When the winds outside are barreling down from the north, and snow has covered every speck of green as far as the eye can see, I crave this soup.
HEALTHIER CREAMY CHICKEN SOUP
In most cases, the base is heavy cream, a roux made of fat and flour, or both. I love a good stick-to-your ribs soup as much as the next person, but for this Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, I wanted to lighten it up a bit and increase the protein, without adding loads of heavy cream or making a roux.
To do that, I pureed a couple cans of cannellini beans. It gives the soup a creamy texture, without the extra step of cooking a roux or the heavy caloric load of heavy whipping cream.
I do finish the soup with a little cream to add a velvety texture that only cream can provide, but you can leave that out if you’re dairy-free or just want to skip it.
WHAT’S THE SCOOP ON CANNELLINI BEANS?
Beans are a great source of plant-based protein. One can of cannellini beans contains 28 grams of protein and 28 grams of dietary fiber. That’s the same amount of protein as one skinless chicken thigh!
Regardless of the nutritional value of beans, I eat them because they are affordable, and they taste good. For this soup, they add just the body I wanted. The texture isn’t exactly that of soup made with cream, which is why I add a little at the end, but honestly, you don’t miss it.
WHAT DOES APPLE CIDER VINEGAR DO?
I like to finish most of my soups with some kind of acid—usually vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice.
In this case, I use apple cider vinegar. Acid in soup brightens the other flavors similar to the role salt plays on flavor. All the flavors of pepper, bay, garlic, and chicken are there; vinegar just helps you notice them more.
STORING AND FREEZING CREAMY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
This soup will keep in the fridge for about five days. Just reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave. The soup will thicken as it sits, because the noodles will continue to absorb some of the liquid.
You can freeze this soup for up to three months. I like to freeze it in individual containers and reheat it for my lunches. Just make sure you leave about half an inch of headspace for the soup to expand once frozen.
LOOKING FOR MORE CHICKEN SOUP IDEAS?
Creamy Chicken Soup Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 large carrots, diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups chicken stock, store-bought or homemade
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 8 ounces egg noodles
- 2 (14-ounce) cans cannellini beans
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Sauté the vegetables: Heat olive oil in a stock pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the vegetables, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir only 2 or 3 times, then let it sit for 10 minutes, stir the veggies every 1 to 2 minutes for the next 6 minutes until you notice some color developing on the vegetables. You want them to brown a bit, but not too much.
2 Add the stock and cook the chicken: Add the chicken stock, scraping any fond that has developed on the bottom of the pan. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat to medium to a simmer.
If the thighs have skin, remove it and trim them of any excess fat. Add the thighs to the simmering stock and let it cook uncovered for 20 minutes. If any foam forms on the surface, just skim it off.
3 Cool the chicken and cook the noodles: Check the chicken for doneness (160°F). If it isn’t cooked through, cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Use tongs to remove the thighs from the soup, and transfer to a cutting board to cool. Bring the stock up to a boil, add the noodles and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente. Reduce the heat to medium low. Remove the meat from the bones.
4 Make the bean puree: In a medium sized bowl, add the drained beans, 1/2 cup water, and apple cider vinegar. Puree using an immersion blender (or you can do this in a food processor or countertop blender).
5 Finish and serve: Add the meat back to the pot to reheat. Stir in the bean puree, along with 1/2 cup heavy cream and chopped parsley. Taste and add additional salt or vinegar to suit your fancy.
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