Ever since I had my first bowl of creamy chicken and wild rice soup, I was hooked. It’s creamy, rich, and loaded with two of my favorite foods – chicken and wild rice. What’s not to love?
Well, for starters, this soup is usually heavy on dairy (which I don’t tolerate well), and it can be pretty low on veggies. And then, it’s usually super high in calories and fat (because of all the added cream), which makes it more of an indulgent treat than a soup I should regularly eat. In an effort to be able to eat this soup I love more often, I’ve created a healthy version of Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup that is packed with veggies, doesn’t contain a drop of dairy and is still as comforting as I want.
I don’t know about you, but is anyone else as confused as I am about how to plan meals and figure out what to cook for dinner when the weather is as indecisive as my 4-year-old is when she’s choosing what to wear (I’m scared for what the teenage years will bring in that department!)? One day it’s cold, windy and snowing, and the next day we’re outside in shorts and tee shirts. Not that I’m complaining…I’ll take a warm day any time I get it, even if it means the next day is cold!
Because I know we’re still in for more cold days (it is only the beginning of March and winter is technically not over, after all!), I’m thinking there’s still time to make this Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup once more before the weather makes the decision to warm up for good (well, at least for the next half of the year!).
I said this soup is loaded with veggies, and here’s what I mean. This soup has parsnips, butternut squash, celery, and onion. While the celery and onion may be typical in chicken and wild rice soup, the parsnips and squash are an addition I made because I wanted to use vegetables to make the soup thick and creamy and because I love butternut squash and thought it would taste great here.
Do you cook with parsnips? If not, I’d highly recommend you give them a try. I add them to almost any soup or stew I make (try this Moroccan Spiced Lamb (or Pork) Stew if you need a recipe), but you can also make them into roasted parsnip fries, add them to mashed potatoes for a boost of nutrition, and puree them into a creamy soup like this Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Once they are tender, parsnips puree into a beautiful, silky smooth texture and, because they are white, can mimic the look and feel of a cream thickened soup rather well.
Besides being much lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to traditional chicken and wild rice soup recipes, this healthier version is high in the following beneficial nutrients:
- High Fiber: one serving of this soup contains 7 grams of fiber, which is one-fourth of the recommended intake for adults. While the wild rice does provide a good chunk of the fiber, most of the fiber comes from the parsnips and the squash. Another reason to love the addition of these veggies.
- High Vitamin A: Not surprisingly, this soup is high in Vitamin A thanks to the butternut squash. If you didn’t eat any other Vitamin A containing foods for the day, you would be A-OK, since a serving of this soup provides 145% of the recommended daily amount for an adult for this vitamin, which promotes good eye and skin health.
- High Niacin: What is niacin and why should I care, you ask? Niacin is a B Vitamin (B3, to be exact) that promotes a healthy cholesterol level in the body and can help lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It also plays an important role in healthy metabolism.
- High Pyridoxine: Again, while you may have never even heard of pyridoxine (another B Vitamin…this time B6), you feel its effects in your body every day. Like niacin, this vitamin plays an important role in metabolism, which, in simple terms, is the process the body uses to break down the food we eat and turn it into fuel for energizing the body. This vitamin also plays a key role in the production of hemoglobin, which lives in the blood and carries oxygen around the body so our cells can use it (for energy!).
A quick analysis of another popular, more traditional chicken and wild rice soup recipe gave these nutrition numbers (per serving): 732 cals, 53 g fat (yikes!), 32 g sat fat (yikes again!), 2 g fiber (not even close to the amount my version has!), and 1143 mg sodium (that’s almost as much as you should get in one whole day, which is not good!). See the difference? By taking out the cream and using vegetables to thicken the soup instead, as I’ve done in this Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, the numbers look SO MUCH BETTER!
Give it a try and see for yourself!
P.S. This Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is super low in fat (if you’re into that!) even if you use chicken thighs, which I recommend doing (I use half thighs and half chicken breast halves when I make this). Plus, did I mention it only contains 9 ingredients, besides the water, salt and pepper? Bonus!
- 8 cups homemade chicken broth or purchased reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ pound butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 5 parsnips (1 ½ pounds total), peeled and thinly sliced*
- 1 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (thighs or breast halves), skin removed
- 1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup water
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme or ¾ to 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- In a 4- to 6-quart pot bring broth to boiling. Set aside 2 cups of the squash for later. Add the rest of the squash to the broth. Add parsnips and chicken to broth. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are very tender and chicken is no longer pink (165°F). Transfer chicken pieces to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones; shred or chop the meat. Set aside.
- Using an immersion blender or regular blender**, puree the parsnip mixture until very smooth. Return pureed mixture to the pot if needed. Add wild rice and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 35 minutes.
- Add reserved squash pieces, the celery, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and dried thyme (if using) to the wild rice mixture. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice and vegetables are just tender. Stir in chicken and fresh thyme (if using). Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
- Ladle hot soup into bowls to serve.
- *If you can’t find parsnips, you can easily substitute rutabaga or turnips. Use the same weight as what I call for of parsnips. Peel and chop the rutabaga or turnips and add to the soup in place of the parsnips.
- **If your blender is not able to blend piping hot mixtures, let the soup cool about 20 minutes before blending.
- This soup freezes well. Store in an airtight container in the freezer up to 6 months.
- 12 ½ cups (8 servings – about 1 ½ cups each)
- 247 cals, 19 g pro, 39 g carb, 2 g fat, 48 mg cholesterol, 1 g sat fat, 7 g fiber, 598 mg sodium
Yum! Perfect for a snowy day in Colorado!
Thanks, Kara! Hopefully there aren’t too many cold days left this winter!