Chicken Kale Soup
This chicken kale soup recipe is your one-pot solution to holiday leftovers and kitchen scraps! This chicken and kale soup recipe combines leftover chicken or turkey with staple pantry ingredients like carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and kale for maximum flavor and nutrition.
This classic winter dish is so nourishing and comforting, plus it’s super convenient and easy to make. With colder weather rolling in, be sure to check out my Instant Pot Chinese chicken soup for more winter goodness!
I created this creamy chicken kale soup recipe as a way to use Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers and kitchen scraps—though I make it all year round! The goal here is convenience and comfort. All ingredients are pantry staples that you likely have on hand.
- Shredded chicken or turkey: You can use boneless skinless chicken breast, skinless chicken thighs, or both. I use leftover meat after I’ve cooked my maple roasted spatchcock chicken or herb roasted spatchcock chicken recipes.
- Carrots, celery, yellow onion, and garlic cloves: These ingredients form a flavorful foundation for the soup. Dice into similar bite-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- Cremini or baby bella mushrooms: Sliced. If you don’t like mushrooms, you can skip them.
- Fresh thyme: Finely chopped thyme adds a nice fragrance to the soup.
- Curly kale: You can also use chard or Lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale). Remove the stems, chop the kale, and be sure to give the leaves a good rinse.
- Olive oil: We use this to saute.
- Turkey bacon: You can also use hickory smoked pork bacon. I prefer turkey because it’s less greasy. Bacon is a key flavor ingredient for this dish, so don’t skip it!
- Chicken stock: Or chicken broth.
- Salt and black pepper: To taste
- Chopped parsley: Used as an optional garnish for freshness.
- Cassava flour: A neutral-flavored gluten-free flour used to thicken the soup.
- Coconut cream: I use full-fat cream, stirred well, to give the soup a creamy flavor and texture. It’s a great dairy-free alternative to milk or heavy cream.
Substitutions and variations
- Broth: Use homemade if you have it. This Instant Pot bone broth works great. Or use the leftover bones and carcass from your Thanksgiving turkey to make your own turkey stock.
- Add noodles: For chicken noodle kale soup, use shirataki noodles or kelp noodles for low carb, or rice noodles instead. See our “Types of Chinese Noodles” guide for more noodle variety ideas.
- Cassava flour is the most similar to regular wheat flour. You can also use any gluten-free flour blend. Tapioca starch, arrowroot, or potato starch will thicken the soup but alter the flavor.
- Vegetables: Try adding broccoli, cauliflower florets, or zucchini for different vegetable options. You can also add some bay leaves to the broth for added flavor.
- For a vegetarian healthy kale soup, use cannellini beans for protein. Blend half a can of white beans and stir into the soup. You can also add white or sweet potatoes to bulk it up.
- Pops of citrus flavor: Garnish the soup with lemon wedges on the side to brighten the flavor with a touch of fresh lemon juice.
- Creamer type: Instead of coconut cream, you can use half-and-half or a smaller amount of heavy cream.
- Low carb: For fewer carbohydrates, simply skip adding any flour or starch thickener. The soup still tastes great without it.
How to make chicken kale soup
This chicken soup kale recipe is great because it’s so versatile and comes together so quickly. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients (use whatever you have on hand!) making the soup is a breeze. Here are the instructions for this healing and nourishing kale and chicken soup:
- Prep: Shred the cooked chicken. Dice the carrots, celery, onion, and slice the garlic and mushrooms. Finely chop fresh thyme. Remove the kale stems, chop, and rinse.
- Cook the bacon: Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven or a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove and set aside. Reserve 2 tbsp bacon fat in the pan.
- Sauté the aromatics: Add garlic and onion to the pot with bacon fat and cook over medium heat. Season with a pinch of salt. Add carrots and celery and another pinch of salt, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mushroom and thyme and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute.
- Let simmer: Add chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer until the veggies are tender but not mushy.
- Make a slurry: Mix cassava flour and coconut milk in a bowl.
- Finish: Stir in the shredded chicken and kale. Simmer for a few minutes until the kale leaves soften. Pour in the slurry and keep stirring until the soup thickens (about 1-2 minutes).
- Serve: Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with parsley and crumbled bacon.
Note: When making soups with kale, I add the greens toward the end of cooking so they keep some texture and vibrant color. If you prefer very soft greens, add the kale after the broth simmers. Simmer the greens longer to make them softer.
How to make ahead, store, and reheat
This chicken soup recipe with kale is a convenient way to use up leftover chicken and clear out vegetables from your fridge. If you don’t have leftovers to use, you can definitely prepare the meat ahead of time.
- Make-ahead: Cook and shred the chicken up to 3-4 days in advance. Try this air fryer whole chicken for an easy recipe. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Storage: Refrigerate the soup for 3 to 4 days after cooking. Because there’s milk in the broth, it shouldn’t be stored much longer than that. You can freeze the soup for up to 1 month.
- Reheat: Warm up the soup on a stovetop or microwave.
What to serve with kale chicken soup
Enjoy this chicken (noodle) soup with kale on its own or pair it with your favorite salad and vegetables on the side.
- Kale sides: Keeping on theme, you can up your kale intake with this garlicky sauteed lacinato kale recipe. Or try this delightful Paleo kale salad with avocado, snow peas, and hemp seeds.
- Potatoes and squash: Baked sweet potatoes with miso butter or roasted delicata squash topped with cranberry and cinnamon are perfect for fall and winter meals. Air fryer zucchini and squash with parmesan is another easy yet nourishing option!
- More seasonal veggies: This sauteed cauliflower and mushroom recipe is garlicky and caramelized to perfection. It’s a beautiful holiday dish that’s easy to make any time!
Tips for success
- Make the Most of the Bacon: Be sure to cook the bacon until nice and crispy. Use the bacon fat to build savory flavor into the soup base. You can use turkey bacon or regular bacon.
- Chop and Prep the Veggies Well: Dice the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and mushrooms into uniform pieces. This ensures everything cooks evenly.
- Use Homemade Stock for Flavor Depth: For the absolute best flavor, use homemade chicken or turkey stock if you have it available. The homemade stock makes a big difference.
- Add Greens Right Before Serving: Mix in the kale at the very end, right before serving. This keeps the greens tender and vibrant rather than mushy and dull.
- Mix the Thickener Smoothly: Make sure to thoroughly whisk the cassava flour into the coconut milk before adding it to the soup. This prevents any clumping.
- Taste and Season Thoughtfully: Be sure to taste the soup and properly season with salt, and pepper to get the flavors just right.
- Garnish with Fresh Herbs and Bacon: Finish the soup with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and parsley plus crumbled bacon pieces. This adds texture and makes the presentation pop.
Kale can become bitter if overcooked, so it’s best to add kale in chicken soup at the end to preserve texture and flavor. Briefly cooking the hearty greens keeps their fresh, green taste without any unpleasant bitterness.
Add richness to the chicken soup by using homemade or bone broths, cooking bacon until crispy, sautéing aromatics in the bacon fat, and finishing with cream or coconut milk. These techniques add savory depth and silky texture.
Curly kale and lacinato kale are the best varieties of soup. They hold up well to cooking and match the texture of other vegetables. The curly leaves give more body and substance compared to delicate baby kale
Yes, frozen kale can be used to make this creamy chicken and kale soup. Thaw it first and squeeze out excess moisture before adding it to the pot near the end. The frozen kale may take a bit longer to wilt, but works well and still retains its color and texture.
More soup recipes using cooked chicken
If you enjoy the ease and convenience of this kale chicken soup recipe, give some of my other soup recipes with leftover cooked chicken a try!
Chicken kale soup recipe
- 2-3 cups shredded chicken, or turkey
- 1.5 cup diced carrots
- 1.5 cup diced celery
- 1.5 cups diced yellow onion
- 5-6 clove garlic, sliced
- 8 oz. cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- Large handful Curly kale, or green chard, lacinato kale
- 0.5 tbsp olive oil
- 5 slices of turkey bacon, or hickory smoked pork bacon
- 32 oz. chicken stock.
- 1 tsp coarse salt, or to taste
- Ground black pepper , to taste
- Small handful Chopped parsley, garnish
- 4 tbsp cassava flour
- 1 cup full fat coconut cream, stir well
- Prep: Shred the cooked chicken and set aside. Dice the carrots, celery, onion, and slice the garlic and mushrooms. Finely chop fresh thyme. Remove kale leaves from the stems and roughly chop them. Rinse and set aside to drain.
- Cook bacon: Preheat a large dutch oven or a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, when hot, add the oil and the bacon and cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside. Reserve 2 tbsp bacon fat in the pan.
- Sauté aromatics: Reheat the pot with bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Season with a pinch of salt and saute until the onion sweats a bit. Add carrots and celery and another pinch of salt, sauté for, 2 minutes. Add the mushroom and thyme, sauté until fragrant, 1 minute.
- Simmer soup: Add chicken stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover and cook until tender but not mushy.
- Set aside thickner: In a bowl, whisk cassava flour and coconut milk until smooth.
- Finish: Add shredded chicken and kale. Stir the pot to incorporate the ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes until the kale leaves soften but not mushy. To thicken the soup, stir in coconut milk mixture. Keep stirring until the soup thickens, about 1-2 minutes.
- Serve: Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and crumbled bacon.
- When making soups with kale, I add the greens toward the end of cooking so they keep some texture and vibrant color. If you prefer very soft greens, add the kale after the broth simmers. Simmer the greens longer to make them softer.
- Cassava flour provides the most similar taste and thickness as regular wheat flour. You can also use any gluten-free flour blend. Tapioca starch, arrowroot, or potato starch will thicken the soup but alter the flavor.
- Vegetables: Try adding broccoli or cauliflower florets for different vegetable options.
- For a vegetarian version, blend half a can of white beans and stir into the soup. You can also add potatoes.
- Creamer type: Instead of coconut cream, you can use half-and-half or a smaller amount of heavy cream.
- Low carb: If you want a low carb soup, simply skip adding any flour or starch thickener entirely. The soup still tastes great without it.
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