It’s easy to get sick as the weather changes from winter to spring. While you might just feel like crawling under the covers until a virus passes, try making one of the best soups when sick instead. A homemade soup loaded with illness-fighting ingredients will help you feel better in no time.
Soups are much better than solid foods at keeping your body nourished, hydrated and decongested. A warm, comforting soup is good to make as the seasons change even if you aren’t feeling under the weather. Healing soups help your body adjust to changing temperatures and give you a vitamin boost to ward off colds and other viruses.
Here are the best soups when you’re sick from The New York Times’ cooking section.
1.) Chicken Soup From Scratch
Serves: 6-8 Time: 2 hours plus chilling
Chicken soup made from scratch is one of the most comforting and healing things to make when you’re feeling under the weather. This classic recipe from The New York Times uses a whole chicken with bones and skin left on. The skin adds healthy fats and flavor to the soup, and the bones add powerful healing nutrients.
Make a big batch of this delicious soup to soothe a sore throat, cold or stomach flu.
- 1 chicken, 3 to 3½ pounds, with skin, cut up
- 3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
- 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
- 1 parsnip or parsley root (optional)
- About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley
- About 1 dozen black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. kosher salt, more to taste
- 3 tbsp. reserved chicken fat, more if needed
- 3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper
- Egg noodles (fresh or dried), such as packaged wide noodles, spaetzle, fettuccine or pappardelle cut into short lengths (see note)
- Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions, dill or a combination
- Place the chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust the heat until the soup is “smiling”: barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble breaking through. Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1½ hours.
- When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer (or reserve the vegetables, chill and serve with vinaigrette, if you wish).
- Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately for at least 8 hours (or up to 3 days), until a thick layer of yellow fat has risen to the top of the broth.
- When ready to finish the soup, use your fingers to separate chicken breast meat from bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use two forks to pull the breast meat apart into soft chunks, or use a knife and cut into bite-size pieces. (Reserve dark meat for another use.)
- Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid. Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) Do not brown.
- Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped with chicken broth. Add the breast meat, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top; if needed, add more chicken fat one teaspoon at a time.
- Serve immediately, in a tureen or from the pot, sprinkling each serving with herbs.
2.) Cold Cure Soup
Serves: 4 Time: 2 hours 15 mins
This clean cold cure soup is one of the best soups when sick. The broth is simple, but so flavorful and satisfying on a cold day or to ease flu symptoms. When you’re feeling really sick a simple, healing broth is just the thing your body needs to recover.
Ingredients like ginger, cinnamon, onions, and orange have amazing anti-viral properties that are easy to digest when simmered in a broth.
- 3 pounds chicken wings
- 1 carrot, peeled and halved
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 3-inch knob of ginger, peeled
- 1 tbsp. Maldon salt or 1½ tsp. table salt
- ¼ cup fresh citrus juice (2 parts orange juice to 1 part lime juice), plus zest in strips
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and cut into fine rings, for garnish
- In a large stockpot, combine chicken, carrot, onion, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Add 3 quarts water, orange zest and juice.
- Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until liquid has reduced to about half and chicken flavor is strong, 1½ to 2 hours.
- Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, and discard solids. Allow broth to cool, then refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, remove layer of solidified fat from surface, and wipe surface of congealed soup with a paper towel to remove traces of grease. Soup may be covered and refrigerated for up to three days.
- To serve warm soup, ladle into mugs or bowls, and garnish.
3.) Tomato Soup
Serves: 8 Time: 1 hour
Tomato soup is a comfort-food classic. This recipe is adapted from Ted Bulletin’s food diner in Washington and is one of the best soups when sick. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, which helps reduce inflammation in the body when you’re sick.
You’ll never use another tomato soup recipe again after trying this version. Add a grilled cheese or cheesy croutons for more indulgence. Yum!
- ½ pound butter
- 1 pound onions about 3 medium, cut into ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1¼ cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. celery salt
- ¾ tsp. pepper
- ¾ cup half-and-half
- 2 tbsp. honey
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
- Add flour and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and pale gold, about 3 minutes; do not allow to brown.
- Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, chicken broth, sugar, salt, celery salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium until the liquid bubbles, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot frequently.
- Stir in half-and-half and honey. Remove from heat and purée using a hand blender, or allow to cool until no longer steaming, and purée in batches in a stand blender. Return to medium heat just until heated through. Serve hot.
4.) Lemon Carrot and Cauliflower Soup
Serves: 4 Time: 40 minutes
This beautiful, golden soup is loaded with vitamin C and is one of the best soups when sick. In fact, cauliflower has 77% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Serve this soup with a slice of toasted rye bread for serious sick-day comfort food.
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
- 1 large white onion, peeled and diced (2 cups)
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
- 3 tbsp. white miso
- 1 small (or half of a large) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
- ½ tbsp. lemon zest
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice, more to taste
- Smoky chile powder, for serving
- Coarse sea salt, for serving
- Cilantro leaves, for serving
- In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush.
- Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
- Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups water to the pot. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can let soup cool slightly then purée it in batches in a food processor or blender.) If necessary, return the puréed soup to the heat to warm through. Stir in the lemon zest and juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.
5.) Garlic Soup
Serves: 4 Time: 30 mins
While the name might not sound so appetizing, this soup is absolutely delicious and one of the best soups when sick. This recipe is based on a traditional Provencalesoup made from classic kitchen staples like, pasta, eggs, garlic, cheese and whatever greens you happen to have on hand. Feel free to adapt the recipe to similar ingredients you might already have at home.
- 4 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 garlic clove, cut in half
- Salt to taste (about 2 tsp.)
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup pasta, such as elbow macaroni, orecchiette or fusilli
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 4 slices country-style bread, cut in half, or 8 slices baguette, lightly toasted
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Ground pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 to 3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
- Bring 6½ cups water to a boil in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add minced garlic, salt, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and adjust salt. Remove bay leaf, and fresh thyme sprigs, if using. (Dried thyme will be difficult to remove.)
- Add pasta to pot. Stir, cover and simmer until al dente, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on pasta type. Stir from time to time so that pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add peas and simmer 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rub toasted bread slices with cut garlic clove and place 2 pieces in each bowl.
- Beat together eggs and olive oil. Temper the egg: Spoon 2 ladlefuls of the hot soup into eggs and stir together.
- Turn off heat under soup and slowly stir in tempered egg mixture. Add pepper and parsley. Ladle soup into bowls over bread, sprinkle cheese over the top and serve.
For more delicious recipes, try making the Top 5 Gluten Free Desserts from Bon Appetit!