Chicken Noodle Soup 101--A Beginner's Guide

{{{warning and disclaimer: this is a long post.  a really, really long post.  but i've had many people ask me about my chicken noodle soup...and many of those asking have no clue where to even begin in the making of said soup.  i love to cook soup.  if there's one thing i can cook, with great success every time, it's soup.  all that being said, i tried to wrap up all i know about making cns in this one blog post.  so it's long.  really long.  if you're already adept at soup cooking, by all means, skip my blabbering about stock and base and all that.  but if you're a chicken noodle soup newbie, this post is for you.  the entire post.  read it.  devour it.  memorize it.  you will be tested on it.  trust me.}}} many people in your household are sick right now?
Do are absolutely not allowed to answer "none."
I think everyone I know has kids that are sick or they are sick themselves...or both!  It seems like every other picture I see on Instagram is of some sort of illness-related something-or-other.  The Crud is definitely making its rounds...and we all have the digital thermometers, bottles of medicine, piles of dirty laundry, and bags under our eyes to prove it.

Whenever the Ick is making its way through my house, I have to cook up a pot of chicken noodle soup.  I'm genetically engineered this way.  I can't help it.  It's in my DNA.  When I was young, chicken noodle soup was my mom's cure-for-what-ails-ya.  And it worked.  Every time.  Well, that and cod liver oil.  Mysteriously, the cod liver oil skipped my DNA.

I am quite religious about my supply of chicken noodle soup.  I will never be found without at least one large-ish {large enough to feed our family of six} container of it in my freezer.  You know why?  That container, my dear friends, is for in case **I** am the one that gets sick!  I found out {the hard way} a long time ago, that when you're sick, you want to eat chicken noodle soup...but you do not want to make chicken noodle soup.  

Well, the Ick, the Crud, the Yuck...whatever you want to call it has hit my household with a vengeance.  Last week, when I posted an IG photo of my rather large batch of chicken noodle soup, I was bombarded with recipe requests.   For me, chicken noodle soup is far less "recipe" and a whole lot more "throw in this, throw in that, boil, stir, taste, throw in a little bit more of this, there, now it's perfect."  I tried to figure out how to share my "recipe" with you and have settled on this...

I'm going to give you my VERY large recipe without any Pomp and Circumstance...and after the recipe, I'll give you lots and lots of helpful little hints that should make chicken-noodle-soup-cooking pretty much the easiest thing you've ever done. goes...
Ok...I can't help it...
I've got to give you one teeny-tiny little note right here before we jump into things...
This recipe is for a big batch of soup.
No.  I mean a really, really BIG batch of soup.
Like, as in, I make my soup in a 16-quart stock pot.  And it's full.  
16 quarts, y'all.  That's four gallons.  Four. Gallons.  
That's a lot of soup.
You do NOT have to make that big of a batch.  By all means, feel free to do a little math and cut this recipe down to fit your needs.  You do not need to make enough to feed an army.  

Ok, now let's get on with it...

Erin's Chicken Noodle Soup
40 cups water or chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 1/2 to 5 pounds chicken, cooked and cubed
1 entire bunch of celery, including leaves
1½ pounds carrots
3 medium to large-ish onions 
1 whole bunch of parsley
16 oz. bag egg noodles
14 Tablespoons chicken base*** {you MUST see my note about this}
ground black pepper to taste

I know there are a lot of people that save carrot and celery ends and all sorts of other veggie parts and pieces to boil them down for delicious homemade stock.  I'm not that good.  I'm really not.  My veggie parts and pieces go into my little counter compost crock {and then out to the backyard compost pile, when the crock is full}.  
When I need stock for chicken soup, I make it one of two ways--and it all depends on whether I want to eat the soup today or tomorrow.

If you want soup for tomorrow {this is the tastiest method, though only by a fractional margin}:
Make chicken for dinner today.  I might get two of those ready-made rotisserie chickens from Walmart.  I might roast a whole chicken {or whatever various chicken pieces I have in my freezer} in my Nesco roaster.  I season the chicken how I would normally season it for the meal I am making.  I also roast it with the skin ON.
{{Shameless Advertisement ➧➧➧  I love, love, love my Nesco roaster.  If you have a large family and you don't have a Nesco, you MUST get one.  Seriously.  It will change your life.  I use mine like an extra large Crock Pot.  It's amazing.  I love it.}}
Most of my children are still young enough that they don't enjoy eating the chicken on the bone.  Therefore, I skin and bone the chicken before serving it, saving all of those delicious skins and bones--you should do it this way, too, if you're hoping to make stock.  After dinner, take all the skins and bones and whatever juices you can scrape together {either out of the rotisserie package, or out of the roaster}, dump it all in a big soup pot, cover it with water {just cover it with water--right now you're not worried about trying to make a huge amount of stock} and bring it to a boil.  Boil it for about ten minutes, then turn it off.  Strain all the liquid through a large colander into another soup pot.   The liquid will go into the refrigerator overnight.  The bones and skins can all be thrown away {be sure to check for any little remaining pieces of meat}.  In the morning, skim off the thick {may be solid} layer of grease on the top of the cooled stock.  And viola!  You have your yummy chicken stock.  Later on, when you're cooking your soup, you will probably need to add more water and some chicken base...we'll cover that then.

If you want soup for today:
Put your skinless chicken pieces in a pot. {I use boneless, skinless chicken breast.  If you use bone-in chicken, that's fine; but be sure to remove the skin.}  Cover your chicken with water.  Bring it to a boil and boil until cooked through.  Pull out your chicken pieces and set aside to cool.  The liquid is now your stock.  This stock will not be as flavorful as that from the overnight method--especially considering that the overnight stock has additional seasonings in it from the meal in which it was used.  However, this method is still good and you'll still get delicious soup in the end.  I've used this method many, many times when I just couldn't wait until tomorrow for the soup.  Again, you'll probably need to add more water and base later while you're cooking the soup. now you have your stock.  
You should also have your cooked chicken meat by now.  Maybe you just cooked it with the soup-for-today method.  Maybe you have some left over from last night's dinner.  Either way, you should have about 9 cups of cooked, cut-up chicken {for this size batch}.  There is no science to how large you should cube your chicken pieces.  Cut them up what ever size best suits your family.   I chop mine into ½" pieces.  Set your chicken aside.

Put your stock on the stove and bring it to a boil.
While it is heating, chop up four things:
☞3 medium-large-ish onions--I always use sweet yellow onions.  I buy them in a bag from Walmart.  They are not the huge vidalia onions that you usually buy singly.  They are the same size as a your run-of-the-mill onion, but are sweeter.  I like 'em.  Throw the onions into the stock once they're chopped, even if the stock isn't boiling yet.  It'll be ok.
☞an entire bunch of celery, including the leaves!☟☟☟
This is the most memorable cooking tip Mom taught me--when you're cooking soup or stew {or most any dish, really} that includes celery, ALWAYS include the leaves and as much of the celery heart as you can.  Oh, the delicious-ness that comes from those just won't even believe it!  Do NOT throw those flavor-packed green bits of goodness away.  Trust me.  Just chop them up with the rest of your celery and throw it all into the stock...those leaves will cook down just fine.  You won't even notice they're in there; but you WILL notice the flavor.  Yummmmmm.
☞1½ pounds of carrots.  I use whole carrots, not baby carrots--to me, the whole carrots have more flavor.  I wash my carrots, but I do not peel them.  I know many people do peel their carrots and if you're one of those, more power to you.  I find that it's just an extra {unnecessary} step, and I think if you made your soup once without peeling your carrots, you'd probably never go back to peeling them again.  There is absolutely no taste or texture issue whatsoever.  It's as if the peel isn't even there.  Honest.  Just try it.  Once your carrots are chopped, throw them into the onion-y, celery-y stock.
☞a bunch of parsley.  I do chop off and discard the lower leaf-less portion of the stems.  Rinse the rest of the bunch in a colander, and then chop it up.  I like mine finely chopped, but not minced like I ran it through a food processor.  I just give it a good butcher-knife chopping.  Throw the parsley in to join its veggie friends in the stock--the stock that should be boiling by now {or awfully close to it, at least}.

Boil those veggies and herbs for a good while...20-30 minutes...until they're nice and tender.  During this time, assess the amount of veggie goodness you already have in your pot, and the amount of chicken and noodles you'll be tossing in, to figure out whether or not you need to add more water.  Don't worry about the water affecting the flavor, we deal with that next.  I like my end-product soup fairly thick, not terribly broth-y--I like to get veggies or meat or noodles in every bite.  However, you do need to add enough water so that your noodles can cook sufficiently.  Use the water amount I gave at the beginning of the recipe {adjusted accordingly for your size batch}-it is a good guideline for a thick soup.  If you prefer a bit more broth, you can add more water.
Toward the end of this cooking time, I like to add my fresh-ground black pepper and my chicken base.  

The chicken base part is important.  It's really important.  Here is where you can really botch up a great pot of soup.  Do NOT add too much chicken base.  Your chicken base does two things--it adds chicken flavor...AND it adds salt.  I add my chicken base a very small amount at a time.  When I'm making a batch of soup this size, I add my base two tablespoons at a time.  That may sound like a lot, but considering that my pot of soup is nearly four gallons, two tablespoons really isn't that much.  Please...add your base slowly.  Add a bit, stir the soup, ladle a small amount out and taste it.  Repeat over and over and only takes moments, but you MUST trust do not want to over-salt your soup.
☛☛I also wanted to be sure to note here that the chicken base I used for my soup is a "2 teaspoons base per 8 ounces water" base.  Many chicken bases are "ONE teaspoon base per 8 ounces water." Please check your base before you use it.  If it's the latter sort, your pot of soup would require quite a bit LESS base than what I used.

All right...
You've got your stock boiling...
It's got onion, celery, carrots, fresh parsley, ground black pepper, and chicken base in it.
Go ahead and dump in your chopped chicken and your bag of egg noodles {for egg noodles, I always use Creamette Extra Wide Egg Noodles}.  Note the cooking time required for your noodles.  Reduce your heat so that your soup is at a bubbling simmer, but not a rolling boil.  Allow it to simmer for half the cooking time called for on your noodle package.  Once that time is up, remove the soup from heat and set on the back of the stove until ready to serve.  The noodles will continue to cook in the hot soup, and turning the soup off before the noodles are completely cooked will keep them from getting over-done and mushy.  {{Of course, if you are planning to serve the soup immediately, you will want to go ahead and cook the noodles completely.}}

I've had people ask about the consistency of the noodles after being frozen.  Here's what I've found...
When I take a container of soup out of the freezer, I run the container under hot water until the "block" of soup comes loose.  Drop the soup into a pot, add a thin layer of water to the bottom of the pot, and place it on the stove at medium-low heat.  And  Leave it alone!!!  Don't poke at it.  Don't try to cut off pieces as it thaws.  Don't try to heat it up faster.  Just leave it alone.  As long as you can leave it alone, it will thaw relatively quickly and you should have no issue with mushy noodles.  I find that the noodles break apart and become mushy when they get "over-worked."  You could also just think ahead and take your soup out of the freezer early enough that it could thaw out on your counter...unfortunately, I don't often think that far ahead.

Keep in mind, this recipe is for a big batch of soup...a really, really big batch of soup.  It's definitely nice to have extra to freeze, but you can certainly scale this recipe down to meet your needs.

However, don't even tell me that you're only going to make enough for one meal.  That, my friends...that is pure sacrilege.  You must make enough to freeze a container.  That is not optional.

{{please feel free to shoot me any questions.  i'm not on my computer often throughout the day, but can usually be reached fairly quickly via my Instagram @tweetpotatopie.  and by all means, PLEASE let me know how your soup turns out!}}


  1. I have just made a batch of your soup and it is delicious! The celery leaves are really the best! Thankyou for sharing!

  2. Great post:) I too make mass quantities of soup (there are 7 in our fam). I made tons of Tomato soup this summer, (our tomato crop was amazing this year) so we are enjoying the fruits of it this winter.

  3. Great post! My head is exploding about you freezing the soup with the noodles in it -- I've always had them turn to mush. Even refrigerating soup with noodles overnight doesn't work for me. I always cook them separately and add them in at the end -- but that means the noodles don't taste good and chickeny.


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