13 Unique Ways You Can Elevate Chicken Soup

Chicken noodle soup is an iconic American dish that represents everything that ultimate comfort food stands for with a soothing broth, lovely shreds of roasted chicken, and unpretentious vegetables. Surely, there's nothing like a classic homestyle chicken noodle soup that warms us up from the very first sip.

Simmering noodles with chicken isn't just popular in the U.S. From the Romanian Ciorbă de pui with a sauerkraut twist to the Portuguese Canja de galinha with the addition of beaten egg, chicken has a close relationship with noodles all around the globe.

But what if we kick it up a notch? Paying respect to the meaning and history of the dish, we would like to introduce you to a few creative tips that can bring even more excitement to the casual noodle slurping of which we are very familiar. Get ready, because here are 13 ways to elevate your chicken soup and take it to the next level.

1. Add a Mexican spin to it

Next time you're looking for a new way to make your chicken noodle soup, chances are you will have a few extra ingredients in your pantry to turn it into a Mexican version. Taking its roots in Spain, Sopa de Fideo is just as good as the original, if not better. The soup is super easy to make and is a staple weekday meal in Mexico.

Fideo is a Spanish word for noodles, usually referring to thin, round variety used for paella and soups. Sopa de Fideo can easily be made with other types of pasta as well — anything works really. However, instead of boiling it like Italian pasta, instead, you brown the noodles in oil first, the same way you would cook Spanish paella rice. You then add the onions, garlic, chicken broth, and your favorite Tex-Mex seasoning and simmer the soup until the noodles are thoroughly cooked.

Although the basic Sopa de Fideo usually doesn't include chicken and extra veggies, the shreds of a nicely roasted chicken are an absolute must for a deeply-satisfying and wholesome meal. To make it even more nutritious, try adding a few slices of avocado as well. Finally, the dish wouldn't be complete without the notorious Mexican trio: chili, coriander, and lime.

2. Try a Chinese trick with an egg

When we think of an egg in a soup, the first thing that comes to mind is probably shoyu tamago — a marinated soy egg that both Chinese and Japanese are known for. Well, that was until we discovered another great way we can make eggs part of the dinner, and that's called an egg drop.

An egg drop has been used in Cantonese cuisine since the days of imperial courts, also known for being a skill test for the chefs at the time. Today, we can find egg drop soup on the menu at pretty much every American-Chinese restaurant, but humble as it may sound, the technique of adding elegant strings of egg to the soup may come as a challenge at first. Don't be discouraged, however, as practice makes it perfect!

There are plenty of soups that would benefit from the luscious twists of an egg, and chicken noodle soup is a perfect place to start our trials. To begin with, the eggs should be super fresh. Take one egg for every 2 cups of stock and mix it with a bit of water, vinegar, and some oil. Once you have your mixture ready, bring the chicken soup to a boil and start pouring your eggs in very, very slowly. With a little help from gentle stirring, you should end up with fine yellow sheets of an egg floating around your soup. Voila!

3. Turn your soup into an immunity elixir

As much as it is a soothing meal, a hot bowl of chicken soup boasts remarkable health benefits, too. Perhaps this is why it's often a meal made not by a choice, but from a need to feel better. For a long time, it's been known to alleviate cold symptoms and also to help us rejuvenate after we've been battling with the flu. Nevertheless, no one really wants to slurp on a tasteless broth, so finding ways to boost our chicken soup has been our ultimate mission.

We found some inspiration in the Korean obsession with kimchi. At first glance, kimchi may well be the health kick our soup needs. Just like chicken broth, kimchi is highly regarded for its health benefits and rich flavor. According to Medical News Today, the beneficial bacteria present in kimchi help with better digestion and most importantly, offer support for our immune system.

A great way to eat kimchi is by adding it to a broth, and Koreans are known for using it that way. In fact, there's a dish called "army stew" that springs from a time the food was scarce after the Korean War. Instead of making it a stew from different types of meat leftovers and noodles, we can incorporate kimchi into our chicken soup recipe. If you think that making chicken soup healthier was almost impossible, we might have just found a recipe to change that.

4. Brighten it up with lemon

Chicken and lemons are a love story. They seem to get along in many recipes and are often called an ultimate pairing in the flavor department. From roasted rosemary lemon chicken to lemon chicken orzo soup, the beautiful bright tartness of the citrus fruit compliments the chicken so smoothly. With a little help from fresh herbs and some cream, we can create the divinely tasty chicken soup you were hoping for.

Acid is one of three main flavor-building components in cooking. It helps to balance the flavor by adding brightness to heavier foods. Even though chicken meat is considered lean, when cooked for extended hours, it can turn the broth slightly fatty, leaving a heavy aftertaste. The acidity from the lemon cuts beautifully through the fat, enhancing the dish with the vibrant and fresh notes of citrus. Additionally, grating some zest at the end will make your dinner a fully aromatic experience.

5. A healthy way to add color to your soup

With the sun being scarce during the winter months, natural food dyes could be a great way to add some color to our lives. For example, in Hinduism, turmeric is often referred to as a symbol of the sun, but we don't need to turn our kitchen into a Hindu festival (although tempting). With the gentle dust of this powder, we can easily make our meals more vibrant and sunny. And you know what? Adding a beautiful golden hue to our chicken soup would totally make it more lively.

Ok, so what is turmeric? Besides being a natural food dye, this ancient root has numerous health benefits attributed to it. As Healthline explains, it's an extremely strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can help fight against a number of serious disorders including cancer and heart disease. Turmeric has a beautiful earthiness that pairs very well with chicken; just remember to use it sparingly, however, or it may add an unpleasant bitterness to your meal. Next time you're feeling a bit under the weather, remember that adding some color to your food is a perfect way to escape the gray winter moodiness.

6. Spice it up with ginger for a hangover cure

After a late-night session with colleagues from work or an old friend's birthday bash, there's always the morning that follows that we wish never came. Waking up with a terrible hangover is never a welcome feeling, but thankfully there are plenty of proven remedies these days to help us cope with the aftermath.

If you accidentally had one too many of those lovely margaritas at your local bar, chicken broth seems like a good enough fix the next day, but spicing it up with ginger might increase its effectiveness even more. According to Healthline, ginger could contribute to your well-being by easing an upset stomach so combining it with a soothing bowl of chicken soup sounds just what the doctor ordered.

Ginger is a popular spice for soups, adding subtle warmth and peppery notes. Simmer fine pieces of ginger in your broth or grate it fresh at the end for a full hit on your throat. It definitely packs a punch so measure it to your liking. One thing is sure — once you include it in your recipe, long gone are the days of the boring chicken noodle soup.

7. Pull out a secret ingredient

There are a number of reasons to use soy as your secret ingredient in chicken noodle soup. For starters, it adds depth; it can also be used as a salt substitute in recipes. When we think of chicken noodle soup, soy is the one ingredient that can completely change the character of it. Add too much though, and you're left with a dark, salty broth that lacks personality. Learning how to use soy sauce in various recipes can take a bit of practice, but that shouldn't discourage you from pulling it out any time you feel the soup needs just a bit of that oompf.

Being a fermented condiment, soy sauce packs a lot of umami as well as a subtle sweetness that can elevate pretty much any savory dish. Our advice for using it to flavor the chicken noodle soup — be gentle with it. Rather than trying to balance the saltiness of the dish, use it as a complement to the salt and focus on the extra depth and sweetness it brings. The best way to know when to stop is simply to taste it as you go. Whenever you pick the extra flavor but still can't point your finger at it, you've totally mastered the use of a "secret" ingredient.

8. Turn the heat up with your favorite hot sauce

Unless you are a die-hard chili fan, the idea of adding some hot sauce into your soup might sound suicidal. While for many that might be the case, in a world of chili and hot sauces it's not all that simple. Chilis come in varying levels of heat and in the 2016 paper published in the Appetite Journal, we can find them categorized based on the oral sensation each of them creates. Hot sauce producers worldwide have created concoctions that not only offer different spiciness — ranging from mild to extreme — but they have also put together masterful recipes that pack so much more flavor than just the kick-up your throat from the chili.

In Africa, there's a famous Harissa sauce that combines paprika, chili, and oil. Often used as a cooking paste rather than a pour-over sauce, it could be a good way to add body to chicken noodle soup. Meanwhile, the Japanese have rayu sauce that is made from chili oil, garlic, and soy sauce and it is a wonderful condiment when you need just a subtle spice to your dish.

There are too many hot sauces in the world to list them all but the good news is: Whatever your preference there's a sauce to match your taste — even for the most seasoned chili enthusiasts that love their mouths burning with fire. Feeling creative? You could easily whip up your own hot sauce as well.

9. Add umami richness with miso

If you think that miso can only be used to make authentic Japanese miso soup, you might be missing out on the latest craze with this millennia-old condiment. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using miso in various recipes, and chicken noodle soup is a perfect dish that would benefit from a creamy and rich Japanese paste.

Miso is generally a mixture of soybeans and some grains (usually rice or barley) that's been fermented using a friendly mold called koji. The flavor and color will depend on the soy and grain ratio, and obviously the fermentation time, with the longer time resulting in a very rich and complex flavor. Today, the choice of miso is truly wide as more producers are experimenting with different types of pulses including fava beans, chickpeas, and adzuki beans — each paste having its own distinctive taste and aroma.

If you're just starting with miso, we would suggest trying out the bright paste as it tastes lighter and has lovely notes of sweet caramel. It works particularly great with chicken; just keep in mind it has to be added at the end, so it maintains its depth and character.

10. Cook it off with some wine

If we ever wanted to give our chicken noodle soup a more refined edge, wine would probably be our favorite choice. It offers crispiness and added complexity to the dish and just like the lemon, it perfectly cuts through the fat. The choice of wine is where it all may get a bit confusing, but don't worry, we'll get to that in a minute.

In most cases, red and white wine can be considered synonymous and we highly encourage you to experiment with replacing one for the other. The rule of thumb for savory dishes would be to opt for a dry wine as the sugars present in a sweet wine will concentrate after cooking, leaving you with more sweetness than you originally needed. Stay clear of cheap wines, particularly the "cooking wines" as they tend to have additives you don't want to end up in your meal. Pick a wine that you would enjoy drinking — after all, that's what you are going to be tasting.

As you cook with wine, it's also worth remembering that it takes time to cook off the alcohol. To make sure you don't have too much of it left in your soup, start cooking it with your chicken broth and let it simmer away. Have some leftover wine? Pop it in an ice cube mold and store it in a freezer for the next time you make chicken noodle soup.

11. Give your broth more complexity with mushrooms

Mushrooms could be considered aliens in the world of edible foods. Having a very humble nutritional profile, they are often chosen for their intriguing and complex flavor. Depending on where you're from, you could get your hands on seasonal wild mushrooms that are simply to die for, although some cultivated varieties, such as shitake, oyster mushrooms, or maitake (sometimes called the hen of the wood), are definitely worth a place in a broth.

One great thing about mushrooms is they pair very well with chicken, and for that reason, we think that adding them to chicken noodle soup can do wonders. Simply sauté your mushrooms or cook them in a broth. If you're using dried mushrooms, some of the best are porcini as they pack an incredible amount of beef-like umami, and while they may be quite an expensive treat, you only really need a few to achieve restaurant-worthy results. And while we're at it, remember the truffles? A couple of shavings of this exclusive gourmet mushroom and you will never look at your chicken soup the same again, promise.

12. Be creative with corn

Fresh corn is a beautiful seasonal delicacy that can be enjoyed in so many ways. A crispy roasted chicken with corn on a cob reminds us of dinners at the family table and a chicken and sweet corn chowder melts with golden creaminess. But there's another American-Chinese classic that inspired us to include this timeless combo in our noodle soup — creamed corn and chicken soup.

It is not certain whether it was started by Chinese restaurants in the U.S., as some sources trace canned American corn as being a gourmet import in Asia in the middle of the past century. Whatever the truth may be, it's simple comfort food enjoyed all around the globe. As convenient as it may be, using canned corn for our soup slightly deviates from the golden crispiness that fresh corn adds. And we sure like a challenge, don't we?

Next time you pick up some fresh cobs from a farmer's market, try an authentic spin on a canned version. Scrape off the kernels from the cob and blend them with a little water to help smooth it (do not throw away the cob!). Pass it through a sieve to remove any chunky bits and simmer it in the broth. Meanwhile, use the leftover cobs to roast with your chicken. They will infuse your chicken with a beautiful golden aroma. Now that's a proper way to celebrate the corn season!

13. Give it an Asian twist

After trying so many great tips, perhaps it would be time for us to do a full makeover on our beloved chicken noodle soup. And to make it count, we've decided that rather than adding just one star ingredient, it would be worth choosing a theme for the dish. Let's call it a Thai night, shall we?

To do justice to Thai chicken noodle soup, we'll need to put some effort in first. Finding authentic Thai ingredients has become much easier these days, so off we go to the specialty section. You may or may not want to swap for the Asian noodles, but finding kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal are key to the success of our broth. The rest is pretty usual: You could grab some coconut milk, red chilies, garlic, lime, and coriander, (of course). Just a couple of leaves of kaffir lime with a touch of finely-grated galangal and crushed lemongrass simmered in chicken stock will open up your senses to an aromatic explosion. Once combined with the silky creaminess of coconut milk and finished with some fresh chili and coriander, it's a chicken noodle soup recipe you'll be coming back for over and over again!