Instant soups were a big thing when I was growing up, and while I’m not sure they are anymore, everyone I know has memories surrounding them. Tyler tells me stories about him and his brother crushing up the noodles and sprinkling the seasoning packet over them before eating them dry.
And my favorite memory was the time my cousin and I had a race to see who could eat their instant soup the fastest. I won in under 45 seconds for an entire bowl of soup, (but let’s not think too hard about how unhealthy both the soup and the consumption time was!).
In any case, I ate instant soup in some form or another most days for lunch during my childhood. It’s easy to see why the concept is so catchy, I mean who doesn’t like an instant lunch? However we now know those soups aren’t very healthy, in fact I remember being stunned when I found out as an adult those noodles were actually deep fried!
For the last few years I’ve been wanting to make a healthy instant soup. But I was a little stumped on how to make them without some sort of bouillon. I don’t know about your grocery stores, but I’ve never seen a seasoning packet/bouillon cube that had a healthy/clean line up of ingredients yet.
So I just shelved the idea for a while until it finally came to me this past summer. The answer is super simple, just reduce the broth down until it’s concentrated before adding it to the soup jars. That way when you add the boiling water later to make your instant soup, the concentrated broth turns into the perfect soup.
It does take a little time to reduce down the stock, so I have 2 options for you. First up, I usually use the time it reduces to meal prep the rest of what I’m making for the week. It’s completely hands off, so the time isn’t really spent babysitting it or anything. But secondly you can just skip the reducing step and you’ll end up with a pot of soup which you can reheat at your convenience.
The only real reason to go through the reducing step is so that you can have instant noodles where you just add boiling water. If you can heat the soup up on the stove, then there’s no need to reduce the broth.
When I send this in Tyler’s lunch, I just heat the soup up on the stove top and add it to a preheated thermos, (Hydro Flask) which keeps it hot until lunch time. He doesn’t have access to boiling water/anything but a microwave at work, so this is what works best for us.
But whatever your work situation is, this soup can be made accordingly!
Here you can see the jars with the reduced broth + veggies + chicken added in.
Then the zucchini noodles are added in on top before the jars are refrigerated. I like to make 2 different sizes for options, I use either the 4-cup or 2-cup mason jars to portion them out.
I made these Asian inspired soup jars with ginger, garlic, and a touch of coconut aminos. But if you leave those out, you have just a basic chicken noodle which is great too. I just really crave the ginger-garlic combo during the winter months because it’s so cozy. And it never hurts to load up on either ingredient as cold and flu season approaches!Print
A healthy version of the childhood classic instant soup!
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ cubes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2″ pieces, 1 1/2 cups
1 – 14 ounce onion, diced into 1/2″ pieces, 3 cups
4 stalks of celery, diced into 1/2″ pieces, 1 1/2 cups
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup coconut aminos, tamari, or gluten free soy sauce
1/2 Teaspoon red chili flakes, see notes
4 cups chicken broth/stock, homemade is best if you can
1 1/2 Teaspoon sea salt, see notes
3-4 zucchini, ends trimmed, 1 1/2 pounds
Preheat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil along with the chicken. Sauté until the chicken is done in the middle, then remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the carrots, onion, and celery. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the veggies until they begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.
Then add the ginger and garlic, stir and cook for about 30 seconds before adding the chili flakes, coconut aminos, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Continue to cook the chicken stock mixture until it’s reduced by about half, about 30 minutes.
While the chicken stock mixture is reducing, spiralize the zucchini into noodles with the smallest blade to create spaghetti like noodles. I used the 3mm blade on the Paderno spiralizer.
When the soup base has been reduced, add the chicken back to the pan, and then turn the heat off. You should have about 7 cups of the concentrated soup base. Stir in the salt, or salt to taste later when you’re ready to eat the soup.
Portion out the soup base into jars of your choice. For 1-quart mason jars I add 1 cup of the soup base, 2 cups of zucchini noodles, and then refrigerate. If the soup base is steaming hot, portion it out and refrigerate briefly before topping it with the zucchini noodles. To serve the soup, add 2 cups of boiling water to the jar, let it sit about 5 minutes, season to taste with sea salt, and enjoy.
For 1-pint mason jars, add 1/2 cup soup base, 1 cup zucchini noodles, and then refrigerate. To serve, add 1 cup boiling water, let the soup sit about 5 minutes, season to taste with sea salt, and enjoy.
Repeat the portioning out process until all the soup base and zucchini noodles have been used. I made 4 quart jars and 6 pint jars of soup with this recipe.
If you don’t want to make instant soup jars, skip the reducing process and just simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes before adding the zucchini noodles. Cook just until the zucchini noodles are tender, about 3 minutes, and serve. If I know I’m keeping this soup in the fridge and not serving it right away, I remove it from the heat and add the zucchini noodles. Then I portion it out into containers and refrigerate it to be heated up later. Then way the zucchini noodles aren’t overcooked.
The amount of chili flakes called for makes for a little warmth to the soup, but it’s not at all spicy. Feel free to add more if you like a bit of heat.
When you add salt to the base after it’s been reduced, it should be quite salty because you’re going to be adding water later. Feel free to add what you’d like, you can always salt the soup to taste later after you add the boiling water.
I wrote this recipe using chicken thighs and store bought chicken stock for convenience. But if you have the time to start with a whole chicken, and make homemade broth, by all means go for it – you will definitely be rewarded by how awesome it tastes!