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Fragrant Lebanese Chicken Soup Recipe

I know this is a food blog and that I’m a food person and that we all agree on how much we love to cook and eat. But I’ve got to admit: I haven’t been feeling great lately, and it has to do with food. Can’t eat much, don’t feel like eating much, and when I do I wish I hadn’t.

A telltale sign that I’m not 100% has taken place time and again when I’ve been downstate visiting and have ventured over to Woody’s for a bite to eat. I usually have to have kibbeh in some form, and if it’s Tuesday or Thursday, I have to have it raw. Lately though, no. I don’t want the kibbeh and I don’t want the hummus. I just want a soft, gentle bowl of Lebanese chicken soup. I’ll buy a big container of my soup because I know that come tonight, and then again tomorrow, that’s probably all I’m going to want to eat.

I’m afraid of sounding like I’m elderly before my time by complaining of my ailments, so let’s just say I’ve had a few doctor’s appointments and there’s nothing wrong that’s going to take me out of it any time soon, thanks God. I just have to listen to my own self when it says to eat soft, and take heed.

Chicken soup has never excited me much, but now that I’m eating more than my share of it, I’ve taken a renewed interest. My addiction to Woody’s chicken soup got me thinking about making my own when Woody’s is nowhere to be found up north here, and wondering what exactly goes into their special broth.

I went right up to Chuck at Woody’s and said I know I taste our favorite flavor maker in there…I know I taste cinnamon. You got it, he said, good job. The “good job” told me I was going to have to guess, and figure it out for myself. But what else? He didn’t say much. I’ve scoured my cookbooks and had other talks with other Lebanese cooks, and discovered that he didn’t say much because the soup is always pretty simple, and differs slightly depending on whose making it.

The best chicken soups are for me purist in their make-up: I love a flavorful broth; some clean, lovely pieces of chicken; a few good noodles. That’s it. No carrots or celery or anything else, though I like their flavor imparted from mirepoix. If I could get the owner of Jesperson’s in Petoskey to reveal his chicken soup recipe, I’d be making that one with a cinnamon stick and a handful of parsley for Lebanese flavor. Of course I did ask once how he does it, and I got an awkward hesitation that I talked over to alleviate.

Lebanese chicken soup is fragrant with cinnamon, hefted up with little pieces of vermicelli, and finished with the super-fresh flavor of flat-leaf parsley. It’s the kind of soup that’s going to be your go-to all winter long—for warming, and healing, power.

Lebanese Chicken Soup with Vermicelli

The beauty of this soup is in its simplicity. The flavor of the chicken shines through and is complemented with fragrant cinnamon. You can use orzo instead of the vermicelli, but don’t skip out on the fresh parsley before serving, as it contributes such a lovely layer of fresh taste and color.

One 3-4 pound chicken, cut into parts, or bone-in breasts
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped in 2” pieces
1 celery stalk, chopped in 2” pieces
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole white peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 cup vermicelli noodles broken into 1” lengths
Salt and pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

In a large stock or soup pot, place the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover with cold water by 2 inches (about 9 cups). Bring just to a boil over high heat, but not a rolling boil (that will cloud the broth), then reduce heat to low (just hot enough to make slow, lazy bubbles). Skim the surface of the broth frequently with a spoon or skimming sieve frequently to remove all foam.

Simmer the broth, uncovered, for about two hours. Remove the chicken and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Pour the broth through a fine mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth into a bowl. Refrigerate the broth until the fat has solidified, a few hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the bones and shred into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Skim the fat from the surface of the broth and heat to boiling in a saucepan. Add the chicken and vermicelli and cook until the pasta is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (it will take plenty, since the broth is made without any salt). Serve in warmed bowls topped with the parsley. Makes 6-8 servings.

Print this recipe here.

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  1. Roger Toomey on October 18, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I’ve seen the Lebanese put cinnamon and allspice in nearly everything, but never had it in soup. (The only Lebanese twist this is missing is a little nutmeg.) With the weather outside today this might be a good time to try it.

  2. Peggy Fox on October 18, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    There is a 4lb chicken in my fridge waiting to become Lebanese Chicken Soup. Thank you so much for this recipe. I adore chicken soup and will make this asap. Love your chocolate chip cookie recipe as well as the lemon salad dressing that I crave constantly. Was in France recently and couldn’t wait to get back and make a salad of cukes, romaine and your salad dressing!
    I hope you feel better and are enjoying this knockout midwest fall we are having.

  3. Tom on October 18, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    Beautiful photos as always. I’m sure the opening shot of the bowl of steaming chicken soup in itself has medicinal properties. I’ll probably still get a flu shot, but I’m saving a link to this photo for whenever I feel I’m “coming down with something.”

  4. Vicky Woeste on October 18, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Cannot wait to try this!!

  5. Julia on October 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Wow this looks good! So warm and comforting. Definitely on my list to try.

  6. Gregory Jarous Lawrenceville GA on October 18, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    This soup sounds wonderful can’t wait to try it. But i am eating kibbeh as i read this had raw for dinner last night, and eating the baked today. Thanks cousin.

  7. Vicky Woeste on October 21, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    So I made the soup over the weekend, and as I was working on a lemon meringue pie for Keith tonight, the flavors sort of merged in my head. I put a bowl of lemon wedges and a container of lubben on the table with the soup, and we added about a tsp. of lemon juice and a dollop of lubben to our bowls. It was fantastic. The kids loved the cinnamon/chicken combination. Definitely will become a go-to menu item in our house. Thanks, cousin. Love.

    • Maureen Abood on October 21, 2012 at 7:45 PM

      Love all of that, Vicky! Delicious!

  8. David Samara on August 18, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    My mother (2nd gen.) always added a bit of cinnamon to her chicken soup and I do too, though not in the quantity you use, just enough to have a fleeting hit of some unnamed flavor profile.I never realized this was a Lebanese thing, though I should have realized since cinnamon shows up everywhere. I would suggest that you begin your soup with the chicken brought to a boil and simmered lightly for only 20″ until just safely cooked. I then pull it out, cool slightly and remove the meat (so it doesn’t dry out for the 2 hrs!) I then throw the bones and fat back into the pot and simmer that for two hours then discard the boiled vegetables and detritus.When I am ready to add fresh veggies or whatever, I put the meat back in and it remains juicy.–A bit of a pain , but if food isn’t love, what is?

  9. jean cornell on April 14, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    please send me your recipe for your lemon salad dressing. just found your recipe for leb. chicken soup….can’t wait to try it! Thanks

    • Maureen Abood on April 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      That’s great Jean–such a delicious soup. The recipe for the vinaigrette is here.

  10. Jeanne Abood Sousa on September 14, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    I was excited to find your website. I, of course, love Lebanese food. And when I saw your comment about raw kibbeh, I knew what you know! My brother and I start to droll just talking about it. I am looking forward to exploring your recipes and your blog. Thanks!
    P.S. Love your last name! Maybe we are cousins?

  11. Stephanie on December 2, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Love this! 🙂 Childhood memories. My mum would also add pine nuts and a squeeze of Lemon to tase – Delicisious and warming,

  12. Jennifer Attallah on February 8, 2016 at 12:50 PM

    Hi Maureen, thanks for the recipe! I’m writing from Palestine, and trying to make myself this soup but was halfway through before I saw your particular recipe. Can you help – I strain for broth, but then do I keep some of the broth to keep cooking the chicken, veggies and pasta / rice in? I’m lost, help! 🙂

    • Maureen Abood on February 8, 2016 at 2:40 PM

      Hi Jennifer–yes, strain the broth, then use it to cook the fresh veggies and pasta or rice, adding shredded chicken as well!

  13. Christina Shape on March 2, 2016 at 7:46 AM

    Hi Maureen,

    I can’t find whole white peppercorns at our stores here, but I have ground white pepper in my pantry-should I use that to add to the broth later??
    Also, are allspice “berries” just whole allspice??

    • Maureen Abood on March 2, 2016 at 9:47 PM

      Hi Christine–ground spices don’t work as well in a broth; they make it cloudy. I’d skip the pepper in that case. And yes, those are whole allspice!

  14. Joseph Kiewra on November 13, 2018 at 6:10 PM

    WOW! this will be a new favorite. Used orzo and I also put in some spinach because my wife likes spinach in soup. It was fantastic. So rich.

    • Maureen Abood on November 14, 2018 at 1:15 PM

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this soup as much as we do! Spinach is a great idea. I’ll try it!

  15. Lucas on March 19, 2020 at 6:31 PM

    It’s a rainy day over here! This sounds like the perfect soup for tonight. Thank you for sharing!

    • Maureen Abood on March 26, 2020 at 7:24 AM

      Lucas, perfect soup for a rainy day! Good for the mind, body, soul!

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Maureen Abood in the kitchen

I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

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