Condensed cream of chicken soup has its time and place, like creamy chicken casseroles, pasta bakes, and especially these Cheesy Funeral Potatoes. Most recipes call for canned soup, but today, I'm sharing my recipe for making condensed cream of chicken soup entirely from scratch.
How to Make Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
To make this homemade condensed cream of chicken soup, I took a page from making gumbo and started with a roux, which is a combination of fat and flour that helps to thicken soups, intensify flavors and keep the fat from separating out from the other liquids in the soup. The darker the roux the more flavorful the soup, but how dark you go is up to you.
To increase the flavor the soup, I use rendered chicken fat to make the roux and then made a quick homemade chicken stock using chicken thighs. The results are extraordinary, and make a soup worthy of eating as its own meal.
You'll need four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs to render enough fat for the roux and to make a rich stock, but you don't actually need all of the meat for the recipe. If I’m making this to replace canned cream of chicken soup in another recipe, I use two chicken thighs in the soup and save the rest for another use. However, if I’m making the soup as a meal on its own, I add all of the meat.
How to Make the Roux
To make a roux, you want equal parts fat and flour – in this case 1/4 cup of fat and 1/4 cup of flour. However, the amount of fat might not be exact in this recipe because it's difficult to know much fat your chicken will render in the pan. Just aim for about 1/4 cup of rendered chicken fat, but don't worry about it too much. Even if your roux is a little too dry or a little too thin, it still will work.
No matter what, make sure to cook the roux until it deepens in color from white to golden and to whisk constantly to keep it from scorching. The darker the roux the more depth of flavor – another trick I learned from making gumbo.
Streamline Your Workflow
This recipe has only a handful of ingredients, but the process of making it can feel a little complex, at least the first time you do it.
To make the process a simple as possible, I recommend getting everything prepped ahead of time. Measure out the flour, mince the garlic, and finely chop the onion. Make sure the chicken is thawed (if frozen) and ready to go.
I also place my frying pan on my stove’s front burner and place the stock pot on the burner directly behind it. That allows for a smoother and less messy transfer of rendered chicken to the boiling water in step three of the recipe.
More than anything else, read through the whole recipe before you begin. Familiarize yourself with the steps and how the different components come together.
Use 1-for-1 in Place of Canned Condensed Soup
As written, it makes a soup that's almost as thick as canned condensed cream of chicken soup and it can be used 1-for-1 in any recipe that calls for canned soup, like our Cheesy Funeral Potatoes.
Make It a Meal
If you'd like to serve this for dinner on its own, just thin it out with a little more broth, heavy cream or water and serve. You can also stir in the meat from the extra two chicken thighs not needed for the condensed version (see Step 7 in the recipe below).
If you need, or prefer, a dairy-free version, just leave out the heavy cream. It will still taste rich and luxurious.
Make-Ahead Cream of Chicken Soup
You can make this soup up to four days ahead of time and keep it refrigerated. Like most soups, the flavor is better the day after you make it. I don’t recommend freezing this soup since freezing, thawing, and reheating can affect the texture. If you’re interested in canning this soup, I recommend checking out the information from National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
- 4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Render the fat from the chicken:
Sprinkle the four chicken thighs with salt and freshly ground pepper over and under the skin. Heat the oil in a medium pan with deep sides over medium high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the thighs skin side down.
Cook at medium high for about 5 minutes, until the skin has a nice golden brown color. A few bits of skin may even stick to the pan. That’s ok.
Reduce the heat to medium. Let the chicken cook for another 15 minutes untouched. If the skin seems like it’s starting to burn, turn down the heat a little more. Flip and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes.
When done, the skin should be crisp and golden and the chicken should have rendered about a 1/4 cup of fat (just eyeball it; you’ll be fine!). If you have more than 1/4 cup, reserve the extra for another purpose or discard.
It’s ok if the chicken isn’t entirely cooked through at this point -- your goal in this step is to render the fat from the chicken skin, and develop the browning in the pan and not necessarily cook the meat through.
Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water, bay leaf and good pinch of salt to a boil in medium sauce pan over medium high heat.
Make the soup stock:
Once you’ve finished rendering the fat from the chicken thighs, remove the pan from heat and transfer the thighs to the pot of boiling water. If your chicken isn’t completely covered with water, add more so it is. Leave the pot uncovered.
Reduce heat under the pan of water so it comes down to a gentle simmer. Cook the chicken for 9-11 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Skim any foam from the top of the water.
Strain the soup stock:
Remove the chicken from the pot of water. Put on plate and set aside to cool.
Strain stock through fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup. You should have somewhere between 2 to 4 cups of chicken stock. Measure out 2 1/4 cups of the stock and set aside (add water if needed to make this amount; if you have more stock than needed, save the leftover for another recipe.)
Make the roux:
Return the pan with the rendered chicken fat to medium heat. While whisking constantly, sprinkle flour a little at a time over the fat until all the flour is mixed in and you have a white paste.
Keep whisking continuously until the roux turns a golden color, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion and the minced garlic – the roux will get crumbly when you add the vegetables, and that’s ok. Keep whisking for about 5 more minutes until the onions are cooked through. It will smooth out again when you add the stock.
Make the creamy soup base:
While whisking continuously, slowly pour the 2 1/4 cups of stock into the pan with the roux. At first, it will have the consistency of paste with clumps of onion in it. Just keep whisking and slowing adding the stock. At this point your soup may look a little watery, and you could even see fat around the edges of the pan. That’s ok.
Once all the stock is added, increase the heat to medium high and whisk for about 8 minutes until the liquid is noticeably thicker than syrup, but thinner than ketchup.
Reduce the heat to medium. Keep an eye on the soup while you do the next step (shredding the chicken) so that it stays warm but doesn’t boil. Whisk the soup occasionally.
Add the chicken:
Pull the meat off two of the chicken thighs, and chop it finely; you should have 3/4 to 1 cup of chicken meat. Save the remaining two chicken thighs for another meal.
Finish the soup:
Slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed, to taste.
The soup can be used immediately. Alternatively, cool and store in fridge for up to four days.