5 Ingredients or Fewer

Simplest Chicken Noodle Soup

January 14, 2019
16 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Chicken noodle soup doesn’t get simpler than this: chicken and noodles. While a lot of chicken stock recipes include a slew of vegetables (onion, carrot, celery), spices (peppercorns, cloves, coriander), and herbs (parsley, thyme, bay leaves), this one lets the chicken do the talking. And it has so much to say. Seasoning at the end with salt and schmaltz (that golden rendered fat) yields a pure stock that would be wonderful in any recipe, but especially noodle soup. I like extra-wide egg noodles, boiled in salty water and added directly to the bowl so they don't get soggy. If you have some fresh herbs or cooked vegetables around, feel free to add those, too. But know that you don’t need them. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of our Big Little Recipes. Read more here: The Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup Only Needs 2 Ingredients. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Simplest Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Prep time 12 hours
  • Cook time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 (plus some leftover shredded chicken and schmaltz)
Ingredients
  • 1 (5 1/2–pound) chicken
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste and for noodle-boiling
  • 12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Take a peek inside your chicken. There’s probably a little bag in the cavity, with the neck and giblets. Reserve the neck and toss the rest (or freeze for later if that’s your thing). Cut the chicken into 8 to 12 roughly equal-sized pieces. (Alternatively, you can kindly ask your butcher to do this—it does save a lot of cleanup.) Add those pieces plus the neck to the biggest pot you’ve got.
  2. Slowly pour the water on top of the chicken in the pot. (Doing this too quickly can cause a raw-chicken splash zone—not what we want.) Set the pot on the stove, partially cover with a lid (so there’s a slight crack for steam to escape), and turn up the heat to high, until the liquid reaches a confident simmer. Adjust the heat as needed to simmer the chicken for about 25 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. (Some scrum might rise to the top at this point. Just remove with a spoon and discard.)
  3. When the chicken has cooked, turn off the heat. Use metal tongs to remove all the pieces from the pot and set on a plate or platter. When it’s cool enough to handle, use your hands to pull the meat from the bones. (No need to shred into bite-sized pieces now—we can do that later.) When all the meat has been removed, add all the bones and skin back to the pot of water.
  4. With the pot partially covered, simmer the stock for 3 to 4 hours, until golden and reduced to 8 cups of liquid or so. Check every so often to make sure it’s simmering; depending on your stove, it may fluctuate from not simmering at all to downright boiling (neither of which is the goal), so adjust the heat as needed.
  5. When the stock is ready, carefully pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a big heatproof bowl, pot, or other vessel that can hold about 8 cups of liquid. Really press on those bones to get all liquid and flavor out of them. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.
  6. When it’s completely chilled, there should be a layer of fat on top (good!) and the stock’s consistency should be ultra-gelatinous, like jelly (great!). Use a spoon to gingerly transfer the fat to a separate jar. You can refrigerate this fat for up to 5 days or freeze for months.
  7. When you’re ready to eat soup: Set a large pot of water over high heat to come to a boil. When it does, generously salt (I estimate about 1 tablespoon salt per quart water), and add the egg noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes or until just al dente, since they’ll continue to cook in the hot broth.
  8. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the stock over medium-high heat. And while the stock is heating up, shred the chicken. For the full amount of stock (8ish cups), you’ll want about 1 pound of shredded chicken (for 4 bowls of soup). Psst: This means you’ll probably have some leftover chicken; save for chicken-salad sandwiches later on!
  9. When the broth is hot, season it: Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, stir. Add 1 tablespoon chicken fat, stir. Taste. At this point, I personally added another 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon chicken fat; maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Just keeping tasting and seasoning, tasting and seasoning, until you love it. Yay!
  10. Add the shredded chicken to the seasoned stock.
  11. When the noodles are done cooking, use a slotted spoon to divide them evenly between 4 big soup bowls. Ladle the chicken and its broth on top of each, again dividing evenly.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bryan Ronning
    Bryan Ronning
  • Karin Ertl
    Karin Ertl
  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • tastysweet
    tastysweet
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

15 Reviews

Gkullmamm November 19, 2019
I need to report that my stock was all glutinous. Could not scoop fat from the top because it was all consolidated. What did I do wrong?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 19, 2019
Hi there—gelatinous stock is a great thing! That means the collagen from the bones has been properly extracted.
 
Gkullmamm November 19, 2019
The stock is delicious but I could not gather the fat. Is this common?
 
Bryan R. May 6, 2019
Headline said 2 ingredients for perfect chicken noodle soup. I count 4 in the recipe. The picture posted has parsley and some other seasonings. Untrustworthy website. SHAME.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. May 6, 2019
Hi Bryan! This is one of our Big Little Recipes—a column all about big flavor, little ingredient lists. As noted in the introduction of the column, these are our guidelines for counting ingredients: "We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered." While the parsley is an optional garnish, there are no other seasonings in this soup (just salt). Hope this helps clarify things!
 
Karin E. February 23, 2019
I was certainly a skeptic when I read this recipe. However, in following this recipe to a tee, I am a total convert. The depth of chicken-y flavor was unsurpassed and the chicken meat (which is removed from the chicken after roughly 30 minutes and put aside until serving) was anything BUT dry and flavorless when added prior to serving. I kept the un-used chicken meat in the refrigerator for several days, adding it to subsequent bowls of soup, and the chicken remained moist and flavorful. This is a game changer for me and definitely my go-to chicken soup recipe from herein out. I actually found it easier to make rather than more difficult as suggested by other comments since there is no fuss with other ingredients. Before serving, i did add some sliced carrots into the very hot both - they cooked just enough without being mushy.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 24, 2019
Thanks, Karin! So glad to hear you enjoyed it.
 
kantcould January 20, 2019
I see no reason to make a fetish out of good chicken stock when rotisserie chicken is so readily available (often at bargain prices) at big box wholesale stores as well as most local supermarkets. Not only is dinner ready when you walk in the door, simple and excellent chicken broth is a natural by-product. Just save all the remnants from chicken dinner (including the drippings congealed in the package) and strip the meat from any unconsumed chicken and set aside. To maximize bone broth produced by the carcass use a cleaver or heavy chef's knife to crush the large bones and chop smaller bones still smaller. Any remnant exposed skin that got "rotisserized" is an extra. Just toss all this in an ample cookpot, add water to cover and any desired flavorings of choice (eg onions, celery, parsley). Cover pot, place over low heat and walk away from it. When the aroma fills the kitchen, turn it off and let it sit until cool enough to decant.
 
tastysweet January 25, 2019
I have used the Costco rotisserie chicken. Best Buy on the market. What I have done is to put the carcass, which has the unused chicken bits and skin in my slow cooker. Add water or stock or boxed good bone broth, with carrots, celery, large chopped onion with skin, black peppercorns, salt, dried basil and whole cloves. I cook it for 12 hours then strain(which to me is the hardest and messiest).
You could then poach some fresh thighs and or breasts in this soup. Or freeze stock for use later.
 
Fran M. January 20, 2019
I have to say I save my bones. Throw them in the crockpot overnight on low with the onion, garlic, celery, carrots. I get a fabulous broth. No trouble. I refrigerate the broth. Skimming off all of the hardened fat. And I wind up wit a delicious broth to start my soup with. I don’t like fatty soup. It’s very flavorful also.
 
sean January 15, 2019
If i may throw a few tidbits out there concerning this recipe. I am a chef, have been for a long time and I am confused by this recipe. First off, even with a whole chicken your broth should not take 5 hours to make. Even if you added in whole carrots, a roughly chopped onion, garlic and other aromatics and strained them out of the broth 40 minutes later....it STILL only takes 2 hours to make the broth. So, lets set reasonable expectations for your readership. #2 boiling the chicken and then leaving it for a day kills the flavor in the chicken meat itself AND no matter what you do the chicken will be dry and tasteless the next day. Third and probably most important, removing the fat from the broth REMOVES flavor.....precisely what your recipe advertises it dosen't do and I dont know about you but a tablespoon of fat is going to add nothing discernible to the broth....3 or 4 tbsp may, but one will do nothing. So to sum up my opinion....way to much time to prepare, dry chicken and less flavor than advertised. Why dont you try making chicken soup first before you make more work for yourselves "deconstructing" a very easy, simple and flavorful soup to begin with.
 
Annie January 16, 2019
I agree with Sean. I believe many wouldn’t venture making chicken soup after reading your recipe. Soup is souper (haha) easy to make! Basicly, everything in the pot, and viola, soup! And you mention throwing away the overcooked chicken in your article-what a sin. A home chef would truly use it for more dishes, ie: pot pie, chicken salad.
 
Joan S. January 17, 2019
Actually the recipe reads " simmer the chicken for about 25 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through," after which you put it on a plate to cool, Pull the meat off the bones and shred for later. Then put bones back in the pot for 3 to 4 hours. The shredded chicken is added at the end, step 10. The recipe also mentions putting fat back, step 9, but you don't have to remove the fall to begin with, if you don't want. I have made chicken soup that had way too much fat and that doesn't taste good either. But you may not like slow cooking like I do. I have been using Michael Ruhlman's Turkey stock recipe which can take up to 12 hours and I loved that recipe so I thought I would give this one a try. I do like the way the recipe calls for cooking the noodles separate. I did learn that trick from Mother, cooking the noodle in the stock make the stock cloudy and thick.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 17, 2019
Hi Sean! Stock is one of those classic recipes with a million and one versions, so I totally get you having your own approaches. Couple thoughts: I personally didn't find that cooking the chicken, then refrigerating it, caused any dryness or flavor issues—but if you're worried about that, you can always store the chicken in some of the stock, or even some of the chicken fat. And I agree that removing chicken fat removes flavor! Hence the instruction in step #9 to add it back, to taste. I like giving people the opportunity to make the stock taste exactly how they want it to. For me, a few big spoonfuls brings more than enough flavor and richness, but other people might want more or less.
 
tastysweet January 25, 2019
I learned the hard way regarding cooking the noodles in the soup. Soaked up practically all my liquid. Add after cooking. Or like this recipe, put into bowls then add soup.