The Best Shortcut for Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

It might just be my new favorite way to make chicken noodle soup.

Someone pouring noodles into a soup
Photo: Dotdash Meredith / Sarah Maiden

There are many reasons to love chicken noodle soup. It's so comforting! It's hearty! It's pretty good for you! And lucky for us, this iconic dish is also relatively easy to make at home. A standard recipe only has a handful of ingredients: broth, chicken breast, noodles, a few vegetables, oil or butter, and some seasoning. Depending on your cooking skills, it's a satisfying weeknight meal you can make in under an hour. But what if I told you, you could make the soup even faster and it might even be more flavorful as a result? Let me explain.

Besides swapping out homemade broth for store-bought broth, one of the most common shortcuts you might have heard about is using rotisserie chicken instead of cooking and shredding chicken yourself. While that certainly will help you cut down on time, you lose some of the flavor in the process. The better option? Try using ground chicken.

Why Ground Chicken Is the Best Shortcut for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I picked this tip up from The New York Times when I made their "Easiest Chicken Noodle Soup," which comes together in just 30 minutes. In the recipe, Senior Staff Editor Alexa Weibel explained that using rotisserie chicken as a shortcut isn't ideal because "cooked chicken doesn't absorb flavors very well," whereas the ground chicken "creates a deeply complex base."

To make the recipe, you heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot before adding a pound of ground chicken. You cook that for a few minutes until it starts to crumble, and then you add in some garlic, coriander, and celery seed until browned (about 5 minutes total). Then, you remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside (covered) before cooking the vegetables, broth, and noodles. Add the chicken back into the pot for a few minutes before serving. Easy-peasy.

While I was initially hesitant to try this shortcut, I was truly blown away by how delicious the resulting dish was because of the ground chicken. The soup was rich (but not too rich) and there was a complexity in flavor that I hadn't experienced in even the most standard chicken noodle soup recipes. I also surprisingly preferred the texture of the ground chicken in the soup compared to shredded, because the soup felt more uniform (I also opted for cavatelli instead of egg noodles).

How to Use Ground Chicken in Other Chicken Noodle Soup Recipes

This tip is best utilized in other quick-cooking chicken noodle soups where you'd normally just add the already-cooked chicken at the end. Let's take Allrecipes' Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup by Michelle Molina, for example. Instead of shredding the rotisserie chicken and adding it in right before serving, you'd cook about a pound of ground chicken as described above. And You definitely don't need to use those specific spices that were mentioned—coriander and celery seed—but it's certainly a winning combination.

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