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Flu-Season Fix: 10 Ways to Mix Up Your Chicken Noodle Soup

March 16, 2018

My grandmother believed in the power of chicken noodle soup — as a preventative medicine, a cure-all-that-ails-you elixir and as an easy dinner. At the first sign of sniffles, chicken would get plunged into a pot of simmering water and vegetables. A little while later, a steaming bowl of comfort was placed in front of us.

And, the science adds up. The New York Times reports studies that chicken soup may slow down the movement of neutrophils, white blood cells that defend us against infection. In the long run, this sluggish reaction helps to reduce upper respiratory symptoms, like stuffy noses, coughs and mucous. According to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, all of that warm, salty broth keeps us hydrated while the veggies provide us with vitamins A, C and antioxidants. I guess grandmother does know best!

Our chicken noodle soup wasn’t always homemade, but it did have a running repertoire of basic ingredients, whether homemade or store-bought: chicken, stock, carrots, celery, garlic and parsley. Most often, egg noodles were the starch of choice. However, depending on the season and her maternal ambition, matzo balls would also make an appearance.

Today, I still believe that chicken noodle soup is the perfect solution to a runny nose, stressful week or snowy day. But, sometimes, I want to mix it up. Variation is the spice of life after all, so why not put a new twist on an old favorite?

1. Lemony Chicken ‘n’ Rice Soup

A Greek-inspired soup, with a splash of lemon juice to add a bright note. It uses basic pantry staples and comes together quickly when you need a meal on the table, STAT. This soup is similar to the classic Greek avgolemono, but without the egg.

2. Kao Tom Gai Sai Kai (Thai Rice Soup with Chicken and Egg)

If you need soup for one, this soup is the one to choose. A dash of soy sauce adds all the salt you need, while green onions and cilantro add color and flavor. An egg is poached in the simmering broth, for added protein.

3. Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

This classic chicken soup simmers all day in the slow cooker while you’re at work (or enjoying a snowy day). Refrigerated biscuit dough makes the dumplings a no-brainer. This simple recipe is a favorite with kids, especially picky eaters.

4. Mulligatawny Soup

This thick soup contains a surprise ingredient, in addition to curry, ginger and vegetables: a chopped apple! There’s no better way to clear your sinuses and warm your core, then with this spiced dish. If you’re missing starch, add a bit of cooked basmati rice just before serving.

Photo Credit: Emma Christensen

5. Quick Chicken Pho

Traditional pho, a rich, clear soup from Vietnam, can take hours if not days to make. This version takes a few shortcuts, but won’t short you on flavor. Toasting the aromatics before adding the stock is a key step, so don’t skip it!

6. Italian Wedding Soup

In this warming and comforting soup, chicken is swapped out for pork and turkey meatballs. Cabbage, kale, basil and beans make this soup a powerhouse of nutrition (and amazing taste).

7. Jewish Chicken Soup

If you’ve ever had matzo ball soup, you know that some Jewish grandmother’s make their matzo “swimmers” and some “sinkers.” These dense and filling matzo balls are definitely sinkers, and guaranteed to fill even the hungriest of bellies.

Photo credit: Tina Jui

8. Chicken and Ginger Congee (Rice Porridge)

Chicken noodle soup isn’t just for lunch or dinner. Traditional Chinese congee is a breakfast dish that’s just as healing and nutritious as the thinner dinner staple. Plus, this dish, which just requires one pot and a little bit of time, is gluten-free.



Jackie Freeman

Recipe developer, food stylist and culinary tinkerer, Jackie Freeman has worked in the culinary field for over 20 years as a private chef, cheesemaker, culinary instructor, recipe editor and a radio and video personality.

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