Sunny Homemade Chicken Soup

Sunny Chicken Soup brings a bit of California sunshine to an old standard and you can’t beat homemade chicken soup.  Fresh herbs, including lemon grass, plus saffron, lemons, and plenty of fresh vegetables will make Sunny Chicken Soup a favorite with everyone in your home. This Sunny Chicken Soup recipe makes a large amount of soup, enough to enjoy for dinner and pack-up portions for future lunches and dinners too.  Consider an appetizer of Sicilian Orange Salad when having Sunny Chicken Soup for dinner for a very citrus-themed meal.

Sunny Chicken Soup

Prep Time: 45 minutes, Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes Serves: 10 – 16


  • 1 Whole Chicken, approximately 5 lbs. or equivalent weight in chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • 3 Bay Leaves, preferably fresh
  • 3 6-inch Rosemary sprigs, rinsed
  • 1 10 to 12-inch stalk Lemon Grass
  • 3 Lemons, rinsed, quartered and seeds removed
  • 2 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 8 Carrots, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 1 large Celery, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 4 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 4 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • Water sufficient to reach within 1 ½ inches of the stockpot rim plus additional water to top up as the soup cooks
  • 2 medium Onions, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 large Fennel bulb, rinsed
  • 2 Tbs minced Garlic
  • 2 Tbs Capers, drained of brine
  • 2 Tbs salt-free dried Italian Herbs Seasoning*
  • A large pinch of Saffron threads
  • 4 Bell Peppers of assorted colors, rinsed
  • Coarse Sea Salt

Sunny Chicken Soup


  1. If using a whole chicken, clear out the body cavity of any giblets, reserving any giblets which you wish to add later to the soup. Stuff the body cavity of the chicken with the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, stalk of lemon grass, two of the quartered lemons and black peppercorns and place the chicken in a large 12-quart stockpot.
  2. If using chicken breasts and/or thighs, place them in a large 12-quart stockpot and place the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, stalk of lemon grass, two of the quartered lemons and black peppercorns over them.
  3. Cut four of the carrots and four stalks of celery in half and add them to the stockpot.
  4. Pour the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the stockpot.
  5. Add the water to the stockpot and bring to a boil over a high heat; reduce the heat to keep the soup at a rolling boil and cook for 2 hours.
  6. While the soup is boiling, slice the remaining carrots and celery into thin rounds and slices, respectively, and place in a large bowl(s).
  7. Chop the onions and add to the bowl(s) with the carrots and celery along with the remaining quartered and seeded lemon.
  8. With a heavy chef’s knife or cleaver, cut the fennel bulb in two lengthwise, remove the core at its base and discard the core.
  9. Chop the fennel bulb and stalks into bite-size pieces, discarding any which are dried-out or woody, and add to the bowl(s) with the carrots, celery and lemon.
  10. Core and stem the bell peppers, cut into bite-size pieces and set aside in a separate bowl.
  11. After two hours have passed, remove the cooked carrots and celery pieces from the soup and place in a bowl to cool.
  12. Using a large spider (a type of skimmer used in East Asian cooking with a wide shallow wire-mesh basket with a long, flat wooden handle) and a pair of long tongs, very carefully remove the chicken from the soup. Allow the liquid to drain into the stockpot before transferring the cooked chicken into a large bowl to cool.
  13. Add the contents of the bowl containing the carrots, celery, onions, lemon and fennel to the soup, continuing to cook at a rolling boil.
  14. Add the minced garlic, drained capers, dried Italian herb seasoning and saffron to the soup, along with any reserved giblets if you wish.
  15. Add 4 to 6 cups of water to the soup to make up for evaporation and cook at a rolling boil for another 1 ½ hours.
  16. Once they are cool enough to handle, slice the carrots and celery which you removed from the soup and add to the bowl with the bell peppers.
  17. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, debone it, reserving the cooked meat in a bowl.
  18. After the soup has cooked for the additional 1 ½ hours, add the bell peppers, cooked carrots and celery and deboned chicken meat back to the soup and cook at a rolling boil for another 30 minutes.
  19. Sample the soup broth and add coarse sea salt as needed to suit your taste.
  20. Prior to serving, remove the bay leaves and rosemary stems. If serving with pasta, cook the pasta, drain it and portion it into bowls.  Ladle the Sunny Chicken Soup into bowls and serve, seasoning the soup with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Romano cheeses at the table.
  21. Ladle the remaining soup into containers and refrigerate or freeze for future use.

*Notes: Dry Italian Herb Seasoning is a salt-free mix of assorted dried herbs associated with Italian cooking, usually a mix of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage.  It is readily available at supermarkets and the big-box grocery stores too, often it’s organic too; make sure that it is salt-free.  Alternatively, you can make your own by combining those dried herbs.

Sunny Chicken Soup

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