Healthy Lunch: Chicken Chard Soup

by | Jan 21, 2009

Since summer ended I have been searching for the perfect winter lunch to bring to work. I want something healthy, delicious and, given the season, warm.

Roasted vegetables are a pretty good choice, but I learned the hard way that they don’t quite have the long-term appeal of summer salads (i.e., I got sick of them really fast).

My latest experiment is soup.

Soup appeals to me for many reasons:

  1. It stores and transports easily and can be heated up in a minute or two in the microwave. This makes it a perfect food for the office.
  2. Almost any recipe can be turned into a soup, so you can enjoy cuisines from all cultures–you could eat soup every day for the rest of your life and never eat the same one twice.
  3. Soups are easy to modify, and hard to mess up.
  4. As many of you know, I have a lot of experience making soup.

I accepted the challenge.

The first place I turned was my faithful Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. I can’t imagine there is a better soup recipe book on the planet. Not only have I used it to make dozens of spectacular soups, but it has made me a better overall cook as well. This book is truly a treasure.*

I had several goals for my first soup:

First, I wanted it to be healthy and light, meaning it should have something green (e.g. chard) in it and be broth based rather than cream based.

Second, I wanted to use the whole chicken I bought at the farmers market. I don’t normally eat meat for lunch, but I had been wanting to experiment with whole chicken and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I ended up modifying one of the vegetable recipes in the book to include chicken. Peterson gives detailed instructions on how to use chicken in any soup, so I simply followed his technique.

My soup turned out divine, but preparing it took longer than I had hoped.

Word of advice: Ask the butcher to quarter the chicken for you (unless you are planning on roasting it). This was only the second time I had quartered a chicken, and though it wasn’t very difficult it definitely cost me 20-30 minutes because of my inexperience. Oops.

Chicken Chard Soup


  • 1 medium chicken, quartered
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, trimmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 28-0z can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cups (1 box) chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 0.5 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a pan just large enough for the chicken to cover the bottom. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Turn with tongs and cook for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. If at any point the chicken begins to burn, lower the heat.

Shred the chard by cutting out the stems (I like to leave a few in, but I cut them in half), stacking and rolling the leaves, then cutting them in thin, 0.25 inch strips. This is the same chiffonade technique we use on basil, sage and mint leaves.

In a 4-quart pot, cook onions, garlic and chilies in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Allow the onions to become translucent, but not brown. Add thyme and cook 2 more minutes.

Add broth, water, tomatoes and chicken and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken feels firm to the touch. Remove chicken and set it aside to cool. Add chard to the soup and simmer 10 more minutes.

Remove chicken skins and cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. Return chicken meat to the soup, add parsley and simmer 2 more minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

This soup will keep up to 5 days in a cold refrigerator.

*Note: If you decide to buy Splendid Soups (or any other item from Amazon), please consider using one of the links from this site and help support my blog. My favorite books and kitchen equipment are listed in the Shop.
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13 Responses to “Healthy Lunch: Chicken Chard Soup”

  1. doug says:

    I just bought a bunch of ingredients for a good yam and veggie soup that I’m making tonight. I’m looking forward to filling my apartment with the smell of onions. In addition to all the advantages you list, soups also keep very well in the frezzer.(I haven’t been able to post comments for a few weeks because the facebook frame wouldn’t show me the word verification image, but just realized if I left the frame I was fine)

  2. doug says:

    Also- what kind of container do you transport them in for lunch that is air tight enough to prevent spilling?

  3. Darya Pino says:

    @dougThanks! Yes, freezing is a fantastic way to keep soup. Good quality tuppers (not the Ziplock kind) will sometimes work to transport soup, but I definitely wrap it in a plastic grocery bag and try to keep it upright.Jars are nice too, or the kind of tupper with a screw top.

  4. Healthyliving says:

    Really, you can freeze it and it will be okay?! I had no idea. I could actually use some soup, I’ve started to come down with a sore throat and a sniffle. Is it true that soup will help, or is that only a wives tale?

  5. Matt Shook says:

    How funny, I made a bean & vegetable soup last night. It’s definitely soup season…One other benefit of making soup is that it can often be very inexpensive! =)

  6. doug says:

    Freezing doesn’t hurt the soups and chilis I’ve frozen. To reheat them I add a touch of water and either re-boil them or microwave them. And they last for months without the taste being destroyed. It’s great so that you don’t have to eat the same thing for a week just to justify the volumen of food you’re making.

  7. Karin says:

    At first I was a bit taken aback by all the ingredients on your list; but I guess it isn’t that bad, so maybe I’ll give your soup a try!

  8. Allie says:

    I’ve been making almost one soup (or stew) per week for a month or two now…definitely good in this chilly weather! I like to just make up a recipe as I walk through the farmer’s market or grocery store since I’d say it’s pretty hard to mess up a simple soup. This week was chicken stew, last week was tomato kale soup, and last month there was a pretty good cauliflower bean soup.Doug- I usually bring my soup to work in the glass pyrex containers that come with tupperware type lids. I’ve never had them leak (the lids are pretty tight) but I do try to keep them semi-upright in my bag. Also, they’re great containers for reheating since it’s just like having a glass bowl.Matt- You’re right…soups are super cheap and oh so yummy!

  9. Darya Pino says:

    @MattNicely done! And yes, I agree with you and @Allie, soup is “soup”er affordable. (Okay, that was lame. But give me a break, it’s early ;).—–@DougFreezing is a great idea! Plus you also have something for those nights you just don’t feel like cooking. Great emergency food.—–@KarinDon’t be intimidated by the ingredients, most of them are pretty basic. Feel free to leave the chicken out and you have a healthy vegetables soup. In that case, use 6 cups of broth rather than 4 c. broth + 2 c. water.—–@AllieI’m jealous! Soup is the perfect food for winter. I’ve been so busy working on my new website that I am on the 10 minute dinner plan almost every night and haven’t had time to make another soup. Definitely making another one this weekend though!Thanks for your advice!

  10. Sonya says:

    Delicious! I made the soup according to the recipe but doubled the chard because I had bought too much. It was wonderful for dinner and for leftovers-lunch.

  11. Darya Pino says:

    @sonyaGlad you enjoyed it! This week I made a red lentil Indian soup from Splendid Soups (see sidebar). Awesome!!

  12. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for a lovely chard soup recipe! I will have to modify it since I don’t have a whole chicken, but the rest I have and I’m going to fix it tonight! Love the flavor profile!

  13. Tracy says:

    You mentioned that you would like people to click your amazon link to support your blog – but I couldn’t the find any link 🙂

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