Today is National Chicken Noodle Soup Day! Chicken noodle soup might not be the cure-all for colds and flu, but this favorite home remedy offers up smart nutrition: quality protein and carbs, plus hydrating broth and bonus veggies. Here are a few tips for making the healthiest soups — whether chicken noodle, a riff on that classic, or a hearty vegetable one — along with some tasty recipes to inspire your culinary efforts.
The primary component that makes any soup amazing is the broth. That’s because the broth is in every single spoonful, and is the flavor vehicle for soups. Plus, the broth provides you with the hydrating liquid that may help sooth a sore throat. To coax the most flavor out of broth ingredients and channel your inner soup chef, think of ways to stretch the ingredients already in your soup. For example, use leftover bones from a rotisserie chicken to make this amazing chicken broth. If a vegetarian soup is on the menu, try a savory mushroom broth that can play well with hearty greens and butternut squash or your favorite veggie combination. This version uses Parmigiano Reggiano in the broth and as garnish for an Italian spin on the classic.
Warming, restorative soups should have some sort of filling protein component. Chicken and turkey are ideal because you can cook the poultry in plenty of liquid, which also boost the flavor of the broth. Try this method for chicken noodle soup in a flash. But you don’t have to limit yourself to chicken; turkey, tofu, meatballs and beans can work in a soup with great results. We like using leftover cooked turkey in this quick soup, but a tender cut of beef makes a barley-beef stew a reality for dinner during the week.
A good soup should include some wholesome grains or starch, which means you don’t have to limit yourself to pasta. Brown rice, barley and wheat berries are hearty choices for soups. Here’s a weeknight chicken-and-rice soup and a vegetarian one that is a blueprint for adapting to what’s in season. And in this soup, quinoa functions as the quality protein and starch for a satisfying, light meal. If you love pasta, consider changing things up with gluten-free options, such as rice- or quinoa-based noodles; or use whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta to add a whole grains factor.
Amp Up the Veggies
Carrots, celery and onion are traditional broth builders, and work well in the soups, too. Diced vegetables add color, texture, and a little bump of fiber or vitamins and minerals1. Make sure to allow 15 to 20 minutes to let them simmer and soften, watching your soup closely at the end of cooking time to achieve the best texture. Adding diced veggies at the end of cooking time is ideal for tomatoes, turnips, potatoes, carrots, celery, leeks, pearl onions, cooked beans or edamame and even sturdy greens, all of which can add wholesome heft to your soup. This pasta soup uses filling cranberry beans and kale for a fiber-filled, vegan option.
Serve it Piping Hot
Serve your soup hot enough so that the steam rising up may help open a stuffed- up nose (just as your humidifier would). The soup will nourish you, and may help you feel a little bit better.
What is your favorite nourishing, restorative soup? Share your feel-good soup suggestions with us, please!