader Joe's!). I made a few tweaks to bump the flavor profile by adding 8oz fresh mushrooms, 1TBS of Creole Mustard (or any good quality whole grain mustard), 1/2tsp of nutmeg, and about 1tsp of all-purpose seasoning. As for a thickening agent, I use Acacia Fiber instead of corn starch or arrowroot powder. This is definitely one of my favorite dishes.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter April 18, 2015
Thank you very much for your nice comments!
 
Vesna D. January 16, 2016
On, for Pete's sake, here you have a perfectly good, delicious traditional Belgium recipe and you get the urge to "bump the flvor" with mushrooms and Creole Mustard? Quelle domage! I think Marie is being very gracious about it.
 
Lynn D. March 17, 2016
I don't think Danielle was being disrespectful and some of her additions (as well as the original recipe) sound delicious. We all cook with what we have, with the time available to us and what we know we and our family like. I'm nearly 70, so I have been cooking for 60 years, so I know a thing or two about how things work in the kitchen. Sometimes I follow a recipe exactly (which I did with this delicious recipe) and sometimes I mix it up. I like to hear about other people's variations.
 
Vesna D. March 17, 2016
That's OK, Lynn, I did not think that Danielle is being disrespectful. It is just that when adding things that do not belong to a TRADITIONAL recipe, you are not making that particular dish but another one that you cannot call Waterzooi. I think that if you are making it for the first time, you should give it a chance, try not to change it. It is delicate and delicious just as it is.
 
Madeline L. March 8, 2015
Yummy! I made it with cod and used arrowroot flour instead of corn starch.......that's it!
 
Rhoda M. March 3, 2015
My husband and I absolutely loved this soup. It's easy and amazing. I used chicken tenders and I fully expected them to come out rubbery but they weren't! They were very tender and tasty. This is a great recipe.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter March 3, 2015
Thank you for kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed it
 
Doctorfoodlove February 27, 2015
This was delicious! I used cod therefore fish stock, and I added a little thyme, nutmeg, and 1/2 bag of frozen peas. A yummy, hearty meal!
 
Kate February 26, 2015
This was super yummy- my 4 and 6 year olds loved it too! I used half and half instead of heavy cream and we paired it with crispy French bread.
 
Author Comment
MarieGlobetrotter February 26, 2015
I'm glad your kids liked it!You never know right...?