A classic chicken soup is always in order when we need a little comfort or a hearty, warming boost. But sometimes my palate needs something fresher and a bit brighter.
Making a big pot of soup is an easy way to incorporate a variety of fresh vegetables and spices that pack a nutritious punch. And there are so many different ways to make it. Last week, my whole family raved over the homemade chicken split pea soup I made.
For something different, I tried this combo next. Mushroom, leek, and red pepper add a vibrant burst of flavor to this recipe that was surprising for me at first. It’s like an alarm clock for your tongue.
But it doesn’t have the sharp hit that is the hallmark of red pepper flakes. Instead, just a teaspoonful provides a piquant touch that spices up the broth, while the mellow flavor of sweet bell pepper shines through each bite.
The delicate leeks melt into the soup, adding an underlying herbaceous taste – like the smell of a garden after it rains. And they look so beautiful, almost transparent, floating along the surface.
And then the button mushrooms come into play. When they are sauteed, the mushrooms’ earthiness deepens, adding a richness to the soup.
Carefully prepared thin slices of mushroom, rather than the typical rough chop, also add to the presentation.
Do you want to know the real secret to this soup?
It’s sauteing the vegetables and seasonings before you combine them. Heat breaks down the fibers in the produce, and brings forth a more complex flavor. And when simmered together in a pot with the seasoned poultry, everything comes together beautifully.
As for the poultry itself, a simple sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper is all that’s required. The red pepper flakes will do the rest, in terms of seasoning.
Now, the true test of any chicken soup is to feed it to someone you love who has come down with a cold. My eight-year-old son was reluctant at first, but that cough needed soothing.
After enjoying a full bowl and with a wide smile on his face, he settled down sleepily. Not a single cough through the night. All hail chicken soup!
How to Pick a Great Bell Pepper
Because the red bell pepper is the star of the show in this recipe, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the very best your local grocer has to offer.
Look at the skin of the peppers, and reject any that have deep blemishes, wrinkles, puckering, or holes.
Choose a deeper color over lighter hues, as this is another sign that indicates freshness. Fresh peppers also have a nice sheen to them; avoid ones that look dull.
Smell around the stem. Your nose won’t lie to you, so anything other than freshness indicates an older pepper.
Squeeze gently to make sure the produce is not soft, and to discover any hidden mushy parts. Fresh peppers should be firm all around.Print
A hearty twist on traditional chicken soup, ours brings together delicate mushrooms and leeks, tangy peppers, and seasoned pulled chicken.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 3/4 cup chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 16 ounces white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 quarts water or low-sodium chicken stock (64 fluid ounces)
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 1-1 1/2 lbs)
- In a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil for 2 minutes. Add leeks, bell pepper, mushrooms, crushed red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
- Cook for 4 minutes to sweat the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Pour water or stock into a large stockpot. Transfer vegetable mixture to stockpot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add remaining coconut oil to the same saute pan and place over medium heat.
- Season the chicken breasts on both sides with the remaining salt and black pepper.
- Add breasts to pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Once chicken breasts have cooled enough to handle, gently shred the meat with two forks to yield 1 ½ cups of pulled chicken. Add to stockpot, and stir to combine.
- Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, until warmed through. Taste for seasoning, and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Soup
Keywords: mushroom, leek, red pepper, chicken, soup
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1– Prep and Saute Vegetables
Brush off any dirt from the mushrooms and rinse in cold water. A small vegetable brush scrubber can come in handy to clean off the dirt that tends to accumulate in crevices.
We like to keep the stems on the mushrooms for this recipe, but you can remove them if you choose to.
Trim off the dark green tops of the leek, and trim away the root nub. If you like, you can save these to make homemade vegetable stock.
Cutting lengthwise, split the leek down the middle. You’ll need about 1 large leek for this recipe, or maybe 2 small ones.
Remove the core and wash with the layers of the leeks thoroughly to remove any grit. Shake and pat dry, then chop into half moons of equal thickness.
Cut the red bell pepper in half vertically, and discard the stem and seeds. Cut into quarter-inch strips vertically, then dice the strips into small squares of equal size.
Hold one end of each stem of thyme and strip the leaves. Set aside the leaves, and discard the stems.
In a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil for 2 minutes. Add your vegetables, but do not stir initially.
Allow everything to cook down for about 30 seconds, then stir until the vegetables are soft and tender, for about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside in the pan for about 5 minutes, to allow the vegetable mixture to continue cooking with residual heat.
Step 2 – Prep and Cook Poultry
Food safety is important when handling raw poultry, and you may opt to use disposable gloves. Be sure to sanitize your hands and your cutting board after each time you touch or manipulate the raw poultry.
Ideally, you should use a dedicated cutting board for your poultry as well, so as to not cross contaminate your produce and any other raw items.
Dropped your chicken on the floor? Dinner’s not cancelled! Here’s what to do.
To prep the poultry for this recipe, trim the fat around the top underside of each chicken breast. Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.
Next, heat up the same saute pan that you used to prepare the vegetables over medium heat, and coat it with the remaining coconut oil. Brown the chicken evenly on both sides, and make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
If you do not have a meat thermometer, be sure to avoid cooking on high heat – the outside will sear deeply, leaving the inside raw. To check for doneness, you can cut through the thickest part of the breast to ensure there are no pink spots or undercooked areas inside.
Placing a lid on the saute pan will also help to cook the chicken faster, and this will keep any splattering oil to a minimum.
Remove your pan from the heat, and set the fully cooked poultry aside on a plate or platter. Let the meat cool before pulling it, so as not to burn your fingers. You can use two forks to create finer strips.
Do you already have some leftover cooked poultry? If a recipe like our Crock-Pot Whole Chicken left you with a few containers in the fridge, easily shred it and add it in the next step!
Step 3 – Finish Soup
Add the vegetable mixture to the stockpot with the water. Alternatively, you can use chicken or vegetable stock.
A low-sodium store-bought or homemade stock is recommended. If you need to, reduce the amount of Kosher salt that you choose to add, or skip it altogether.
Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 10 minutes before adding the chicken. Stir gently to incorporate.
Let simmer for another five minutes, to heat through. Give the soup a final stir before serving.
If you want to increase the heat factor, you can sprinkle additional crushed red pepper flakes on top of each bowlful.
As with many types of soup, this one only improves with time. There is something magical that happens when the ingredients are allowed to meld together for a day or two before serving.
Let the full batch of soup or any leftovers cool completely before storing in the fridge. To reheat, add to a saucepan and place over medium to medium-low heat until it simmers.
Yes, You Can Roast Those Red Peppers First!
The red bell pepper is the absolute star of this dish, but if you want to take the taste factor to a whole new level, take a few minutes to roast your pepper first.
This will add just a few minutes to your cooking time and it will be well worth the effort, lending a subtle smokiness to the overall flavor of the soup. Just the thing to cure what ails you!
We recommend coating the pepper with a little olive oil first and broiling it for about 3 minutes, then rotating it to the other side and continuing to broil for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the stem and seeds, chop, and add to the soup directly, after prepping the rest of the vegetables as instructed.
Have you come up with your own twist on traditional chicken soup before? What vegetables and spices did you use? Leave us a comment below. And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it!
For more delicious soups and stews, check out these recipes from Foodal:
- Barbecue Chicken Soup
- Healthy Chicken and Veggie Mulligatawny Stew
- Creamy Chickpea Stew with Saffron
Photos by Katherine and Eddie D’Costa, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on February 10, 2014. Last updated on January 9, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
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.
Eddie and Katherine D’Costa are a married professional chef and journalist duo from Atlanta, where they cook up a variety of international dishes, tested for the home cook. Katherine holds an MA in journalism from Northeastern University and Eddie’s professional experience spans 20 years working with Wolfgang Puck, Jean George Vongerichten, and Todd English.