Dr. Seuss had it right all along.
When it comes to a food that you’re fond of, is there any form in which you’d actually refuse it? Let’s see…
Would I eat Buffalo wings in a box? Absolutely. Did it yesterday.
Would I eat them with a fox? In a house? With a mouse? Yes, to all of the above (although I think mice have sensitive stomachs).
The point is: I love Buffalo chicken anywhere and everywhere, Fan-I-Am.
Up until very recently, my most unusual encounter with Buffalo sauce to date was when I decided to pour it all over a bowl of noodles.
Okay, the finished product was a little more sophisticated than that. But nonetheless, when I first approached the concept of Buffalo chicken spaghetti, I thought this was as far as I could stretch the condiment.
Until I met Buffalo chicken soup, that is.
To be honest, while this was the first time I actually tried my hand at making the dish, it wasn’t the first time I had tasted it. Several months back, a new friend had prepared her famous Buffalo chicken soup for a Sunday football get-together.
Well aware that my career is in the culinary industry, I could sense the uneasy fear in her wide brown eyes as I lifted the first orangey, cayenne-scented bite to my lips.
It was rich, velvety, and it tasted something like how it probably feels to steal something from an expensive store and get away with it, if that exhilarating experience had a flavor.
In other words, damn good, but also kinda bad in a naughty way, with an itty-bitty side of guilt.
My brain wanted seconds, but my stomach said, “Stop, or I’ll get back at you!”
While I adored the decadent flavor of the soup, I found that the consistency was more in line with a thin Buffalo chicken dip.
If you’re wondering if I might have a problem eating dip by the spoonful, then you clearly don’t know me at all… I just knew that when I stepped up to the plate – er, bowl – to take on this spicy soup at home, I wanted my version to be lighter.
I did my fair share of research, but I knew right off the bat that a few players were certain to be involved: broth (it is soup, after all), a roux to thicken things up, and a variety of cheeses.
Mmm, cheese. We’ll get back to that in a second.
First, the base of a soup is where it all begins, and while many people toss in classic yellow onions and garlic and call it a day, I use this as an opportunity to maximize the depth of flavor right from the get-go.
And what goes better with wings than carrots and celery?
(Quiet, Fanny, no one was talking to you. Let’s try to stay in vegetable territory for now.)
I found that by sauteing these familiar sidecar veggies to start the soup, the end result was tender, slightly crunchy, aromatic flavor bombs floating through every bite.
I also made a conscious effort by choosing leeks over onions, as their sweet, mellow undertones make for a more delicate broth.
As far as my findings went on who used what for that dairy-rich melt factor, here’s what I discovered in my journey through the cheesy interwebs. Many folks fan-girl over Velveeta for its ultimate melting capabilities, which are “unlike any other cheese.”
Spoiler alert: this is because it’s not real cheese.
Now, I’m a lover, not a hater, when it comes to all types of cuisine, at varying heights in a cultural sense. See: wagyu beef tacos vs. Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme®.
I’m just sayin’, it would take me a minute to make my pick. I truly believe that every style of food has its place, and I’m always down for a Velveeta/Ro*Tel showdown in the wee hours of the night.
However, when it comes to soup, I lean towards lighter, more nuanced and elegant ingredients and flavors.
This doesn’t mean things can’t be bold and creamy, but I don’t want the mix to be so thick that I can feel it on my insides for days to follow. That being said, in place of Velveeta, I opted for high-quality white American cheese.
Did I just call American cheese elegant? That’s correct. Let me explain.
I’m not talking about the plastic singles you throw between two slices of processed white bread to make a kid’s grilled cheese. No need to name drop here as far as brands go, but I dig a certain famous deli-style, thick-sliced white American cheese that’s buttery, mild, and made with whole milk.
It’s also undoubtedly real cheese.
Not to mention, white American makes an undeniably expert substitute for Velveeta, as it also contains sodium citrate. This is why both varieties rank high on the meltability scale.
When it comes to things getting gooey, the proteins that obstruct proper meltage are bonded by calcium ions. But when sodium nitrate is added and the cheese is heated, those same proteins separate and leave you with silky smooth perfection.
You are now dismissed from today’s chemistry lesson. Back to your regularly scheduled program (but only after you take a look at my buffalo chicken pizza recipe, another example of a perfectly cheesy dish with a spicy kick!).
A touch of cream cheese adds a hint of tang and texture, while the funky blue cheese crumbles at the end wake up every taste bud in your body, and bring you right back to that bar stool you were perched on the last time you ate wings.
Okay, now it’s time for a beer! And if blue cheese isn’t your bag, a briny dusting of crumbled feta will add creamy savoriness without any funk.Print
Skip the hot wings and head straight for the soup pot. This Buffalo chicken soup is a bold, zesty eruption of familiar flavors.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup Buffalo sauce (homemade or store bought, such as Frank’s RedHot Wings Sauce)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup shredded or chopped good-quality white American cheese
- 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, carrots, leeks, garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until the veggies have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, whisking often until the roux is a light golden color, for about 2 minutes.
- While whisking, gradually pour the broth and the milk into the roux, creating a smooth, lump-free mixture. Stir until well-combined. Add the chicken breasts to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer until the chicken breasts are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot, allow it to cool slightly, and then shred the meat.
- Whisk the Buffalo sauce, cream cheese, and white American cheese into the soup until thoroughly combined. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and cook for several more minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
- Divide the soup among bowls and garnish with the blue cheese and chives.
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Soup
Keywords: buffalo sauce, chicken, soup
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Chop and Saute the Aromatics
In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, carrots, leeks, garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until the veggies have softened, about 5 minutes.
Step 2 – Build the Roux and Poach the Chicken
Add the flour and cook, whisking often until the roux is a light golden color, for 2 minutes.
While continuing to whisk, gradually pour the broth and the milk into the roux. Stir until well-combined, creating a smooth mixture that is free of lumps.
Add the chicken breasts to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer until the chicken breasts are cooked through and reach an internal temperature of 165°F as indicated on a meat thermometer, about 15 minutes.
Step 3 – Shred the Chicken and Add the Hot Sauce and Cheese
Remove the chicken from the pot, and set it aside to cool slightly. Shred the meat, using two forks.
Whisk the Buffalo sauce, cream cheese, and white American cheese into the soup until melted and thoroughly combined.
You can make your own Buffalo sauce at home, buy a premade product, or substitute whatever brand of hot sauce you would typically reach for when making traditional Buffalo wing sauce at home if you need a quicker shortcut. I prefer varieties that are especially tangy and vinegary.
If you’d like to thicken the broth up a bit, you can use an immersion blender right in the pot. Just pulse the soup several times, until the consistency is to your liking.
Return the shredded chicken to the pot and cook for several more minutes, to reheat the meat and allow the flavors to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if you need to.
Step 4 – Garnish and Serve
Mince the chives.
Divide the soup evenly among four to six bowls and garnish with the blue cheese and chives. You can also drizzle an extra swirl of Buffalo sauce on top for more heat, or sub in crumbled feta if you like.
When Wings Just Won’t Cut it
You’ve been there before.
You look down and realize that the parchment paper in the bottom of your basket is the proud owner of the zippy Buffalo sauce that should be clinging to the breading of your hot wings. It’s time to take things into your own hands.
Actually, you should definitely eat this soup with a spoon.
You get the point. One robust mouthful of this Buffalo chicken soup, followed by the realization that none of that perfect sauce got wasted, and you’ll be wondering why it took you so long to jump off that wing train.
Still got Buffalo on the brain? Shift the spice factor in your kitchen to high gear with these fiery creations:
- Buffalo Chicken Bites with Blue Cheese Dip
- Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos
- Quick and Easy Buffalo Chicken Chili
How will you top your spicy soup? Share your glorious garnishes in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 29, 2010. Last updated on January 31, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”