Spiked with chilies and brightened with cilantro and a squeeze of lime, this ginger chicken soup is packed with flavor. It's also a cinch to make, using leftover rice, ground chicken, broth, and herbs.
What is it?
This recipe for Ginger Chicken Soup takes its inspiration from the Thai dish Kao Tom Gai - a chicken and rice soup seasoned with lemongrass, lime, cilantro roots and leaves, galangal as well as other ingredients.
In this version, you'll start by cooking ground chicken with garlic, shallots, and green onions before simmering it with broth and then serving it over rice and fresh herbs and chilies, with a squeeze of lime juice. It's a soup that's simple to make, flavor-forward, and delicious.
What's in it?
The ingredients for the soup are fairly straightforward: chicken, plenty of ginger, broth, rice, and loads of green onions, shallots, garlic, and other spices. These ingredients not only lend big flavor to a soup that's so simple to make, but they're also rich in various phytonutrients that help combat inflammation and support health.
- Alliums including garlic, shallots, and green onion give the soup a decided robust, round flavor. They complement the savory aspects of broth. They're also rich in many highly anti-inflammatory compounds linked to the prevention of chronic disease (1).
- Ground chicken gives the recipe a savory note, and plenty of protein. Make sure to cook it thoroughly, but lightly and avoid browning the meat for the best flavor.
- Ginger has a fiery flavor touched with floral notes. Like many herbs, it's rich in various compounds that combat inflammation and supports blood sugar balance (2). It's traditionally used to soothe the stomach (3)
- Chicken broth is richly savory, and, when made well, it's also an excellent source of gelatin which is rich in protein.
- Chilies give the soup a fiery heat that complements the chili. Since they're added toward to the very end of cooking, right as you're about to serve it so you can adjust the heat as you like it.
- Cilantro is a sharp-tasting herb that is rich in polyphenols. These bioactive compounds contribute to the herb's reputation as an anti-inflammatory. It's traditionally used to support digestion as well as relax the nerves. Research has focused on its combat inflammation, support blood sugar balance, and support the heart (4).
- Lime lends a citrusy acidity that helps to balance out the other herbs and the savory notes of broth. It's also a good source of vitamin C.
Ginger Chicken Soup Recipe
- 4 medium green onions
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
- 12 ounces ground chicken
- 1 medium shallot (sliced thin)
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 6 cups chicken broth
- finely ground real salt (as needed)
- 1 ½ cups cooked rice
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 medium lime (quartered)
- 2 medium serrano chilies (sliced thin)
- crushed red pepper (as needed)
Prepping the green onions
- Slice the green onions thinly, separating the white and light green parts into two bowls. Set aside on the counter while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Starting the soup
- Warm the avocado oil in the bottom of a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the ground chicken to the pot, and break it up using the edge of a wooden spoon. Cook until opaque, but not browned.
- Add the white and light-green parts of the green onion, as well as the shallot, garlic, and ginger to the chicken.
- Next, pour in the chicken broth, and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high until it begins to boil, and then turn it down to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through. Adjust seasoning with salt.
Serving the soup
- Spoon the rice into individual bowls, pour the soup over the rice. Garnish with cilantro, lime, serrano chilies, crushed red pepper, and reserved green onions as it suits you.
- Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Swap ground turkey for the chicken. It works just as well and has a deeper flavor.
Add galangal. Galangal is a root vegetable closely related (and similar in flavor) to ginger. You can find fresh galangal at many well-stocked grocers, especially those specializing in Asian cuisine. Dried galangal is available in spice shops as well as online.
Add lemongrass. Lemongrass has a bright, sweet citrusy flavor that works well with ginger and lime. You can find fresh lemongrass in the herb section of most grocery stores. Mince it or slice it thinly before adding it to the pot with ginger, garlic, and shallot.
Add turmeric and coconut milk. Turmeric is a root vegetable closely related to ginger. You can add freshly grated ginger to the soup along with ginger, shallots, and garlic.
The phytonutrients in turmeric, namely curcumin, are fat-soluble which means they're best absorbed with dietary fat, so adding about ½ cup coconut milk to the soup can help both balance the flavor and make those compounds more bio-available.
Swap the serranos for another chili. Sliced jalapeño, Thai chilies, and Scotch bonnets work well. Use whichever chilies are available in your local market.
If you don't care for cilantro, try using Thai basil or mint instead.
The finished soup will keep about 5 days in the refrigerator. To prevent the rice from getting soft and soggy, store the cooked rice separately from the soup, adding it only when you plan to serve it.
Yes. Cook the soup as you normally would (steps 1 - 3), and then allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Thaw and then warm on the stove, adding fresh herbs, chilies, and cooked rice just before serving.
Try these nourishing soups next
- Zeng, Yawen et al. “Therapeutic Role of Functional Components in Alliums for Preventive Chronic Disease in Human Being.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017
- Mahluji, Sepide et al. “Effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on plasma glucose level, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition vol. 64,6 (2013): 682-6.
- Sahib, Najla Gooda et al. “Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.): a potential source of high-value components for functional foods and nutraceuticals--a review.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 27,10 (2013): 1439-56.