A good chicken soup depends on three things: quality ingredients, good cooking technique, and the right seasonings. Once you have the first two out of the way, you need to concentrate on achieving your soup’s ideal flavor profile with the use of herbs and spices. Here is a look at some of the best spices for chicken soup:
As the most basic spice, salt is essential to the umami flavor profile of good chicken soup. Not only will it make it more savory, it will also balance out the other seasonings and give your soup the classic brothy flavor that we all expect.
You can make soup without MSG, but MSG is what puts all good soups over the top. MSG is why bouillon cubes are considered a kitchen staple. You don’t have to use bouillon cubes to get the chicken soup flavor, all you need is quality chicken if you have MSG in your spice cabinet. You can find it sold in your local grocery store under the brand name Accent, but pretty much all Asian stores carry an affordable version.
No single herb is more important to the traditional chicken soup flavor as celery. Its savory, herbaceous flavor profile is distinctive and chopped celery stems are crucial to the appearance and texture of the soup. To get the right flavor, it is best to add a couple of whole celery stalks to your stock at the start of the cooking time and then some chopped stalks about 20 minutes before serving.
Celery seed will give your soup much of what you would get from the herb, but with a more concentrated punch, Add it early on in the cooking time so it can mellow out and mingle with all of the other savory flavors.
No savory dish would be complete without the bitterness and mild warmth that black pepper brings. Use white pepper if you want a similar flavor to preserve the uniformly yellow appearance that distinguishes quality chicken soup. The freshly ground stuff is best but pre-ground pepper can work in a pinch.
Marjoram or oregano
The dried herb should be added near the start of your cooking time, the fresh herb closer to the end, In both cases, they will provide a woodsy flavor with hints of pine and camphor. Marjoram and oregano are perfect for complementing the meaty taste of the broth while also pairing nicely with the other seasonings.
While it is primarily a garnish, parsley does add some flavor and nutritional value to chicken soup. Its main job is to add the attractive green element that contrasts with the yellow soup.
As one of the most popular herbs in the Allium family, onion is important for many savory dishes and is essential to get the traditional chicken soup flavor. Add handfuls of it throughout the cooking process to get a more complex flavor since the flavor tends to change based on how long it cooks. Fresh, raw onion tastes a lot different from onion that has been cooked down in a stockpot for hours.
Garlic is just as important as onion in general cooking, but not so much for chicken soup. Many chicken soup recipes don’t include it. When used in moderation, its sulfur notes can make a soup a lot more flavorful.