5-Ingredient Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Jan 7 2012

Sometimes as a mama, I need to feel like I’m nourishing my family.

I mean, I realize that I do nourish them, and, when I actually get it right, that includes lots of various parts; their bellies, their brains, and their hearts.

But sometimes I need to feel it. Deep down in my bones, I need to know I’ve done more than keep my family alive for one more day.

Enter: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Because there’s nothing quite as soothing as watching equal parts ancient Chinese medicine and heartfelt Mama magic trickle down my kids’ scratchy throats on a cold winter’s night while they wipe their runny noses and gooey mouths on their sleeves. It’s parenting perfection, for just one second, in a bowl.

And God knows I need all the perfect seconds I can get.

Last winter, when I was bedstricken with pneumonia and feeling a) like a pathetic loser of an uninvolved mama, b) totally left out of every family activity, and c) like I was on VACATION… and ohmygosh PNEUMONIA is the BEST… and HOW DO I GET PUT ON BED REST AT LEAST ONCE EVERY YEAR??, my friend Laurie brought over a vat of her Most Excellent chicken noodle soup AND she gave me the recipe.

Since then, I’ve made 100,000 variations of Laurie’s Most Excellent soup. Not to improve on it, of course; it’s just that the recipes that work for my family are those that lend themselves to improvisation. This is one! The truth is, if you have chicken, noodles, seasoning and water, you can make this recipe, too.



5-Ingredient Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Here’s what you need:

  • one whole cooked chicken – I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because it’s cheap, it’s cooked, and it’s already packed with flavor
  • one 12-ounce package of pasta, any type
  • garlic salt
  • dried basil or other herb(s) of your choice
  • one onion or any other veggies you have on hand

And here’s what you do:

Step One: Get out a cutting board, a big pot, a plate and your ingredients.

Like a bird with shiny things, fixate on the shininess of your pot and take a few self-portraits of your reflection. Trust me on this step. You’ll laugh at your dorky self later, and we mamas know that a) taking ourselves less seriously, and b) laughter are worth a couple of incriminating pictures.

Step Two: Cut your onion from stem to stern.

Or, better yet, enlist slave labor to do the cutting for you.

Then cut it from stem to stern again, so you have 4 onion parts that are still intact and not falling apart. Throw them in the pot.

FYI, if you screw up cutting them this way and they do fall apart? It doesn’t matter. The big, stuck-together chunks just make it easier to fish ’em out of the broth later.

Also, add any other veggies, in big chunks, at this point. I like adding carrots and celery, but I’ll add anything I have on hand; sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli bits, the fingers of teenagers who didn’t watch what they were cutting, etc.

Step Three: Debone your chicken.

Now, like most things with cooking, there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. And, I suspect, if you’ve been hanging out here long, you know that a) I’m about to do this the wrong way, and b) if you want to do it the right way, you know how to Google Martha Stewart and find out.

I’ve watched people do this with a nice, sharp knife. But I use my hands which is quick, dirty, imperfect, and practical; just like my life.

You know that moment at the OB/GYN when it’s time to ignore everything your mama taught you about crossing your legs and being a lady?

That same moment has come for the chicken, except now you’re the doctor, and it’s your job to get her talking about her crazy kids so she’ll unclench and spread ’em.

Then pull off everything that easily comes off.

Yeah – this is where the OB/GYN analogy breaks down. Because even though I’ve wondered if being dismembered would be less uncomfortable than my special time with the doctor, I’ve never had to leave the Lady Office without my legs, my wings or my breasts.

Next time I think it’s just too hard to be a mama and I can’t go on, I’m going to look at that picture and remember that it’s harder to be a chicken.

Moving on.

After the legs and the wings are off, separate the top middle of the chicken.

And pull off the breasts. I know of no way to make that sound less horrific. My apologies to the chicken.

Into the pot, dump all the bones, skin, and bits you think are yucky and don’t want to touch anymore.

And shred the pretty meat that’s left.

I always set the drumsticks aside because I have a kid who loves drumsticks and gets a bad case of hero-worship when I hand him sticks of meat. And I’ve learned to never, ever give up an easy chance to be a hero.

Step Four: Add a gallon (that’s 16 cups) of water to the pot. I never measure. I just add a lot of water, and it seems to work out. And also add 2 Tablespoons of garlic salt and 2 Tablespoons of dried basil and/or other herbs. As far as I can tell, you can’t over-herb the broth, so this is a great time to be ingrediently creative. If you catch yourself chanting, “double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble” while tossing in an eye of newt… well, you might want to think about being done.

Let the broth simmer on medium for 2 hours. Or 30 minutes if, like me, you SO didn’t plan 2 hours ahead of mealtime. The broth does get better with time, though, so you choose.

While the broth is boiling, try to keep Meat Snatchers away from the chicken. They are very stealthy and move very quickly; I was, frankly, surprised to even catch one on film.

Step Five: Strain the broth into a bowl or pot and NOT into your sink. (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve ALMOST tossed that strainer into the sink and had a narrow miss! Don’t be like me!)

I strain my broth by pulling out the chunks…

and then pouring it through a paper-towel-lined strainer into another pot. (Normal people use cheesecloth instead of paper towels, but I guarantee that cheesecloth didn’t make my shopping list.)

Straining through cloth pulls out all of the little bits and makes the broth gorgeous and clear. This part of the step is totally unnecessary, so feel free to avoid it.

Step Six: Return your clear broth to the pot. Taste it. Salt as needed. Bring it back to a boil. Cook your pasta in the broth according to package directions.

I usually use orzo pasta because that’s what Laurie does, but my kids like little stars, so I used stelline here. Alphabet pasta would rock!

Step Seven: As soon as the pasta has cooked, add the chicken meat to the pot and serve it up. 

And enjoy your mama accolades!

Well, you know. Maybe not actual accolades. But this is pretty good in my mama book:


5-Ingredient Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Directions: The Short Version 


  • one whole cooked chicken – I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store
  • one 12-ounce package of pasta, any type
  • garlic salt
  • dried basil or other herb(s) of your choice
  • one onion or any other veggies you have on hand


  • Debone a roasted chicken. Separate bones, skin and meat. Shred and reserve meat.
  • To 16 cups of water in a large pot, add:
    • chicken bones and skin
    • vegetables in large chunks
    • 2 Tablespoons of garlic salt
    • 2 Tablespoons of dried basil or other herb(s) of your choice. I’ve used oregano, marjoram, sage, thyme, paprika (awesome for color!), and parsley.
  • Bring broth to a boil. Simmer 2 hours. (Or 30 minutes if you can’t stand it. The longer the simmer, the more the flavor.)
  • Discard veggies, chicken bones and chicken skin. Strain broth through cheese cloth (or through paper towels if you’re a cheaterpants like me.)
  • Bring broth back to a boil and cook pasta in it according to package directions.
  • Add reserved meat to broth and pasta. Salt as needed.
  • Serve and enjoy!


  • For an Asian twist, consider using ginger as your herb and topping the soup with diced green onions.
  • For a Mexican twist, add a taco seasoning packet as your herb.