Easy, low-carb SPICY chicken soup ideas?
February 3, 2014 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Who's got an easy, spicy, flavorful, low-carb variant on the best known cure for the common cold?

The lfr household is experiencing our annual bout of the common cold, and both of us are craving chicken soup (radical improvement over "ugh too stuffy/feverish/exhausted to eat" which was Saturday. I'm looking for suggestions for simple, flavorful ways to make chicken soup more potent / palatable. As low-carb as possible (sadly this means mom's classic "matzoh-ball soup" remedy is off the table). No soy/gluten/dairy.

My plan is to pick up a rotisserie chicken and other ingredients at the grocery after work tonight, but my attention span is pretty limited by how meh I feel in general, so things that are simple and spicy and can be rapidly prepared would be an infinite blessing.

So to sum up, looking for a chicken soup recipe that is:

1) Simple - needs to be something I can make in an hour or less with limited energy for shopping and a low attention span (OTC decongestants, bleh).
2) Low-carb - no grains/beans/dairy/soy and especially no pasta or gluten.
3) Spicy and/or flavorful - neither of us has much sense of taste right now so something capable of busting through the congestion would be so awesome.

I'd love a chicken variant of "hot-and-sour-soup" that is soy and gluten free and doesn't involve a ton of obscure ingredients. I have chicken stock and a wide variety of spices in the pantry.

Thanks, and I promise not to breathe on anyone!
posted by lonefrontranger to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Does your grocery store carry Thai green curry paste?

I often use that, alongside a little bit of coconut milk and as much Sriracha as you want, to amp up the spiciness and deliciousness of low carb spicy chicken soup.

Try also some sliced zucchini, chopped broccoli, and/or chopped cauliflower for the vegetables.

Bonus points: warm up some cut up shirataki noodles if you want something noodle-y in the soup (but make sure you find the non-soy kind). You might be able to find shirataki noodles without soy in the refrigerator section of grocery stores but the kind with soy is more common.
posted by kathryn at 1:19 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fresh ginger. I think fresh ginger is what you want. I've been grating it with a microplane directly into soups. If you want to bulk it up you can add (towards the very end) thinly sliced cabbage or (also toward the end but sooner than you would cabbage) chopped bok choi.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:20 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I forgot to check the label, but this weekend at the grocery store there was an actual Hot and Sour soup base in a box alongside the beef and chicken stock boxes. Whole Foods has pho stock that I know is LC because I bought it and used it with some seaweed noodles. It was pretty good, I've had worse in restaurants.

But for my go-to, I like to make a modified Tom Kha - this quick Paleo version. I use drop-in frozen ginger cubes or ginger in the tube from the produce department but if you're up to dealing with fresh it'll have more of a punch. And yes, if I am sick it's rotisserie chicken. I usually give it extra lime and sriracha if I have a cold, and if I am really congested I cut up some jalapeno into it.

Make lots, it tastes fantastic the next day.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

My favorite when I'm sick is to combine sambal oelek (Sriracha would work too, I guess), with a box of Pacific Naturals Chicken Pho soup starter, and simmer with raw spinach and rotisserie chicken until everything's heated through and the spinach is wilted. You could probably add other veggies, ginger, whatever you like. Whole thing takes about five minutes start to finish.
posted by stellaluna at 1:24 PM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I make a really spicy curry chicken soup with Madras curry powder for just such an occasion.


Take split breast of chicken with bones in - 1 or 2 pieces. I think the bones are important to the curative powers of chicken soup (even if that is purely psychosomatic).

In a wide shallow pan, put some olive oil and sliced onions. saute them for a minute, then add the chicken pieces. Brown the chicken well on all sides. Ginger and garlic are also excellent additions at this stage.

Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of Madras curry powder over the chicken and toast it a bit over the flame.

Add to the pan a mixture of diced vegetables. I like celery, sweet potato, butternut squash, green and red peppers, carrot - all or a few of these. Dried hot peppers, chopped fine, can be thrown in here for added heat.

Next, add up to 6 cups of broth, water, or a mix of broth and water.

Allow everything to simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on how concentrated you want it.

Fish out the chicken, which will be falling off the bone at this point. Using forks, remove it from the bone and return it, shredded into chunks, to the pot. Return to a simmer.

Ladle out and serve. Good with a little rice in the bottom of the bowl, a torn piece of pita, even a dollop of greek yogurt. A sprinkle of cilantro is great on this too.
posted by Miko at 1:25 PM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

What about a curry broth?
You can make it as simple or complex as you like, but I generally
1. Sautée garlic and ginger
2. Add chicken broth and red curry paste. Cook for a few minutes then add coconut milk
3. Simmer and season. Add veggies, cook until soft, add protein at last minute to warm
4. Serve with mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, and green onions. Rice noodles optional.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 1:26 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd add cayenne, fresh ginger, and garlic and a splash of vinegar. You can stir in beaten egg for an egg-drop soup effect. Finish with chopped scallions, a drizzle of roasted sesame oil, and fresh chopped coriander/cilantro.
posted by quince at 1:28 PM on February 3, 2014

Chicken Pho is the best cold remedy ever! No recipe, because I usually just get it from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, but I'm sure you can find a good one online. Just make sure to add some chili paste, mmmm.
posted by evilbeck at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2014

Best answer: Lazy Tom Yum-ish soup:

Shopping list:
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Tom Yum Soup Base (this brand is in most grocery stores. It does have some palm sugar in it, but serving size puts it under 2g.)
  • Limes
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Veggies of choice: broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cabbage, mushrooms would all be low carb
Basically dump it all in a pot of hot broth until you reach your spicy level preferences.
posted by fontophilic at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I "fix" chicken soups (canned, bought, homemade, etc.) when I'm sick by adding a lot of fresh lemon juice, many many shakes of hot sauce, and sometimes fresh ginger too, if I remember. This is perfect for when I'm feeling too dumb from the cold to manage much else.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2014

This doesn't need the rice. Nice and spicy!
posted by missriss89 at 1:46 PM on February 3, 2014

Bon appetite has a pretty good recipe for Tom Yun Gai. Personally I prefer to chop up a couple bird's eye chili and add them in with the ginger at the beginning. Very simple soup to make, though --- most of the aromatics go in whole, and if you buy pre-sliced mushrooms at the supermarket along with the rotisserie bird, you could have it ready in 20 minutes.
posted by Diablevert at 2:01 PM on February 3, 2014

Spicy Chicken NO NOODLE Soup. 20 minutes to delicious.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:07 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe look around at some mulligatawny recipes. There are tons of different variants, so you should be able to find or adjust something to your needs. You can make it with lentils, rice, potatoes, apples, raisins, greens, carrots and celery, or none of the above.

A super-simple low carb variant might be something like your rotisserie chicken shredded up in a broth of chicken stock, coconut milk, and curry powder, then topped with chopped peppers (I like Fresno peppers, but sometimes use jalapenos when that's all I have) and cilantro. Almost everything is optional, so if there's something you don't like or want in a given recipe, leave it out.

If you're feeling slightly more ambitious, start it out by sweating some finely chopped garlic, peppers, and garlic in butter, then add the rest of the ingredients.

I also sometimes just squirt lots of sriracha in regular chicken soups.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2014

If you go Mediterranean instead, best for your cold and quite suitable for chicken would be to use about six leaves of dried sage per chicken, and as much garlic as you can muster, plus a healthy dash of olive oil (balance sourness using some dry white wine and/or lemon).
posted by Namlit at 2:32 PM on February 3, 2014

I'm sort of proud of my spicy chicken noodle soup with shirataki (no carb) noodles. I started by knocking off PF Chang's dish which I sheepishly admit to really loving. Here's a link to my blog recipe, and for those who are averse to visiting blogs where people don't post in years, here's the recipe:

-48 oz Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
-1/3 cup Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
-3/8 cup (6 tbsp.) Brown Sugar
-Sriracha – 2 tbsp. (but really to your own taste)
-1 Medium Lime – the juice & the zest
-2 Chicken Breasts, cut into strips
-2, 7 oz. packages of Shirataki Angel Hair Noodles, rinsed in cold water and drained
-2 tbsp. Cornstarch
-1 cup Sliced Mushrooms
-1/2 cup Grape Tomatoes (quartered)
-Fresh Cilantro (2-3 tbsp.)

Directions: Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, lime juice, lime zest, and bring to a boil. Toss chicken strips in corn starch. When broth mixture boils, add chicken, mushrooms, and Shirataki noodles. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the tomatoes and cilantro. Let the soup cool 2-3 minutes before serving.
posted by Kronur at 2:37 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: many of these are great recommendations and I can't believe I somehow thought tom kha was difficult (I'm probably remembering having to peel and grate scads of galangal / lemongrass from scratch).

fontophilic ultimately wins for the soup base recommendation and super easy template - I can live with the tiny bit of added sugar / peanut oil in that brand for the sake of speed & convenience.

I think a lot of these other options will serve for days when I have more than a 2 second attention span / ability to stand without getting dizzy, so as to be able to cope with prepping more ingredients and adding in things I know I should do like a "saute" step that I just frankly cannot manage in this state, hence the rotisserie chicken. (gah OTC decongestants I hate you so much)
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:55 PM on February 3, 2014

I like chicken broth with lots of lime juice, ginger and a little garlic. Better than Bouillon is a perfectly reasonable replacement for real broth if you are sick.

Feel better!
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:29 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update - I made a sort of "tom kha" last night using fontophilic's template. Sadly our Whole Foods does not carry that soup base, so I winged it with a combo of sambal oelek, Red Boat fish sauce, and some Mae Ploy green curry paste I have on hand. I'm going to poke around online to see if I can get the other stuff mail order or something. The end result was not as sweet as restaurant varieties I've had, which is fine. It is a savory, garlicky, fiery blend of exactly what we were craving.

This is ultimately what I came up with:

1 plain / classic rotisserie chicken stripped off the carcass
3 quarts chicken broth
2 cans coconut milk
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1/4 cup Mae Ploy green curry paste (yes, that's quite a lot, I wasn't kidding about wanting it spicy)
2 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce
2 limes (juice + zest)
10-12 (?... probably) cloves of fresh garlic sliced thin - I got a little tub of whole peeled garlic cloves and went a little crazy tbh
2 zucchini sliced thin
1 pound shredded green cabbage
1/2 pound fresh oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed.

As far as prep, I took the lazy route and found everything except the garlic and the limes in the prepackaged prepared section, including the mushrooms. The part that took the longest was deboning the chicken, and that took all of one Futurama episode I think. After that, I just dumped everything into the hot broth and let it heat up for a bit. It all took less than an hour.

Thanks everybody!
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I assume you aren't still sick, 2+ months later, but here's some personal favorites of mine. I guess their status as "quick and easy" will depend on a given cooks ability level, but they are by my lights. (I'm not sure of the freezer-worthiness of the lentil one, but the tortilla one -- minus garnishes -- can definitely be made in advance and thawed for lazy/emergency use.)

1) Tortilla Soup

Main Ingredients:
Olive oil
Cooked chicken, dark meat preferred (for flavor), torn into strips
Chicken stock or good "base" paste+water
Canned diced tomato ("roasted" is nice)
Tomato Paste (optional, for deeper flavor/color)
Dash of vineagar (white or cider)
White/sweet onion, thinly sliced
Garlic, thinly sliced
Asst. Mexican spices (e.g. cumin, chili powder, cayenne, maybe oregano), as handy, to taste
Sea Salt/cracked pepper, to taste

Last-minute Add-ins/Garnishes:
Jalapeno or Serrano peppers, thinly sliced
Corn tortillas, thinly sliced
Cilantro, julienne or minced

Vague Instructions:
Saute onions gently in oil until they begin to caramelize, then add garlic. As garlic softens, add spice combo and optional tomato paste, increasing heat. Stir mixture well until paste begins to color/caramelize, then deglaze with vineagar. Add stock, canned tomato, and chicken, and bring to a simmer. As soup simmers, prepare cilantro, peppers (seeding if desired), and tortilla strips. (I like to make these crispy, either by frying briefly in oil, or baking.) Skim soup if necessary, and serve with garnishes to taste.

2) Curry-Lentil Chicken
(Adopted/simplified from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. If you are into soups, this book is kind of a necessity.)

Stock Ingredients:
Chicken stock or good "base" paste+water
Canned or fresh tomato, diced
White/yellow onion, diced
Celery, sliced
Chili powder/cayenne
Garlic, crushed
Dill, fresh if possible

Main Ingredients:
Cooked chicken, medium cube
Red or yellow lentils
Coconut milk
Sea salt/cracked pepper, to taste

Curry Ingredients:
Good spicy curry powder (not a curry expert, by any means, but I like one marketed as "muchi")
White/sweet onion, medium dice
Shallot, small dice
Whole mustard seed

Vague Instructions:
Bring stock ingredients to a strong simmer. Allow to cook for at least 20 minutes, then strain. Add chicken and lentils to resulting liquid stock, and simmer until lentils are tender. Heat butter in a saucepan, then add mustard seed. Allow seeds to begin spluttering/popping, then add shallots. Reduce heat and saute shallots until tender. Stirring rapidly, add curry powder and allow to cook briefly. Stir in coconut milk. Remove soup pot from heat, stir curry mixture completely into the soup (immersion blend, if desired), and serve.
posted by credible hulk at 10:36 AM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: no, thankfully the cold only lasted a few days and the sorta-tom-kha up there did do the trick of un-stuffing us. HOWEVER I do like the tortilla soup recipe idea quite a bit and will add this to my repertoire, although likely sans tortillas as we rarely use much grain product these days. There's plenty of other good stuff available to garnish with tho!
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:15 PM on April 17, 2014

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