Mexican Chicken Soup is medicine for the body AND soul. This simple Caldo de Pollo recipe is perfect for weeknights, especially in the New Year when you’re juggling healthy living goals with a busy schedule.
The holidays are almost over — let’s not forget about Dia de Los Reyes. If you are in need of a big bowl of comfort, this homemade chicken soup is just what the doctor ordered. Filled with lean chicken, whole grain rice, and healthy vegetables, this caldo de pollo works wonders.
Why This Recipe Rocks
As a working mom, sometimes it is hard to balance responsibilities. Between deadlines, recipe testing, remote learning, laundry, and grocery shopping (AKA ordering groceries), I often feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day.
This classic Mexican chicken soup makes things easy on me. The ingredients are all kitchen staples, meaning I don’t have to make an extra run to the store. The active time is minimal, requiring just about five minutes of my time. And in less than an hour, I can have a hearty, healthy dinner on the table ready to feed my family.
This Mexican soup is healthy
This chicken soup is naturally low in fat and calories and a delicious healthy Mexican meal.
Caldo de pollo also happens to be my absolute favorite homemade remedy for a variety of winter ailments. Sniffles, headaches, and sore throats are no match for this delicious and healthy soup. Don’t believe me? Even medical professionals agree that this witchy brew has some potent (dare I say magical) healing properties.
Ingredients and Substitutions
If you’re someone who cooks often, I can almost guarantee that you already have many of the ingredients needed for this caldo de pollo recipe.
- Veggies: Let’s start with the veggies: you’ll need carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, garlic, and tomatoes. Root vegetables like onions, potatoes, and garlic are extremely easy to keep on hand at all times. Since they have a long shelf life if kept in a cool, dark environment, there’s no reason not to have them in your pantry during the winter months.
- Water: No need for store-bought chicken broth in this recipe, only water to make your own homemade chicken broth.
- Cilantro: As a Mexican cook, I also always have a bunch of earthy cilantro on hand. If you don’t care for cilantro, I don’t understand you, but I’m here for you all the same. Feel free to omit it or replace it with fresh parsley.
- Pantry staples: The remaining pantry ingredients are also quite simple to find: olive oil, long-grain rice, canned tomato sauce, and salt are all part of a well stocked pantry.
- Chicken: As a personal preference, Mexican chicken soup generally tastes best with skinless dark meat like drumsticks or thighs. If you are trying to adhere to a lower fat diet or you only have boneless, skinless breasts on hand, you can certainly make do.
- Azafran: The one caldo de pollo ingredient that you might not have on hand are safflower petals (azafran). Azafran (the Spanish word for saffron) is the stamen of the safflower, while saffron as we know it is the stamen of the crocus. A thistle-like herb with an orange-red color, it gives food an orange tinge and a heady, aromatic flavor that is hard to resist. This ingredient is very economical. It is not pricey saffron. If you can not find any, just leave it out.
- Lime: Finally, as with most of my favorite meals, I love to garnish this homemade chicken soup with a bright squeeze of fresh lime. While optional, they are definitely worth the extra dollar or two to keep on hand.
How to make Caldo de Pollo
This Mexican chicken soup recipe is fast and easy to put together. In a large (at least 10-quart) pot, put the water, chicken, salt, and garlic. Boil for 15 minutes. While the chicken and broth are cooking, start on your rice.
In a separate pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. This toasting step adds loads of flavor, but it is important to not to let it burn. Add the onion and continue cooking until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add tomato and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Stir this rice mixture into your boiling chicken pot.
Add carrots, celery, and potatoes to soup and let come to a boil; reduce heat. Let simmer until vegetables cook through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, cilantro, and safflower petals during the last 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls, top with your preferred garnishes, and enjoy!
Watch the video below to learn how quick and simple it is to make caldo de pollo. There is nothing like the magical healing powers of homemade soup to heal the body and soul.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I serve Caldo de Pollo?
As with many of my favorite dishes, I love to serve my caldo with corn tortillas. I also top mine with salsa casera and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. No salsa? Add some hot sauce for a bit of vinegary heat.
What are safflower petals (azafran)? Do I need them?
The exotic ingredient in this recipe is economical safflower petals (azafran). While it is not technically the same spice as pricey saffron, most people find the flavor profile similar. If you don’t have azafran on hand, but do have saffron, feel free to substitute 3 to 4 threads.
If you don’t have either, you can simply omit it.
Are there other things I can add to Mexican chicken soup?
Absolutely! One of my favorite things about soup is how easily customizable they are. First, feel free to add additional veggies. I love chayote, Mexican zucchini, and cabbage, but just about any veggies you have on hand will do beautifully.
Secondly, feel free to cut down on the carbs by omitting either the potatoes or the rice. You can also opt to sub in higher fiber brown rice to up the nutritional ante.
Finally, feel free to spice things up to your liking. Add some jalapeño slices to your veggie mix for some heat. Experiment with your toppings to get more oomph in the bowl.
How should I store this soup?
Proper food storage for your soup is essential to maintain the soup’s flavor and preserve the food quality. Homemade chicken soup will refrigerate, covered, for up to one week. It is also an excellent candidate for freezing and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
It freezes well in these plastic containers. Make a double batch and freeze half for later – that way, if you’re feeling under the weather but still need to feed the troops, you’re already covered. As a bonus, the soup will work its healing powers on you with no extra prep.
How do you reheat?
Reheat soup in the microwave or in a small saucepan on low heat.
Love Mexican Soups?
I have no doubt you’ll love this Mexican chicken soup, but here are more soups you may also like.
- Red Chicken Pozole
- Caldo de Res (Beef Soup)
- Veracruz-Style Cod
- Caldo de Pescado y Camaron (Fish and Shrimp Soup)
- Chicken Pozole Verde
- Red Pork and Hominy Stew (Pozole Rojo)
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)
Caldo de Pollo (Homemade Mexican Chicken Soup)
- 8 cups water
- 4 to 6 skinless chicken drumsticks or thighs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup long-grain rice
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 3 celery stalks, sliced
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon safflower petals, azafran
- Lime wedges
- In a large (at least 10-quart) pot, put the water, chicken, salt, and garlic. Boil for 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is boiling, in a separate pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Add onion and continue cooking until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add tomato and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add mixture to chicken pot.
- Add carrots, celery, and potatoes to soup and let come to a boil; reduce heat. Let simmer until vegetables cook through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add tomato sauce, cilantro, and safflower petals during the last 5 minutes.
- Feel free to add additional veggies like chayote, Mexican zucchini, and cabbage. This rustic soup is so delicious and customizable.
- Refrigerate, covered, for up to one week. It is also an excellent candidate for freezing and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
Originally published: December 2014. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.