One of the best things I’ve found when a cold or flu knocks me flat is spicy, flavorful soup. This immune-boosting chicken soup is perfect for clearing out sinuses and soothing a scratchy, sore throat.
I don’t know about you, but I get bored of traditional chicken soup with celery and carrots. I want more flavor.
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I love when chicken soup has more of an Asian vibe – garlic and ginger, a (little) punch of heat, and the zing of lime. Plus, I know these ingredients add more than tastiness; they make the soup better for you too.
And while I always scour the internet for the perfect chicken noodle soup, I never find quite what I’m wanting. So I finally broke down and made my own recipe.
All the ingredients that make this soup so tasty also serve to make it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In fact, some of these ingredients can even reduce the length of a cold.
And in case you or your family have food sensitivities, this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free too.
We’ll talk about why all the ingredients in this flu-buster soup are so great for your immune system. If you’d rather jump straight to the recipe, click here.
Benefits of chicken soup for a cold or flu
Did you know that chicken soup has been scientifically shown to help with upper respiratory infections? It’s true!
Drinking hot liquids helps thin nasal mucus. In particular, the steam opens up nasal passages and provides relief for congestion.
But chicken soup is superior to many liquids for a cold. A study from 1978 showed that chicken soup did a better job of thinning nasal mucus than just drinking hot water.
And an updated study in 2000 showed that chicken soup affects white blood cell movement and has medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties.
One thing to keep in mind: These studies found that the benefit varied widely between different commercial soup brands (unfortunately, they didn’t tell us which brand was the winner). My suggestion is to make your own stock for this soup.
But don’t worry: You don’t have to cook up a batch of bone broth when you have the flu. Just make stock or broth anytime you have leftover chicken parts (after you roast a chicken, for example) using this recipe. Then, freeze the stock. You’ll be prepared anytime you want to make chicken soup.
RELATED: Easy chicken stock and bone broth
Benefits of garlic for the common cold
This soup is packed with garlic. That’s partially because it tastes awesome, but it’s also because garlic is known to help shorten the common cold. The sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin in garlic are both antiviral and antimicrobial.
Benefits of ginger for the flu
Have you ever put ginger in chicken soup? If not, you should try it. Minced ginger adds a unique spice to your soup that gives an Asian flair to this recipe.
Plus, it’s good for sore throats. Ginger reduces inflammation in scratchy, irritated throats.
Ginger is helpful for nausea too. So if you have the flu or a stomach bug and aren’t ready for “real food” yet, soaking a few crushed slices of ginger in chicken broth and then drinking it is a good way to stay hydrated and start towards eating again (I do this any time I have a stomach virus).
Benefits of turmeric
Turmeric, due to the molecule curcumin, has all sorts of benefits, including being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial.
Plus, turmeric adds a rich golden color to your chicken broth.
Do you have to have an Instant Pot to make this Asian chicken soup?
While this recipe says for you to make your soup in an Instant Pot, you don’t have to. If you don’t have an Instant Pot (although I super suggest you get one because it’s so helpful), you can just use a large pot.
After sautéing, you’ll need to boil the ingredients for at least 45 minutes before adding the noodles (optional) and greens. This will allow the chicken to cook through and the soup base to extract flavor from the garlic, ginger, and onions.
The best benefits of chicken soup for a cold or flu
While all of these ingredients are great, they’re not magic. Most of the studies cited give people much larger doses of garlic or ginger than you’d ever find in a bowl or two of soup.
The most important way to get better from a cold or the flu is through rest and hydration. Here’s what the scientific journal CHEST said about the benefit of chicken soup for upper respiratory illnesses in 2020:
Of course, chicken soup has benefits beyond its potential medicinal value. Chicken soup, often made by a lengthy and loving process, can provide real psychosocial support.CHEST, Volume 158, Issue 3
In other words, just being present with someone and providing them a meal is one of the best things you can do for them when they’re sick. I hope this recipe makes fixing someone soup a little easier.
Immune boosting Asian Chicken Soup recipe
Notes: I prefer chicken thighs for this soup, but breasts will work fine. Bone-in chicken will give the best flavor, just remove the bones (and skin) after cooking the chicken, before shredding.
Using homemade chicken stock will give you the tastiest soup if you have it. Here’s my recipe for homemade stock and bone broth.
Can’t find bok choy? You can use whatever green you prefer, including savoy cabbage, spinach, or kale.
Easier option: Feeling too crappy to cook chicken? You can save yourself some time and effort by using rotisserie chicken. Just boil the soup base for about 10-15 minutes without the chicken and add it in afterwards.
- 1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs (can use breasts)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 serrano pepper (can sub jalapeño or other chili pepper), chopped
- 1 large knob ginger, minced (1-2 Tbsp)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 Tbsp turmeric
- 1 lime
- 6 cups chicken stock or bone broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 head bok choy, chopped
- 1/2 bunch parsley or cilantro (or 2 tsp dried if you don’t have fresh)
- 4-8 oz stir-fry rice noodles (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat up your Instant pot using the sauté function. Add the 1 Tbsp oil, and once it is hot, add chicken to the pan in one layer (cook it in batches if it won’t all fit at once). Make sure it’s skin-side down if there’s skin on the chicken.
While chicken is browning, zest the lime.
Let the chicken brown on all sides and then remove to plate. Add more oil if needed, then add the onion and serrano. Cook until softened, then add ginger and garlic. Cook for another 30 seconds. Finally, add the tumeric and cook for a final 30 seconds.
Pour in the chicken stock and nestle chicken thighs into the pot. Season stock with salt and pepper as needed. Add in the lime zest and bay leaf. Press Cancel to stop the sauté function, then press Manual and set your Instant Pot for 10 minutes on high. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to closed.
While the soup cooks, chop your bok choy and herbs.
After the Instant Pot’s timer is up, let it do a natural pressure release for 5 minutes before doing a quick release.
Remove the chicken from the pot. You can either shred it with two forks or dice it up with a knife on a cutting board (remove skin and/or bones first if you need to).
Hit Cancel on the IP and then turn it back to sauté. Let the soup return to boil, then add the noodles (if using) and cook according to package directions.
Add the shredded/diced chicken back to the pot, and then stir in the bok choy and herbs. Let the soup boil for about 2 minutes to soften the greens.
Check the seasoning once more and serve with lime wedges.