Soups to soothe what ails you

bowl of chicken noodle soup

Soup is the go-to home remedy for colds and flu, and when you’re sick, few things are more welcome. Soup will help you stay hydrated and provide the nourishment your immune system needs to fight the virus. And of course, the last thing you want to do when you have the flu is cook. Take our advice and make a pot of soup now and fill the freezer with serving-size containers that you can pop  into the microwave should you fall ill.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Unless you have a Jewish grandmother in your family or grew up making it by your mother’s side, you’ll need to make some curative chicken soup yourself. The recipe that best reflects the soup from my childhood around is How to Make Chicken Noodle Soup Without a Recipe on the Food 52 website.  Truly, a good homemade chicken soup is not much more than a chicken that’s been slowly poached in water or chicken broth with some aromatics, then strained and reconstituted with shreds of chicken, some carrots and celery, and a grind of pepper and salt to taste.

If you want more direction, Tyler Florence’s recipe for chicken noodle soup on the Food Network website provides details from making stock to assembling the soup. And there are videos.

In a pinch you can make a decent (pretty delicious) chicken soup poaching boneless chicken breasts in some canned or boxed chicken broth—we like Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth—with some sliced carrots and celery. Add a bay leaf, thyme, and parsley if you have them. Soup will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook noodles separately and add at the end; the choice of noodles is yours, but egg noodles are traditional.

bowl of chicken noodle soup
The author’s homemade chicken soup with kluski egg noodles.

Soupe aux Choux à la Rousse/Russian Cabbage Soup

Vegetable soups provide an alternative to chicken soup. This favorite old standard from La Bonne Soupe in New York City is a welcome winter meal whether you are suffering from flu or not.  This Russian-style cabbage soup includes sauerkraut, tomatoes, and raisins, with a dash of sugar and vinegar contributing to its sweet and sour character. It is both hearty and light and has a host of important nutrients.

According to, cabbage contains 20 calories per 100 g, and supplies 53 percent of the RDA of vitamin C. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, thought to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids, beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and potassium. Raisins are rich in dietary iron, an essential mineral your body requires daily to make proteins that transport oxygen to your body’s cells.

If the prospect of slicing a head of cabbage is the only thing standing between you and a steaming bowl of deliciousness, many grocers carry containers of shredded cabbage, right next to the zucchini noodles. When it’s ready to serve, the soup can be garnished with sour cream or plain yogurt.  If you are avoiding dairy, there are excellent nondairy yogurts.

The recipe for Soupe aux Choux à la Rousse is in the La Bonne Soupe Cookbook, available on, and online.

bowl of Soupe aux Choux a la Rouse, Russian cabbage coup
The author’s homemade Soupe aux Choux à la Rousse, topped with Stonyfield double cream yogurt

Soup is soul food.  Soup is comforting.  Soup makes you smile.  Soup makes you feel loved. When you are sick and people bring you soup, there is much more to the gesture than just the soup.  And beyond the emotion of soup, it is nourishing and feeding.

The comedian Henny Youngman used to tell this joke:

“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well.”

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