Food52’s Incredibly Comforting Chicken Chile Soup Will Warm You Down to Your Toes

published Nov 28, 2021
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When I spied the headline for Food 52’s One-Pot Chicken Chile Soup, I immediately clicked over for the recipe. It’s exactly the sort of thing that’s a win for everyone at my dinner table. My kids will eat pretty much whatever if it’s served in soup format, my husband loves any and all iterations of chicken soup, and as an Arizona girl, I gravitate toward anything that includes green chiles. When you see those recipes, you don’t let them slip away.

The recipe comes from Kristen Miglore, who writes a beautiful narrative on food traditions and picky eating and the transition into motherhood, all themes that resonate deeply, but it’s the soup buffet that stuck with me. I, too, grew up with this Christmas Eve tradition.

Nanny, my mother’s mother, always hosted Christmas Eve. The evening started with a relish tray, the black olives scavenged by the younger kids and promptly stuck onto the ends of every finger as they ran around the house. My grandfather Pappy playfully boxing with all the kids, offering up sugar in the form of wet cheek kisses and root beer barrels. As the oldest grandchild and clearly so much more mature than everyone else, I did not engage in such nonsense. I stayed parked by the Ruffles and onion dip. 

Meanwhile, chili and potato chowder sat simmering on the stovetop. Once dinnertime finally rolled around, it’d be ladled out into milk glass bowls with handles. Soup in hand, the next stop was the DIY sandwich station. A platter of shaved deli meats and dinner rolls sat across the kitchen on the breakfast bar, ready and waiting. And always a basket of corn muffins, ostensibly for the chili, but in reality made just for my littlest brother, the baby and Nanny’s favorite.

I haven’t seen Nanny since Christmas 2019. Pappy passed from COVID a year later. I knew I needed to make this soup immediately.

How to Make One-Pot Chicken Chile Soup

This soup is simple to put together. It’s equally suited to a leisurely holiday afternoon or harried weeknight cooking. Miglore has you simmer a whole chicken (or just a few breasts), onion, and cumin in some water to make a light broth as a base. You then shred the meat and add it back to the broth with some other soup goodies. 

I ended up pulling the meat off of a rotisserie chicken and throwing the bones and other broth ingredients into my InstantPot while I ran around with the kids in the afternoon. When it came time to eat, the rest of the recipe came together in less than a half an hour. I strained the broth into a soup pot, added the cooked chicken back in, along with a large can of green chiles and some chopped tomatoes. I poured in a handful of rice and let it bubble away for 20 minutes until I had a thick stew. I stirred in the frozen corn last, cooling the soup just enough so that we weren’t left blowing on scalding bowls for 15 minutes before we could actually eat a spoonful.

I dished it out and sprinkled over some chopped green onions before my kids could say no, but let them crush over tortilla chips and pile on the grated cheddar on their own at the table. I’m on Team Tapatio, and added a few shakes to my own bowl before digging in.

My Honest Review

I made a slight modification in the prep, but my whole family loved the recipe as written. I loved its flexibility and accessibility. Put together with pantry ingredients and abundant with chicken and chips and “soup-bloated rice,” it’s the sort of magic that is so much more than its parts. It’s the specific comfort that only a bowl of chicken soup can conjure. 

Soup for Christmas dinner may seem sort of weird, but it never occurred to me until I got older and immersed myself in food content. As a kid, I didn’t know about big roasts and fancy place settings. (I’m still a little unsure if this is the norm, or just what Big Christmas is trying to tell us is correct.) I thought our tradition was a cost thing, since our gathering tended to be so large. But when I replicated the meal years later in my mid-20s, I realized that quality deli meats aren’t exactly cheap per pound. So I asked Nanny, and her answer was laughing common sense, “The soups were easy and could be made ahead and frozen if necessary. Everyone loves sandwiches. Also, cleanup was easy.” For a holiday that has so many other moving pieces, dinner doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated when it’s good. 

While this may not be Miglore’s typical “genius” recipe, it still serves as a much-needed reminder that this season of excess does not need to mean a season of burn out. This soup is a gift this winter, a reminder to take it slow, or hurry it up, in whatever way you need. This year in particular, when many of us are hosting again for the first time in a way that was impossible for many the last winter holiday season. It may be a relief to dust off the nice dishes and splurge on a large format piece of meat for a table full of people. But there’s a quiet comfort in knowing that the people around you would be happy with nothing more than you and a bowl of soup. Let yourself know when enough is enough — that’s true genius.

Tips for Making One-Pot Chicken Chile Soup

As written, this dish is quite thick, much more stew-like than a brothy soup. It’s also very amenable to modifications depending the occasion and what you’ve got stocked. Options for ingredient and technique modifications: 

  • Increase the quantity of water in the beginning for a more slurpable soup. 
  • Swap in the remnants of a jar of salsa instead of tomatoes. 
  • Reduce the amount of chicken and add a can of black beans. 
  • Capitalize on seasonal produce and reach for garden ripe tomatoes, chiles, and corn. 
  • Or streamline things and use boxed stock for dinner in 30 minutes.