I never throw away the chicken bones after a roast dinner, and the reason is because I HAVE to make this Chicken and Vegetable soup. A delicious and hearty lunch to use up those leftovers.
This homemade soup is the epitome of comfort.
Usually I associate comfort food with recipes that are rich & creamy or sweet & gooey, but this soup hits the spot just as it is.
I've been eating this soup since I was a kid. It My mum also makes a turkey version (a huge batch!) from the leftover turkey at Christmas.
I remember coming home from nightclubs rather worse for wear in my late teens (the drinking age is 18 in the UK) and my mum heating up a bowl for me so I didn't burn the house down whilst trying to heat it up myself!
I craved it so much when I was pregnant with Gracey too. I was roasting chicken late at night, just so I could make this soup!
What do we need?
I always use carrots and potatoes as my base veg, but after that you can add anything you like - broccoli, peas, cauliflower, kale, squash. It all works.
How do you make chicken soup from a chicken carcass:
First we remove any shreds of meat from the leftover roast chicken carcass to add to the soup later. Then the carcass (plus any skin) goes in a large pan and completely covered in water. If you have any meat juices left from roasting the chicken, that can go in there too (but you'll still get plenty of flavour from boiling up the carcass without the need for any meat juices).
Add a quartered onion and a carrot broken in two (no need to peel either of them), plus a bay leaf and a couple of crumbled stock cubes.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2-3 hours. After that we strain the stock and boil it up with in carrots, potato and seasoning - for around 20 minutes. Then add in that shredded chicken to heat through and we're done. Super simple!
I always have at least a few bags of homemade chicken stock or a leftover chicken carcass in the freezer.
But I don't want to start boiling up chicken bones after I've just slaved over making a roast dinner........
If you're short on time and you don't want to start boiling up stock after you've just had a roast chicken, then simply pull every last piece of meat off the bones (make sure you turn the chicken over, there are lots of little shreds of meat under there). Then wrap up the meat in foil. Place the chicken carcass in a bag with the wrapped up meat and freeze until you've got a little more time. No need to defrost before you boil it all up later on.
One small chicken carcass will make enough soup for 2 people, or a larger chicken will do 3-4 portions. You can stretch it out a little further by adding in a bit more water with another stock cube.
Got more than one roast chicken carcass?
You can double, triple or quadruple this recipe using the same ratio of ingredients!
If you have a big enough pan, you can boil up multiple chicken carcasses at once. Then make a huge batch of soup, or portion out that lovely stock and bag it up in batches (freeze for a month or refrigerate for up to 3 days) so you can make up your chicken and vegetable soup all the faster!
Can I make this using a rotisserie chicken?
Yes! However it's worth noting, the better the quality/standard of chicken, the better the taste of your stock/soup.
Also, ensure the rotisserie chicken isn't flavoured (i.e. BBQ chicken).
Can I make chicken and vegetable soup ahead?
Yes! You can either make the soup base (stock) ahead, then strain it, cool it and refrigerate or freeze it (you can add the shreds of chicken to it before refrigerating/freezing or wrap separately and store with the soup base). Reheat in a pan (you can add to the pan from frozen) over a low heat until completely melted, then add in the carrots, potatoes and seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes (adding in the chicken shred if you haven't already for the last 5 minutes) until the vegetables have softened.
Alternatively you can make the chicken and vegetable soup completely, then cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.
If refrigerating, simply reheat in a pan until piping hot throughout.
If freezing, you can defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat, or heat it in the pan from frozen over a low heat until piping hot throughout.
Why does my refrigerated soup have a jelly-like consistency?
If refrigerating, you'll notice the soup will go jelly-like, but it will melt to a liquid upon reheating in a pan.
This texture is from collagen - which is released from the bones, tendons and ligaments during long slow cooking in liquid. Cooked collagen is called gelatin (which is what gives jelly (jell-o) and a lot of chewy sweets/candy its chewy texture).
This collagen contains beneficial amino acids, which along with the veggies in the soup make it pretty darn nutritious.
Can I make it gluten free?
Yes - simply use gluten free stock cubes.
How do I thicken the soup?
This soup is like a broth with chicken and veggies in. If you like your soup thicker, then right before serving, while the soup is still on the heat, slowly pour in a cornstarch slurry (a mixture of 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch if you're in the US) with 6 tbsp cold water) whilst stirring. You may not need it all. Just add enough until it's at your desired level or thickness.
Piled High Chicken and Vegetable Soup
- 1 leftover cooked chicken carcass - with a bit of the meat still on
- cold water
- 1 onion - chopped into quarters (no need to peel)
- 3 carrots
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 chicken stock cubes - crumbled
- 1 large potato - peeled and chopped into bite-size chunks
- ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
- Place your leftover chicken carcass on a chopping board and pull off any meat you can find on it (pay special attention to the wings and underside of the chicken where you'll find some good pieces). Place the pieces on plate, cover and refrigerate for later.
- Place all the leftover bones and skin from the carcass in a large pan, completely cover it with cold water, so the water comes about 1 inch above the chicken.
- Place the onion, 1 carrot (no need to peel, but you can break it in half), bay leaf and crumbled stock cubes in the water with the chicken.
- Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours until the water has reduced by at least half.
- After 2-3 hours, place a sieve over a large bowl. Carefully strain the chicken and veg and leave for a couple of minutes so that all the juices drip into the bowl. Pour the juices back into the pan.
- Peel and chop the remaining two carrots and place in the pan with the stock.
- Add in the chopped potato, salt & pepper. Bring back to the boil, and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and tender. Add in the chicken pieces from the fridge for the last 5 minutes to heat through.
- Ladle into two bowls and serve, topped with the chopped parsley.
Can I make it ahead?Yes! You can either make the soup base (stock) ahead, then strain it, cool it and refrigerate or freeze it (you can add the shreds of chicken to it before refrigerating/freezing or wrap separately and store with the soup base). Reheat in a pan (you can add to the pan from frozen) over a low heat until completely melted, then add in the carrots, potatoes and seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes (adding in the chicken shred if you haven't already for the last 5 minutes) until the vegetables have softened. Alternatively you can make the soup completely, then cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.
If refrigerating, you'll notice the soup will go jelly-like, but it will melt to a liquid upon reheating in a pan over a medium heat. Reheat until piping hot throughout. If freezing, you can defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat, or heat it in the pan from frozen over a low heat until piping hot throughout.
Can I make it gluten free?Yes - simply use gluten free stock cubes. Nutritional Information is per serving.
This post was first published in April 2015. Updated in February 2020 with new photos, video and tips.
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