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Whether it’s a creamy chicken noodle or hearty bean stew, we all have that one soup recipe we play on repeat once temperatures begin to drop. For Yumna Jawad, the creative talent behind the brand Feel Good Foodie, cozy sweater season wouldn’t be complete without a big ol’ bowl of slow cooker chicken soup (aka, the best food to eat when you’re sick). More specifically, her delicious Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup recipe.

Think of this recipe as the spicy upgrade to your go-to chicken soup, made with warming spices like chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Plus a few delicious nutrient-rich fruits and veggies like jalapeños, tomatoes, black beans, and corn. One of the benefits of cooking this comfort food from scratch? You can make this set-it-and-forget it recipe with just a few hours of hands-off cooking, or by using the pressure cooking feature in your Instant Pot to get dinner on the table in under an hour. Ahead, we’re coming in hot with slow cooker chicken soup tips to start your year off on a cozy note.

Why making soup in a multi-cooker makes things easy 

According to Jawad, making soup is easy, but it all boils down to enlisting the help of the right kitchen equipment. In other words: a handy-dandy Instant Pot. “I love cooking soup in the Instant Pot because it allows me the flexibility to prep it ahead and serve it later. Whether you cook under pressure, or use the slow cooker function, once the soup is finished cooking, the IP will keep it safely warm for hours. Plus, you only have one pot to wash,” Jawad says. Thanks to this trusty kitchen workhorse, you’re able to whip together a delicious soup recipe that requires hands-free cooking 99 percent of the time.

Slow cooker tips

In a pinch, Jawad uses the “pressure cooker” mode on her Instant Pot to get dinner on the table even faster. However, when time is on your side, slow cooking the soup will help the flavors slowly meld together for maximum tastiness. When making her famous chicken tortilla soup (get the full recipe here), she simply tosses everything into the machine—except for the tortilla strips, beans, corn, and toppings—and sets it to cook on “low” for six to eight hours (or on “high” for three to four hours). Once the cooking time is complete she shreds the chicken, adds the beans and corn, and lets it cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, while she crisps the tortilla strips in the oven. The result? “Ultimate comfort food with a kick,” Jawad says.

Pressure cooker tips

When pressed for time, pressure cooking is the way to go. However, to up the umami flavor of the recipe, Jawad suggests always using—whether pressure or slow cooking—the “sauté” function to promote the Maillard reaction (browning of the food) that yields a more complex, delicious dish. “It’s a great way to develop flavor or even sear off items like chicken or beef before using the pressure or slow cook feature,” Jawad says.

So, does soup taste better in a slow cooker? Perhaps; but Jawad says you can always apply a hybrid cooking method and reap the best of both worlds by slow and pressure cooking the soup. “Sometimes I cook part of a recipe under pressure, then switch over to slow cooking to keep it warm or further develop flavors in something like stew.” This helps save time, while still yielding equally flavorful results. For more Instant Pot tips and tricks, Jawad says to check visit her website for a comprehensive Instant Pot guide.

8 key ingredients for making slow cooker chicken soup

Whether it be a delicious chicken tortilla soup you’re making, or another classic chicken noodle soup, Jawad says there are eight key ingredients to form the foundation of a delicious, well-balanced dish. These include:

  • A protein source: Chicken, specifically tender thighs, which helps infuse the broth with deep, rich flavor and is very easy to shred once cooked. (BTW, there’s no need for washing chicken before tossing it in, health experts say.) That said, if you want to go meatless, all good—you can also use tofu or beans. “For a vegetarian option, firm tofu or even extra beans can be a great substitute for chicken. Tofu soaks up all those yummy flavors,” she says.
  • Vegetables: Onions, carrots, and celery ensure a flavorful and aromatic foundation for the broth.
  • Noodles (or other starchy ingredient): Egg noodles are a classic pasta to use when making chicken soup, or tortillas when it comes to making tortilla soup.
  • Bay leaves: This leaf adds a unique depth and complexity to the broth.
  • Salt and pepper: These seasonings extract maximum flavor during simmering.
  • Seasonings: Minced garlic and oregano can elevate a soup’s flavor profile.
  • Butter: Sautéing the veggies in butter releases their natural sugars, enhancing their flavor.
  • Garnishes: Fresh parsley offers a herby touch, while lemon (or lime) juice adds a refreshing tang to each bowl.

Homemade chicken soup 101

What’s the best way to serve chicken soup? Jawad typically likes to keep it simple and pairs a bowl of soup with options like a refreshing garden salad, grilled cheese, slice of homemade rosemary focaccia.

What’s the best way to store chicken soup? Once the chicken noodle soup has cooled completely, transfer it to an airtight container. If you’re anticipating longer storage, consider keeping the noodles separate to prevent them from becoming soggy, Jawad says.

What’s the easiest way to reheat chicken soup? For the best texture, Jawad advises that you reheat the soup on the stovetop. “Pour your desired serving into a pot and heat over medium until simmering. If you’ve stored the noodles separately, add them in the last few minutes to warm through without overcooking.”

How long will chicken soup last in the fridge? When properly stored in an airtight container, classic chicken noodle soup should remain fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator.

Can you freeze chicken soup? You bet. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover soup, Jawad says you can certainly freeze it for up to two to three months. (Just don’t forget to label and date it!) “For the best results, consider freezing the soup without the noodles, as they can turn mushy upon reheating. Once the soup has cooled, pour it into freezer-safe containers, leaving about an inch for expansion,” she says. Pro tip: when ready to enjoy, thaw it in the fridge overnight, and prepare fresh noodles to add upon reheating.

Boost your immunity with this vitamin-rich soup:

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