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Lily Vail’s Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup


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Lily Vail’s Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup


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Lily Vail’s Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup


  • Prep Time : 20 min
  • Cook Time : 2 hour, 30 min
  • Ready Time : 2 hour, 50 min


8 Servings


  • 1 large whole chicken, preferably a kosher pullet
  • water
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 3 stalks celery, peeled
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled
  • 1 large onion, left whole but peeled
  • small bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or salt to taste
  • 6-8 whole black peppercorns


Wash the chicken inside and out, remove pinfeathers and hairs and place it in a soup pot. Pour enough water in the pot to cover the chicken by 1-inch.

Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, and for the next several minutes, remove any scum that rises to the surface. Add the carrots, celery, parsnip, onion, dill, salt and peppercorns.

Cover the pan partially and simmer the soup for 2-1/2 hours or until the chicken meat is very soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Pour the soup through a strainer or colander into a large bowl or a second pot. Set the chicken and vegetables aside. Remove the fat from the surface of the liquid with a spoon or fat-skimming tool or by patting paper towels on the surface.

For best results, refrigerate the strained soup; when it is cold, the fat will rise to the surface and harden and you can scoop it off. (Refrigerate the vegetables and the chicken separately.) Serve the soup plain or with the vegetables (cut them up) and chicken (remove the meat from the bones and cut it up).

About Ronnie Fein


Ronnie Fein has been a freelance food and lifestyle writer since 1980. She has her own food blog, called Kitchen Vignettes. Ronnie is the author of Hip Kosher and operates the Ronnie Fein School of Creative Cooking in Stamford, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband. She has two married daughters and four grandchildren.




38 Responses to Lily Vail’s Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup

  1. i added a variety of root veggies to this [celery root, leek, 1-clove garlic, etc ] fabulous setup for the family . . kosher penicillin, & now there’s scientific proof !

  2. avatar says: Martha

    I notice youdon’t put any garlic cloves in your chicken soup. Any reason why?

    I’ve been under the weather last few days. Suddenly had the urge for a chicken in a pot. Got a lovely little Bell and Evans birrd simmering away on the stove as we speak. I agree – parnsips add sooo much to the soup.

    Can’t wait. Gotta run. Time to skim off the foam!

    • Wow, just noticed this! I don’t use garlic I suppose because my mother didn’t! Just not part of the family recipe.

  3. One of my friends was diagnosed with pneumonia and I used this recipe and made chicken soup from scratch for the first time. It is absolutely delicious. I kept some of the leftover chicken and vegies, mixed them with cooked brown rice and served my family the chicken stew for dinner. Wonderful!!!!!

  4. This is my first introduction to your website, I found few interesting recipes,I am making the chicken soup and looking forward to making the Italian wedding soup.

  5. avatar says: Eleanor

    this was delicous , love all your recipes,

    • So glad you liked this!

    • avatar says: debra

      here is another variable for chicken soup add some barley.taste is wonderfull .one of my grandkids loves soup so im always always try to mix things up a little

  6. avatar says: viren

    notice the soup bit yellow. is there any tumeric or other spices in there ??

    • Nope! Just what I listed in the recipe. I think the color may have to do with what chickens you buy I(for this photo I used Fairway kosher roasting chicken).

      • avatar says: debra

        the yellow comes from the fat and bones from the chicken. that’s why you cant use boneless skin less breasts .no fat no flavor

    • avatar says: sandy

      I thought the soup should have a tint of yellow

  7. I buy extra legs and roast them separately….then add to broth while stewing. The taste is extra rich and the color glorious….golden brown!

    • never tried this, but I will! Roasting the chicken first! What an idea!

      • avatar says: debra

        you can also use store bought roasted already for a quick enjoyable meal

    • avatar says: debra

      if you use a left over roasted bird there is also tons of flavor left in the bird to make a rich flavorfull pot of soup

      • I’ve done that and it is delicious, and very different than traditional chicken soup.

  8. Soups or any other dish for my Hebrew friends and the rest of my family…A brisk recipe would be great too.!

  9. I would like to see some chicken, brisket, corned beef and pickle recipes.

    I guess you can tell that I grew up in Brooklyn

  10. avatar says: Cathy

    I remember my mom also holding the chicken over the gas flame to remove the pin feathers and hairs! We had a nearby poultry market with chickens so fresh they were still warm when you brought them home! Making this on Sunday!

  11. Thanks for the delicious recipes!

  12. The chicken coup looks lovely. making it tomorrow with matzo balls of course.

  13. HI all:
    I am posing this question to anyone who can offer an opinion. I make traditional kosher chicken soup once a month. In addition to the chicken I add onion or leek depending on how I feel, parsnips, carrots, turnips – the smaller ones seem more pungent and preferable to me, celery, a zucchini at the end, parsley and dill and salt & fresh pepper. While my soup is delicious and of course gets even better each day, I am only able to achieve that – gosh, how to describe the flavor I am after? It’s kind of the flavor that the dill brings out in the soup but maybe if you think about the times you’ve eaten chicken soup with a matzoh in a kosher deli and the taste is somewhat – I cannot say ‘sour’ but it’s along the lines of sour, more vinegar -y, more tart, more twang, more sharp, than mine ever achieves. I have played with the amounts by using more or less, played with adding different spices, added yet more turnips which is the only veggie to my nose that quite approaches the sharp taste I am looking for. Oh, also, I skim as I cook, to a certain point, and leave SOME of the fat bubbles in for flavor, BUT and maybe I am adding too much richness here, I do not use water as the liquid, I use fresh chicken broth – 2 quarts as the soup liquid base. I want my soup to be all that it is currently and just a little more tangy – if that makes any sense. Any and ALL suggestions will be tried and reported on. Hope I made some sense here and I am making soup this afternoon for my life partner who is sadly under the weather. At least he loves my matzoh balls which, since I use very good olive oil (I think this is the reason) they usually are very light floaters and stay fluffy as all get out all week we eat the soup for lunch. I make them less than a half-inch initially and they expand to perfectly bite-sized balls for eating – a ball a spoonful is my motto. Thanks again for letting me be so long-winded with this question.

    • Wow, sounds as if you make delicious soup and want it even better. From my personal experience I find that the most important flavor ingredient is the chicken itself. I assume you use a kosher chicken. I always use a ROASTING chicken (kosher) because of its age – it has more fat (your can scoop it at the end) and flavor. The younger, lighter chickens are not as rich and flavorful. Try a roasting chicken plus dill. I think turnips are too bitter for this soup and zucchini too sweet. Let me know if the roasting chicane does the trick. Also, don’t scoop the fat until the end.

  14. avatar says: Joan

    Loved the chicken soup .

    • So happy you loved it. I made a batch of it for last shabbat and continue to love it too.

  15. HI all and thank you for the suggestions. I’m afraid the turnips are grandmother and mother-in-law inspired and the soup would be criticized if none were found among the vegetables – you know how that goes! And yes, I always use Kosher chicken but the roasting before cooking is a good idea. I use Empire chicken which is the only reliable fresh brand I can find locally but seems to please the family but I am after great soup – to simply equal my mother-in-laws – and she is a kind woman, but will only offer some tips and leaves me to find out on my own how to make soup great which I imagine many women face. Today is my soup day so trying again for great soup. Whatever the results, the days following are spent eating and being together so, my perfection needs aside, the communal eating and enjoying of this time-honored meal is really what I cherish – everyone slurping along and no one talking – just enjoying and asking for seconds – now that’s a compliment – even from the mother-in-law! I’ll keep trying and thank you all for reading my long post and I LOVE THIS SITE! Thanks Jaime!

    • That’s the beauty of chicken soup, it gives camera derive, fellowship and love no matter what you put in it. Btw, someone may make the exact same recipe as another person but it tastes different and it could be for any number of reasons, including 1) the water in each house tastes different and 2) the memory of one and what that memory conjures can make it taste different than any other, even one that tastes exactly the same or even better.

  16. Sounds like a good site for home cooking at its best ,will try this chicken soup recipe , thanks for sharing Claudette

  17. avatar says: doris

    I have to leave house after 1 hour of cooking this chicken soup so I am going to refrigerate chicken soup– in– the– making….can I come back and put it on stove to continue cooking? or throw it out…

    • If you come back within two hours you can leave it on the stove — will be too hot for the fridge. If you will be gone for several hours, refrigerate and return to stove later, bring to a simmer and cook for another hour or so. Chag Sameach.


    • Hope it’s what you remembered! This is the way my mom made it, and the way my grandma made it. We love this.

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