Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is a creamy, hearty, satisfying meal the whole family will love all made in ONE POT!
This creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup recipe is destined to become a new easy family favorite – and definitely one of mine! It’s creamy and flavorful loaded with juicy chicken, hearty wild rice, carrots, celery, cauliflower and peas for a symphony of texture in every bite -without any “cream of” soups. It’s also extremely versatile and pantry friendly – swap the wild rice for brown rice, the chicken for ground beef or sausage, and the veggies for your favorites. This Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup also reheats beautifully for make ahead dinner or lunches!
CHICKEN and rice soup
Today, I’m so excited to bring you my obsession of chicken and rice in Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup form! As I’ve mentioned in other recipes, creamy chicken and rice is one of life’s greatest culinary pleasures with its hypnotic layers of textures that leave you savoring each spoonful – and this Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup recipe will have you licking the bowl!
This Chicken and Rice Soup recipe is made 100% from scratch without any canned soups and most importantly during this crazy time, it can be made with pantry friendly ingredients in your slippers. I’ve also included TONS of variations, so you can make a version of it with whatever you have on hand – even pasta if that’s all you’ve got!
Here’s all about this Chicken and Rice Soup recipe and why I’m obsessed!
PANTRY FRIENDLY. The ingredients for this Chicken and Wild Rice Soup are simple, inexpensive and you probably have almost all of them on hand. If you don’t have wild rice, it should be easy to pick up or you can substitute it with brown rice, or even white rice (my last choice) or pasta. This recipe can also be made with any chicken you have on hand from chicken thighs to chicken breasts to rotisserie chicken.
ONE POT. Many Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup recipes have you simmer the soup in one pot and make a roux in another then add it to the soup – but there’s no need for that! We make the roux directly in the soup pot at the start of the recipe to give our soup body then make the soup even creamier at the end by whisking half and half with cornstarch which is added directly to the soup.
NO CREAM SOUP. Unlike many creamy soups, this Chicken and Rice Soup recipe doesn’t use any mystery “cream of” canned soups but still emerges luxuriously rich, creamy and flavorful.
DELICIOUS. This Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is jaw dropping irresistible and one of my favorite soups of all time. Every spoonful is a warm, savory symphony of juicy chicken, al dente rice, tender veggies and layers of complex aromatic flavor swaddled in creamy broth. I’ve added cauliflower and peas to the soup in addition to traditional carrots and celery which elevate the texture to practically hypnotic. Furthermore, the soup is seasoned to perfection with hand-picked Italian seasonings then creamified with both a roux and cornstarch so its mega flavorful and mega creamy – winning!
VERSATILE. I’ve loaded this Chicken and Rice Soup with my favorite ingredients, but all of the add-ins from the chicken, to the rice the vegetables are easy to customize with whatever you have on hand. You can even leave out the flour, cornstarch and half and half for a non-creamy version.
MEAL-IN-ONE. This Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup recipe is chock full of protein, veggies and starch for a complete meal-in-one all made in one pot! You can skip the sides all together because it is stand-alone worthy or serve it with no-fuss sides like a simple green salad and crusty bread.
MAKE AHEAD. This Chicken and Wild Rice Soup can be prepped ahead or you can make it entirely ahead of time because the wild rice stays al dente for days without becoming mushy, in fact, it tastes even better the next day!
Looking for more Creamy Soup recipes?
- Slow Cooker Potato Soup
- New England Clam Chowder
- Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Crock Pot Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder
- Zuppa Toscana
WHAT RICE IS BEST FOR CHICKEN and rice SOUP?
What makes Chicken and Wild Rice Soup so drool worthy is the al dente rice bathed in the luxuriously creamy broth. In order to stay far away from the fine line between al dente rice and mushy rice, I highly recommend a wild rice blend, it is by far the best type of rice to use for soups. I also love it in pilafs like my Cranberry Apple Wild Rice Pilaf and Butternut Squash Wild Rice Pilaf.
Wild rice boasts a nutty, toasted, earthiness and is extremely difficult to overcook, remains al dente and reheats like a champ. Even leftovers will remain fabulously al dente and even slightly chewy so the soup tastes even better the next day.
What is Wild Rice?
The excellent texture of wild rice is in large part due to the fact that wild rice actually isn’t rice at all. Even though it may look like long-grain rice with a brownish-blackish color, it is actually a highly nutritious grain of grass. Wild rice comes from the seed of long-grain aquatic marsh grass that grows in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and bays indigenous to North America; this is considered “true” wild rice. Today, however, the vast majority of the wild rice sold in the United States is cultivated in controlled fields similar to rice paddies.
Is wild rice healthy?
Wild rice boasts about 30% fewer calories than brown rice and 40% more protein so it’s healthier than both white and brown rice. Wild rice also boasts impressive amounts of antioxidants, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. In fact, it has up to 30 times greater antioxidants than white rice.
Can I use a different rice?
You can use whatever rice you have on hand for this Chicken and Rice soup recipe but expect varying results.
- Brown rice: You can substitute the wild rice with brown rice and cook for about the same amount of time.
- White rice: You can add long grain white rice to the soup after you remove the chicken and cook for about 10-12 minutes (add the cauliflower after the rice has been cooking 6 minutes). White rice is easy to overcook, so make sure you check it for doneness often and cook just until al dente. Alternatively, you can cook white rice separately and add it the soup or individual servings if you expect leftovers.
Can I use leftover rice?
Yes! Because you are using leftover rice, you only need to simmer the soup for 5 minutes after you add the half and half. Add any leftover cooked rice with the peas at the very end of cooking and warm through. Alternatively, add the rice to individual servings if you expect leftovers.
WHERE CAN I BUY WILD RICE?
Wild Rice Blends are an exciting blend of rice varieties, which give you complementary firm, fluffy cooked textures and robust, nutty, earthy vibrant flavors. You can find wild rice blends pre-packaged in a bag or box at your grocery store or in the bulk bins at Sprouts. I use Lundberg Wild Blend Rice which is made of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain wehani rice, whole grain black japonica rice.
If your wild rice package comes with a seasoning packet, you can discard that for our purposes. Also take care you don’t purchase instant wild rice -or if you do, follow those cooking instructions.
WHAT CHICKEN IS BEST FOR CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP?
I highly recommend chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in) for this Chicken and Rice Soup recipe. I didn’t always use chicken thighs for my soup recipes, but once I started, there was NO going back. Chicken thighs are dark meat which means they are inherently juicier, richer tasting and produce far more tender chicken than chicken breasts. They are also harder to overcook and stay tender for days with a more palate pleasing texture, even when reheated for leftovers.
In addition, chicken thighs are browned first which adds an important layer of flavor to the overall Chicken and Wild Rice Soup as all those golden, flavorful bits become part of the broth.
CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?
Absolutely! You can still use chicken breasts in Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, but because they are leaner than chicken thighs, they will not be as juicy or as flavorful. If using chicken breasts, I suggest bone-in chicken breasts but boneless will also work.
CAN I USE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN?
Yes! Rotisserie chicken is my second choice to use in this Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup after chicken thighs. Rotisserie chicken comes lightly seasoned for an added depth of flavor and is a mix of both light and dark meat. It also comes perfectly tender and ready to slurp up.
To use rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken, discarding the bones and add about 3 cups shredded chicken to the soup along with the cauliflower.
CAN I USE LEFTOVER CHICKEN?
Absolutely! Add about 3 cups shredded or chopped leftover chicken to the soup along with the cauliflower.
Chicken and Rice Soup Ingredients and Substitutions
This Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is made with very simple ingredients. They key to the exploding flavor is building the layers of flavor by first browning the chicken, then sautéing the veggies and aromatic onions and garlic before adding the broth. In addition to chicken and rice, you will need:
- Chicken Broth. Take care your chicken broth is low sodium otherwise your creamy Chicken and Rice Soup will be too salty. Using low sodium broth also allows us to use chicken bouillon which amps up the flavor.
- Chicken bouillon. You can use bouillon powder, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon. Add to the soup without dissolving in liquid first. If using cubes, you will need 1 ½ which you crush up and then add directly to the broth.
- Half and Half. I often don’t keep half and half on hand, but keep heavy cream on hand. If you’re like me, you can substitute the half and half with half cream and half milk. For a healthier alternative you may substitute the half and half with evaporated milk mixed with 1 additional tablespoon cornstarch.
- Onion. Use one diced yellow onion.
- Garlic. 4-6 garlic cloves depending on your garlic love.
- Carrots. Please don’t use baby carrots as they aren’t nearly as flavorful. Chop the carrots on the thicker side because they are going to simmer for 40 minutes or so.
- Celery. Also needs to be chopped on the thicker side, about ½-inch.
- Cauliflower. I LOVE cauliflower in this soup -please don’t skip because the texture is sublime! If you don’t have cauliflower, you may swap with broccoli but it’s not quite the same. Chop cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
- Peas. Only petite frozen peas please – no canned mushy peas or you defeat the purpose of the fresh pop of delightful texture.
- Flour: Helps thicken the soup by creating a roux. You may substitute with gluten free all-purpose flour.
- Cornstarch: Also helps thicken the soup by mixing with half and half; this allows us to use lower calorie half and half as opposed to heavy cream.
- Seasonings: dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, a bay leaf, salt and pepper season our soup to perfection.
CAN I USE FRESH HERBS?
I prefer dried herbs in the actual soup because they get added to the soup at the beginning which infuses the creamy broth with flavor. You may use fresh herbs, but you will need three times the number of fresh herbs to dried herbs which can distract from the soup. Take care to add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking so they stay fresh and flavorful.
CAN I USE VEGETABLE BROTH INSTEAD?
I do not recommend vegetable broth because it does not have the chicken flavor which is crucial in this Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup recipe. That doesn’t mean you can’t use vegetable broth, but it does mean the soup will not taste rich and flavorful.
CAN I USE FROZEN VEGETABLES?
Absolutely! Frozen vegetables are a great shortcut in this Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Add the vegetables the last 15 minutes – no need to thaw.
CAN I MAKE the soup GLUTEN free?
Yes! If you want to make gluten free Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, then use gluten-free flour – the rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP
STEP 1: SEAR CHICKEN:
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drying the chicken allows the seasonings to stick. Allowing the chicken time to rest while you prep the veggies helps the seasonings penetrate the chicken.
- Sear chicken in a large Dutch oven/ soup pot until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate but leave drippings.
- Searing the chicken results in the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning, and as we know, color= flavor! The delicious brown bits left in the bottom of the pan will be season the entire soup as they permeate the broth.
STEP 2: SAUTÉ VEGETABLES:
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat. Increase to medium-high heat, and add onions, carrots and celery; sauté for 4 minutes scaping up the golden bits on the bottom of the pan. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds; sprinkle in flour then cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes (it will be thick).
- The vegetables will not be completely tender at this point but will soften as they simmer with the soup.
- Cooking the flour gets rid of the raw flour smell and taste.
STEP 3: SIMMER SOUP:
- Add chicken back to the pot along with rice, bouillon, all seasonings, bay leaf and chicken broth. If you really don’t want to sear your chicken or are using chicken breasts, you can add the raw, chicken on top of the veggies at this point.
- Cover the soup to bring to a simmer, then displace the lid so it’s partially covering the pot, with about a one-inch opening. Simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender enough to shred. The only way to know if the chicken is done is to test it at 12 minutes, then simmer on if it’s not ready.
STEP 4: SHRED CHICKEN
- Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces once cool enough to handle (don’t add back to soup yet).
- Continue to simmer the soup, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
STEP 5: Add Half & Half and simmer
- Whisk cornstarch with half and half (you can whisk with as little as 1/2 cup, just enough so it dissolves) and add to pot.
- Continue to simmer the soup uncovered for an additional 10-20 minutes or until the rice is mostly tender, stirring often.
STEP 6: ADD Cauliflower, chicken & peas
- Stir in shredded chicken (or rotisserie chicken if using), and cauliflower and continue to simmer for 5 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
- Add peas and warm through, 1-2 minutes.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
- Stir additional broth or half and half if desired for a less “chunky” soup.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired (I like more salt).
HOW DO YOU THICKEN Chicken and Rice Soup?
This Chicken and Wild Rice Soup should already be luxuriously thick and creamy due to the flour, half and half and cornstarch, but if you would still like a thicker soup, you can use any of these methods:
- Cornstarch: This is my preferred method and super easy. Remove about ¼ cup soup and whisk in 1 -2 tablespoon cornstarch with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the soup. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Repeat if needed.
- Flour and butter: Mix equal parts flour and softened butter together with a fork so it becomes a thick paste and almost forms a ball. You will want 2-3 tablespoons each, depending on how thick you want the soup. Add it to the soup, stir, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Puree soup: Remove 1-2 cups of the soup and puree it in your blender or food processor. It will add body to the soup while preserving the flavor.
- Puree beans: Add cannellini beans to a blender along with some of the soup. Puree until smooth to create a paste. Stir back into the soup and warm through.
SLOW COOKER CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP
I have a Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup made 100% in the crockpot HERE.
CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP VARIATIONS
This homemade Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is comforting in its classic ingredients and flavor, but can also be used as a springboard to make it your own with all sorts of add ins or whatever you have on hand:
As previously detailed, you can swap the wild rice for brown rice or white rice or even barley or lentils!
- Swap rice for barley. Barley is another delightful texture if you don’t have wild rice on hand that I use in my Beef and Barley Soup. You will want to use pearl and simmer for about 30 minutes total.
- Swap rice for lentils. Swap the rice for 1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes total, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
- Swap rice for quinoa. For a higher protein option, you can add a about ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained and simmer for about 25 minutes.
- Swap rice for pasta. Swap the rice for small pasta such as small/mini pasta shells, orzo, ditalini (the small short tubes), acini de pepe or mini penne. Add the pasta to the soup with the half and half and cook for 8-10 minutes or just until al dente – meaning it has a little bite to it because it will still cook a little once you remove the soup from the heat. You can also swap the rice for uncooked fresh cheese tortellini. Tortellini only require a couple minutes to cook, so watch them closely!
Although this is Chicken and Rice Soup, it is a great springboard to make other soups as well using whatever protein you have on hand.
- Ground beef ground turkey or Italian sausage. Brown beef with the onions, carrots and celery, crumbling as you cook.
- Sausage. Brown kielbasa, Polish sausage or chicken sausage then remove to a plate. Slice or chop into bite size pieces then add back to the soup with the broth to simmer with the vegetables.
- Bacon. Cook the thick-cut bacon until crispy then remove from the pot. Reserve some of the drippings to cook the chicken in. Add the crumbled bacon to the soup at the end of cooking.
- Ham. Add ham at the end of cooking and heat through. Ham can be quite salty so reduce the salt in the recipe and add salt to taste.
I recommend sticking with the carrots and celery but you can also add any other vegetables such as:
- Corn. You can use canned, drained sweet corn or frozen sweet corn – no need to thaw.
- Mushrooms. Cremini/baby bella mushrooms will have the most flavor.
- Bell peppers. Any color will taste great! Add them the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Sweet potatoes. Peel, chop into ½-inch pieces and add with the half and half.
- Butternut squash. Peel, chop into ½-inch pieces and add with the half and half.
- Parsnips. Add at the beginning of cooking with the broth.
- Broccoli. Chop into bite size pieces and add the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Zucchini. Slice and quarter zucchini and the last 10 minutes of cooking Slice zucchini on the thick side, about ¼-inch so it doesn’t get too soft.
- Green beans. Fresh green beans taste far superior than canned. Chop into 2” pieces and add the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Greens. Add spinach or cabbage at the very end of cooking and cover the pot for 1-2 minutes to wilt.
- Potatoes. Use waxy potato such as red potatoes, Yukon, new potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Waxy potatoes do not absorb moisture while they cook so they retain their shape despite extended high heat.
- Canned beans. I love the addition of cannellini beans for their slight sweetness, creaminess and meaty texture. Add them with the cauliflower so they soften but retain their structure.
- Cheese. This Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is already creamy, but you can also make it cheesy! I personally don’t think it needs any cheese, but then again, cheese makes everything better. Stir in some freshly grated sharp cheddar or Parmesan at the end of cooking or get fancy with Swiss or Gruyere like I do in my chicken Cordon Bleu Soup.
- Swap Seasonings. Mix up the flavor profile by swapping the seasonings – go Mexican with chili powder, ground cumin, smoke paprika, etc., or go Cajun with black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne.
- Spice it up. Sauté a pinch of red pepper flakes in the butter for a kick.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR BEST CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP RECIPE
Here is a summary of tips and tricks for the Best Chicken and Wild Rice Soup:
- Use chicken thighs. This Chicken and Rice Soup recipe will work with chicken breasts or chicken thighs, but for best flavor use chicken thighs or shredded rotisserie chicken.
- Rotisserie chicken. Stock shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken portioned into 3 cup freezer bags so you always have chicken ready to add to a soup.
- Don’t skip mirepoix. This Chicken and Rice Soup recipe boasts the classic combination of carrots, onions and celery sautéed in olive oil and butter. They are known as the holy trinity of cooking and provide a richness and depth of flavor that can’t be achieved any other way. Please don’t skip unless you can’t get your hands on these ingredients.
- Customize vegetables. In addition to the mirepoix, you can add whatever veggies you have on hand or mix it up just for fun! Green beans, corn, zucchini, cabbage, spinach, etc. would all be delicious. Just be aware most vegetables only need 10 minutes to cook -see my detailed instructions in the Variations section.
- Vegetable size. Chop carrots and celery at least ½-inch thick because they are going to simmer for a long time. Avoid chopping your vegetables too thin or they can become mushy.
- Cook wild rice al dente. (meaning it has a little bite) to it because it will continue to cook for 5 minutes after you add the cauliflower.
- Consistency. You can make this Chicken and Wild Rice Soup more or less “chunky” or more or less creamy. For a less chunky soup, simply add additional broth or half and half at the end of cooking. See section non how to make it creamier.
WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?
This Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup is very simple but it does require some prep work as far as trimming the chicken and chopping vegetables. You can save time by:
- Trim chicken: trim off excess fat from chicken then store chicken in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Chop vegetables: chop the vegetables a couple days ahead of time, the night before dinner or just a few hours before cooking then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You will want to store the cauliflower separate from the onions, carrots and celery because it is added later in the recipe.
- Measure Spices: It doesn’t take long to measure out the spices, but you can certainly do it beforehand and store the mix in an airtight bag or container.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CREAMY CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP?
This Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup is a meal-in-one complete with protein, veggies and grains. So, you call dinner done or serve it with any of these additional sides:
- Bread: Mopping up soup with bread is always a win! Serve Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with a big loaf of crusty bread, Moist Sweet Cornbread, softy and fluffy Dinner Rolls, Parmesan Breadsticks, Garlic Bread or Pesto Pull Apart Bread.
- Salad: This Chicken and Rice Soup recipe pairs beautifully with a fresh, crunchy salad such as Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ranch, Cucumber Tomato Salad, Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apple Salad, Pear Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- Fruit: Bright, fresh fruit is always a welcome side to creamy soups. Go as simple as grapes, melon, etc. or you’ll love Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone, Tropical Fruit Salad, or Pina Colada Fruit Salad.
CAN I MAKE CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP AHEAD OF TIME?
Yes! The flavors of this Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup get better the next day so it makes amazing leftovers! Reheat per below instructions.
HOW DO I REHEAT CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP?
- Stove: reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally about 10 minutes.
- Microwave: transfer individual servings to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lids or paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
- Crockpot: Transfer soup to a crockpot and heat on low for 1-3 hours. The time will depend on how much soup you have remaining.
HOW DO I STORE CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP?
Let Chicken and Rice Soup cool to room temperature, then cover and store in your Dutch oven or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
CAN YOU FREEZE CREAMY CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP?
As a general rule of thumb, creamy soups do not freeze well as the texture can become unpleasantly grainy as the dairy and fat separate. You can still freeze the soup with these expectations, or omit the half and half when freezing, then add the half and half to the soup after thawing – then you will have no problem. Alternatively, you can swap the half and half for evaporated milk (see tips below).
- Cook: Cook the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup according to recipe directions.
- Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and prevent it from entering the “danger zone.”
- Package: Transfer soup to an airtight freezer safe container or freezer bag. You can even use sandwich size plastic bags for individual portions. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn and label
- Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in the microwave, crockpot or stove according to aforementioned instructions.
Tips for freezing:
- If you plan on freezing, do not substitute the wild rice blend for any other rice as other rice varieties have a tendency to turn to mush once thawed from frozen.
- Leave out the half and half if you plan to freeze, then it will freeze and thaw without becoming grainy. Once thawed, add the half and half mixed with cornstarch to the thawed soup and simmer until thickened.
- Regular (not lowfat) evaporated milk, or heavy cream freeze much better than half and half -the higher the fat content, the better it freezes. If you think you might freeze this Chicken and Rice Soup, then plan on using either of these alternatives.
- If freezing with half and half, reheat the thawed soup very gently over low heat to help incorporate the cream back into the soup.
- If freezing with half and half, add some fresh cream or softened cream cheese to improve the grainy texture.
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