Easy chicken and rice soup that’s perfect for those chilly days. This recipe sears the chicken for maximum flavor and simmers it with rice, broth, and vegetables to finish.
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Homemade chicken and rice soup is your answer when you need an easy one-pot meal. A delicious warm hearty meal is just minutes away using simple, wholesome ingredients. To ensure gourmet results, I have a few simple cooking tips you can do before the elements come together.
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 the soup’s taste, it’s best to sear them until the surface is slightly brown. This process develops new and complex flavors thanks to the Maillard Reaction. White meat cooks relatively quickly, so gently simmering it in the soup ensures that it won’t dry out.
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.
How to make chicken and rice soup
After searing the chicken’s surface, you want to remove it from the pot to prevent overcooking while sauteing the onions, celery, and carrots. Cooking the vegetables separately will also bring out their natural sweetness. Saute the rice in the hot oil to toast the outsides which gives the neutral grains some nuttiness.
Add the chicken back into the pot with broth, and bay leaf then bring the liquid to a simmer. Once fully cooked, take it out and shred the chicken 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.
The great thing about this 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, 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.
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 the soup
This chicken rice soup recipe makes a generous batch, about 8 cups. Make sure to let it 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.
Serve this with
No, you do not need to cook the rice separately before adding to the soup. It will absorb the liquid in the soup and cook in the same pot.
Briefly bring it to a boil, but make sure to quickly reduce it to a simmer to cook the chicken and rice. This prevents the rice from cooking too quickly so that the grains hold their shape and don’t burst, resulting in a mushy texture.
Yes, 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 chicken or rotisserie chicken from the market. Just follow the recipe and add the shredded pieces towards the end of cooking.
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Chicken and Rice Soup
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion, ½-inch dice
- 1 cup sliced celery, ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 cup sliced carrots, ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup white rice, long-grain, basmati, or jasmine
- 4 cups unsalted chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Prepare Chicken – Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, once hot add 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.
- Cook the Vegetables – Add onion, celery, and carrots. Saute and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 30 seconds.
- Toast the Rice – Add the rice, stir and cook for 2 minutes to toast the grains.
- Simmer the Soup – 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 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.
- Shred the Chicken – 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 it back to the soup.
- Adjust Seasonings – 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.
- To Serve – Serve each bowl topped with chopped parsley.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Recipe Yield: 8 cups
- Using Cooked Chicken: Add 2 ½ to 3 cups of pre-cooked shredded chicken. Add at the end of cooking to warm.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Portion out the soup in resealable plastic bags. Freeze the bag flat. Store for up to 1 month. Defrost before using.
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