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Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon and Kale

2013 November 19
by Becky

I’ve been slowly checking things off my to-do list and one of the items was “Post Soup Recipe”.

A couple weeks ago, on a cold and rainy day, I Instagrammed a photo of a new creation, Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon and Kale.  Numerous comments and emails came through requesting the recipe but, since I made it on the fly, I had no idea how much of each ingredient I used, had few pictures, and didn’t take any notes while making it.


It was probably the best version of this soup in my personal cooking history, so I’ve been craving it ever since and had to make it again.

Chicken Noodle Soup is pretty darn simple, but CAN be done wrong. It can be bland, to salty, under-cooked, over-cooked, or just plain boring. After making it dozens of different ways, I’ve decided my favorite method includes cooking the chicken in the soup, not using pre-cooked chicken. This goes against 80% of the recipes out there, even Ina Garten’s (I’m sorry Ina!! I won’t stray on any other recipe.) There’s just something delicious about meat that’s been simmered in a bath of mirepoix and stock with a little bay leaf, salt, and oregano.

In the first step, caramelization is KEY. As Anne Burrell says, “Brown food tastes good!!” so getting some color on the carrots, onion, and celery is the goal.


Oh, and my all-time-super-important-secret-ingredient? Garlic.

Sure it can be strong, but garlic cooked in soup adds SO much flavor and most of the bad parts of the garlic (breath) gets boiled off. Just don’t use too much.


Another secret? Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix. I pretty much use it any time a recipe calls for oregano. It includes rosemary, basil, thyme—all good stuff that almost always tastes great together. I tossed some in this soup and it added yet another layer of yumminess. If you hit a Penzey’s, grab a jar. I promise you’ll use it!


Anyway, I also like to use a mix of dark and white meat. The dark adds more calories of course, but the flavor impact is worth it. Chicken thighs and a breast or two are my cuts of choice, but “pick of the chick” is always a good option too. I typically keep boneless everything in my freezer, but bone-in of course works too…even more flavor.


When the chicken is cooked through it comes out to be shredded. Shredding adds that rustic touch that, in my mind, works much better than chopping. While I shred, the noodles cook. I’ve gone back and forth between boiling the noodles separately to avoid adding too much starch to the soup and cooking them right in the soup, and I think the latter works best. Whole wheat egg noodles are my starch of choice…they have a bite even when reheated the next day.


Last I toss in kale, sometimes peas, and squeeze in the lemon. Adding the juice of two one or two lemons adds a brightness to the soup…I’ll never go back. Lemons are a staple in our veggie drawer because their bright flavor works with so many recipes. One of my favorites? Fettuccine Alfredo. Try Giada’s, she’s a lemon lover too and knows her way around a white sauce. The kale is just there because it’s good for us and adds a nice green color to the soup. Eat your greens!

So that’s it in a nutshell. An easy recipe done right. Perfect for winter dinners!

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon and Kale
serves 6

– olive oil
– 1 yellow onion
– 3 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
– 4 stalks of celery, chopped with leafy parts
– 1 clove of garlic
– oregano or mix of italian spices
– 1 bay leaf
– 6 cups unsalted chicken broth
– 2 cups water
– 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat removed
– 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
– 1 1/2 cups whole wheat egg noodles
– 1 cup lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale), chopped
– 2 lemons, juiced
– 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
handful of parsley, chopped

Start by sautéing onions, celery, and carrots in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are browned and caramelized. Once a little color is attained, add bay leaf, garlic, italian seasoning, a dash of salt, and a sprinkle of pepper. Cook, still stirring, until fragrant and browned.

Add broth and water, bring to a simmer. Add chicken. After 15-20 minutes, when chicken is cooked through, remove it to a plastic cutting board and shred with two forks. While shredding, cook pasta in simmering broth. Once pasta is al dente, return shredding chicken to pot along with kale, lemon juice, and frozen peas. Remove the bay leaf and check the salt…another pinch may be needed.

What is the secret to your favorite chicken soup recipe? 

2 Responses
  1. November 25, 2013

    While the recipe below makes what we consider a dreamy classic chicken noodle soup, feel free to just use it as a template. Can’t bear a chicken stock without garlic or leeks? Add them. (I sometimes use two onions, because I like that flavor so much with chicken. One could be replaced with leeks.) Only like stock made with light or dark meat? Go for it. Want to use different vegetables? We’re big fans of cauliflower and green bean segments in here too; for aesthetics, I try to dice the vegetables so they’re all the same size chunks. Do you have a toddler that’s averse to soup? Try using 4 ounces noodles. It makes for a heartier, noodle-heavy soup, and all of those noodles are an excellent distraction. Bored of noodles? Spaetzle, rice and other grains would be delightful here.

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