Spicy “Get Well” Chicken Soup

I’ve been sick for a month and I never get sick. Apparently the whole world is feeling it. For me, every time it seems over, with my defenses down a different bug comes barreling in and takes over. Plus, try as I might when I don’t feel well, I don’t eat well. Comfort food city, you know?

But I hit a wall this weekend: “I’ve had enough of this $@#%~!” 

So I created a spicy chicken soup designed to shock my system with fresh, healthy and spicy ingredients, something I could detox on all week. 

Spicy Get Well Soup

Turns out, though, it also happened to end up one of the best soups I’ve ever made. This is light, fresh and incredibly healthy soup with a spicy kick.  But you don’t have to have the flu to love this soup. I’m even having it for breakfast. It’s that good. 

If you do have the flu, an appetizer of my garlic salad and a bowl of this chicken soup will have you well on the way to recovery. After a weekend of eating both, I seriously feel 100 times better.

And so I present to you: 


This is a great “throw a bunch of stuff in a pot without worrying too much about the amounts and it still comes out amazing” kind of recipe. You could easily vary the ingredients and it will turn out well. But use the specific ingredients noted here the first time you make it to get the genius. Then you can start messing with it.

Note 1: Whatever you do, use all the garlic and chilis noted. That’s the point. And it tastes great.

Note 2: I make this in my 7 Qt. Dutch oven. If you use a smaller pot, just halve the recipe.

Note 3: Homemade bone broth really makes a difference in this recipe. It’s easy. And so good for you. Just do it. A simple, beautiful recipe also below.

Note 4: You could easily make a more Tex-Mex version by eliminating the ginger, then adding some cumin with the garlic (I like to use cumin seed but ground is fine), then tossing in two corn tortillas, broken into small pieces, with the chicken. Even a can of your favorite white or red beans, rinsed. The Tex-Mex version will be wonderful as well, but a little thicker and more like a tortilla soup. Try the original first, though.

Finally: you will never know the fennel is there. Just use it even if you think you don’t like fennel. Umami baby.


1 bulb fennel, white only, cored and very thinly sliced

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

3 stalks of celery (and leaves) sliced thin

2 Fresno chilis, sliced into thin rounds, with seeds

1 large Jalapeno, sliced into thin rounds, with seeds

2 colored bell peppers, sliced vertically into strips

12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 carrots, sliced into thin coins (do not peel)

2 quarts bone broth (See a recipe below)

1 stalk lemongrass, snapped in half and crushed

1 package sliced crimini or button mushrooms

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into bite sized pieces

a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled, in one piece

1 head of kale, sliced into ½ inch pieces (or spinach or chard)

1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved

the juice of 2 limes


white pepper

sliced avocado (optional for garnish)

chopped cilantro (optional for garnish)


Sauté’ the fennel, onion, celery, Fresno chilies and Jalapenos in a glug or two of olive oil on low. Go long and slow, let them get soft. This takes a while, 15 or 20 minutes. Then add the bell pepper and continue to sauce for 10 more minutes. The original ingredients could even begin to softly caramelize.

Add the garlic and carrots, toss and continue to sauté on low for 3-5 minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn, just soften. Add a few pinches of salt and a shake or two of white pepper as they cook.

Add the broth and lemongrass. Bring to a boil then turn down as low as you can go. Add the chicken pieces. Let cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then add the kale and the mushrooms.

Continue to cook for at least 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the kale has started to soften. At this point, it can cook for even an hour more, it just gets better and better. But you can also now add the tomatoes and lime juice, and let cook another 15 or so minutes. Taste for salt and white pepper. You can add more broth depending on how soupy you want it.

It should have a pretty wonderful kick. Top with chopped cilantro and avocado slices if desired.


Take your largest pot (I have a stock pot, into which I put a pasta strainer, so it is easy to strain at the end) and fill it 2/3’s with water. Add 5-6 good meat bones (most grocery stores now sell soup bones) and a few chicken backs or chicken wings. Bring to a pic, then bring heat to low. Simmer for an hour, skimming the impurities from the top.


2 heads garlic (do NOT peel) halved horizontally

2 onions, with skin, quartered (if you do this through the root, they won’t fall apart too much)

2 fresno chilis, halved

4-6 stalks of celery, cut in large chunks, with leaves

4-6 carrots, with peel, cut in large chunks

1 head of kale, washed and cut into pieces

1 stalk of lemongrass, snapped in half and crushed

a bunch of thyme

1 lemon, halved

a handful of black peppercorns

a couple of whole cloves

Let simmer another few hours, still skimming.  I go 12 hours at least, sometimes even 24, but even by 6 hours you will have a lovely broth.

Strain. I like to then put the broth through cheesecloth or a nut bag (or very fine mesh strainer) to make the broth very clear but you don’t have to.

If you want, you can use the broth immediately.  Or, for later use, let it cool and then stick in the fridge. The next day, you can easily skim the fat off the top… if you want.

If you use a smaller pot, just use a couple less bones and halve the vegetable amounts.

11 thoughts on “Spicy “Get Well” Chicken Soup

  1. Tom! So sorry you’ve been sick!! It’s everywhere, I guess. Tyler was ranked #1 in the country for the flu…now ONLY #4!! This soup recipe sounds like it would cure EVERYTHING! Thanks so much for sharing. Love your blog and especially love YOU!

    1. Mary! Thank you! Yes, everyone has it out here, too! I went to the clinic one afternoon 3 hours before they closed and they had stopped taking sign ins, they were so full! Love you so much!

  2. Great recipe, Tom, thanks for sharing. Sorry you are under the weather! You are, I presume, taking care of your immune system via good gut health, aka fermented foods, pre- and pro-biotics. This seems to work very well for me. So far, no flu or other problems for me.

  3. Tom, we are in Myanmar after a week in New Delhi. Now on our way to Laos for a few days. One of my favorite soups is Tom Yum. Maybe you could name this soup “Tom Yum Yum”?

    From somewhere near the Mekong,

    Mark Green

  4. Sounds awesome Tom. Wtf is a glug….lol, just picking, i know exactly what you are saying. Seems to me you may have lost your southeast Texas roots sir in cooking. All that is California cooking. Hows bout just a real good gumbo, spicey as all get out, clean out the sinuses type.
    Im very proud to say that ive just paid off a credit card that a certain lady we both know that took advantage of me. But hey, she has to answer to god on that one and the 5 other credit cards she opened in my name.
    Keep on cooking, i look forward to what you post next.
    Stay in touch Tom P.

    1. Chris! Great to hear from you buddy. And never fear, I still make gumbo and cook from my roots a lot! I was just looking or something lighter that still would make me sweat and clear out the sinuses. I hear you on the latter, hang in there my friend. Thanks for reading and so good to hear from you. Keep in touch as well.

      1. I will try to keep up with your blog, just post as you did, i can find it to look and if it intrests me, i cook it my friend. Everything you’ve posted looks fantastic, i just had to poke you in the ribs. Have a great day mr provost.

  5. I am so far behind on your blog, but having seen this, I can’t wait to try both it and the Tex Mex version! I’ve been living off soups and stews like this with low/no Weight Watchers points, so this fits that bill perfectly!

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