Chicken and rice soup is the ultimate bowl of comfort food. It’s easy to make too! Just a quick sear of the chicken breasts then it simmers with a mixture of rice, broth, and vegetables. This makes a big batch of hearty soup to share or meal prep for the entire week.
When you’re in need of an easy one-pot meal, chicken and rice soup is your answer. Using simple, wholesome ingredients, a delicious warm hearty meal is just minutes away. To ensure gourmet results, I have a few simple cooking tips you can do before the ingredients come together. Grab a bowl and a big spoon, this soup will disappear fast and have the family asking for more.
It’s all about lightly browning the meat, vegetables, and rice before you add the broth. The dry-heat helps to develop deeper savory flavors on the poultry and grains while caramelizing the produce. Together they simmer harmoniously in the pot until the vegetables crush with little effort, the meat is juicy, and the rice is perfectly soft.
I use lean chicken breasts for this recipe. However, since they lack the fat to enhance their flavor, it’s best to sear them until the surface is slightly brown. This develops new and complex notes thanks to the Maillard Reaction. White meat cooks relatively quickly and so gently simmering the soup ensures that they won’t dry out.
The great thing about this soup recipe is that you have flexibility in choosing any type of rice. I usually prefer long or extra-long white rice, but basmati and jasmine are also super aromatic, making them wonderful options. Conventional milled white rice easily absorbs the chicken broth and soaks it up until the grains puff up. Some of the amylose starches in the rice will release and swell in the cooking liquid, creating a naturally thicker soup.
You can substitute wild rice or brown rice for a healthier alternative, but just note the cooking time will be longer, 35 to 50 minutes compared to 20 minutes for white rice. Due to the increased cook time, you’ll want to take the chicken out before the rice is ready. The soup base may also be a little less thick in consistency from the lack of starch on the rice grains.
How to make chicken and rice soup
Before searing the chicken, make sure to generously season it with salt and pepper on both sides. Wait for the olive oil to get really nice and hot before placing the chicken in the pot. The Maillard reaction kicks in flavor creation when the surface of the meat reaches 300°F (149°C) and starts to brown.
You want to remove the chicken to prevent overcooking while sauteing the onions, celery, and carrots to bring out their natural sweetness. Saute the rice in the hot oil to toast the outsides which give the neutral grains some nuttiness. Add the chicken, broth, and bay leaf to the pot then bring the liquid to a simmer.
Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it out and shred it into smaller pieces that will fit comfortably in a spoon. When ready to serve, top each bowl with freshly chopped parsley for a nice herbaceous aroma.
Can I use chicken thighs?
Yes! Chicken thighs can be substituted for breasts. If using bone-in poultry the soup will have more body and richness infused into the liquid from the bone marrow, extra fat, and gelatin of the connective tissues. I like this option when making chicken noodle soup, for an even tastier result.
Storing, freezing and reheating
This recipe makes a generous batch, about 8 cups. Make sure to let the soup cool down completely before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To freeze, place 1-cup portions into resealable plastic bags and freeze flat for up to 30 days.
Defrost in the refrigerator overnight or place in a bowl of cool water until no longer solid. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals on high power or simmer in a pot until hot.
Looking for a faster method?
To speed up the cooking process and for convenience, you can use leftover roasted chicken or a rotisserie chicken from the market. Just follow the recipe and add the shredded pieces towards the end of cooking.
Chicken and Rice Soup
- 1 ½ pounds (681 g) chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 cup (130 g) diced yellow onion, ½-inch dice
- 1 cup (102 g) sliced celery, ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 cup (142 g) sliced carrots, ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 teaspoons (5 g) minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup (186 g) white rice, long-grain, basmati, or jasmine
- 4 cups (960 ml) unsalted chicken broth
- 2 cups (480 ml) water
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) chopped parsley
- Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, once hot at the chicken. Cook until the surface is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
- Add onion, celery and carrots. Saute and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the rice, stir and cook for 2 minutes to toast the grains.
- Add the chicken, water, chicken broth, and bay leaf.
- Bring the broth to a boil, cover the pot and reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Simmer the soup until the rice is tender and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 20 minutes. Check after 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed.
- Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf and chicken from the pot. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into smaller pieces then add back to the soup.
- The rice may absorb water as it sits, add more chicken broth if needed. Taste the soup and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve each bowl topped with chopped parsley.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Recipe Yield: 8 cups
- 2 ½ to 3 cups of pre-cooked shredded chicken can be substituted. Add at the end of cooking to warm.