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Chicken noodle soup taste test: Store-bought soups fall flat

You can cook a tastier one at home in just 15 minutes

Published: December 2013

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Bear Creek chicken noodle soup mix got our highest score, but the broth was too salty.

Chicken noodle soup sounds like a good idea on a bad day, but check our Ratings before you buy. None of the 11 tested soups is very good, and Pacific Natural, the priciest one at $1.63 per cup, tastes worst of all. (Its seasoning overwhelms the broth, and the pasta and vegetables are mushy.)

The other tested soups cost as little as 26 cents per serving, but each has something that keeps it from being very good: a taste of bouillon cube rather than real chicken stock; dry, spongy, or chewy chicken; or mushy pasta or vegetables. Bear Creek has firm noodles and tasty vegetables but salty, overseasoned broth; Campbell’s Homestyle has good broth but mushy carrots; Lipton has lots of noodles but just a few dry chicken bits.

These soups score fair to good for nutrition based on calories, fat, sodium, and other factors. Calories range from 60 to 120 per cup of prepared soup; sodium, from 410 to 940 milligrams (940 milligrams is almost half of the recommended daily limit for most people). Progresso Light tastes almost identical to Progresso Traditional, but that’s not surprising: They differ by only 30 calories and 1 gram of fat, and sodium content is the same for both.

Bottom line: Homemade soup or freshly made soup from a supermarket would taste far better than these. If convenience is key, read the Ratings before buying.

Homemade soup is better

This homemade soup, prepped in 15 minutes, tastes better than any we tested.
Photo: Linda Pugliese

With 15 minutes of prep time (an hour of total cooking), you can create a far better soup than any we tested. You can change our recipe easily, adding carrots, substituting chopped onions for shallots, or using rice instead of egg noodles. Yield: about 6½ cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast half, bone in, with skin (about ¾ lb.)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 cups water
  • 2½ cups ready-to-serve chicken broth or stock (Knorr Homestyle Stock gel was very good in our tests)
  • ½ cup finely diced celery
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. marjoram
  • ⅛ tsp. thyme
  • 3 oz. egg noodles, uncooked
  • Pinch black pepper

Place chicken skin side down in preheated 3-quart saucepan; brown over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken, reduce heat to low, add shallots, stir a minute or two. Don’t brown. Return chicken to pan, add remaining ingredients except for noodles, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-simmer, leave pan uncovered, cook 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken. Cool. Discard bones and skin. Dice chicken and return it to pan. (Soup can be refrigerated at this point.) Just before serving, return soup to a boil. Add noodles and cook until they’re done.

Editor's Note: This article appeared in January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

   

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