Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

The past several days have been quite blustery, here, along the lakeshore – sometimes the wind gusting over 40 miles per hour! While I should be alarmed – especially in light of the chipper weather folks and their “wind advisories” [Watch out! The wind is blowing! Be aware that air is moving, people!] – I find myself mostly inspired by blustery days.

Walking down the familiar neighborhood streets, feeling the welcome arrival signs of autumn, watching the first of the falling leaves spinning merrily in the whimsical eddies created by the invisible currents of wind… I do feel “advised”, I suppose. The swirling air, the dwindling heat of summer – all of it stirring up the unmistakable perfume of autumn.

When I hear “wind advisory”, I think “soup”. And when I think “soup”, I most often return to recipes that have been put away for about a year, biding their time. Today’s recipe is a favorite of ours that I only recently put into fixed form. It was inspired by a few different recipes and restaurant experiences and is a permanent fixture of our cool season comfort menu. It combines the hearty produce of the season, with the creamy goodness of cheese.

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When I sought a recipe for Chicken & Wild Rice soup, a few years ago, I found that the recipes vary greatly. Some were creamy while others were merely chicken & rice soup with the marked distinction of having wild rice instead of white rice. (yawn) Others were so full of heavy cream and – gasp – velveeta that I couldn’t make them in good conscience.

Let’s Talk Ingredients

I know you’re probably wondering what my problem with velveeta is. Quite simply, it’s fake cheese; just look at the label. It’s so not real cheese that they’re not allowed to call it cheese: processed cheese food. I’ve had my fair share of dishes made with velveeta, over the years, and I certainly didn’t turn them down. However, I choose to avoid fake foods in my own kitchen and I’ve come to appreciate the taste of the vast array of real cheeses and their ability to melt just as creamily and evenly as the fake stuff.

For this recipe, I use a delicious cold pack cheese spread made by a Wisconsin dairy that’s available both at our farmer’s market and at our nearby Whole Foods. IMG_1237If you aren’t able to find this spread or something similar, you can chop up and stir in 8 ounces of a soft, creamy, and mild cheese like munster or fontina (or you can do 4 ounces of each). The cheese, for this recipe, adds more texture than overall taste. So you don’t want something bold and show-stopping like a sharp cheddar but rather a cheese that will melt easily and slip into the background of the taste.

Many recipes I’ve come across for this soup were also a little unimaginative in other ways – whether it was the lack of vegetables in the soup or the chicken wound up dry and flavorless. Instead of using bland, boneless-skinless chicken breasts, I opt for the more flavorful and even more economical boneless-skinless chicken thighs. When seasoned and browned and added to the soup near the end, you get maximum chicken flavor without much of a difference in nutrition facts. IMG_1235Plus, sautéeing the vegetables in the pan following the chicken adds an even deeper dimsension to the flavor that merely adding chicken broth cannot provide.

I prefer to use a wild rice blend rather than strictly wild rice, but feel free to use whatever you’d prefer. The trick, for me, is remembering that wild rice takes a lot longer to cook than white rice. So, remember to allow the extra time for cooking.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 8


    1 cup wild rice (or wild rice blend)
    1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    12 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup chopped onion
    3/4 cup chopped celery
    4 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
    3/4 pound baking potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1 cup sliced carrots
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    3 cups low fat milk (2% or 1%)
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    8 ounces cold-pack cheese spread (see above)
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

    Cook the rice according to package directions.

    Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken thighs with crushed thyme, kosher salt, and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until well browned and cooked thoroughly. Remove from pan and cover loosely.

    Add the onion and celery to the pan; sauté 5-7 minutes or until just tender. Stir in the sliced garlic and sauté, continually stirring, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Slowly stir in the broth, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes, carrots, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil; cover and lower heat, simmering for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

    Meanwhile, chop the cooled chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Whisk together the milk and flour in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and the milk mixture to the pot; cook and stir frequently until thickened. Add the cheese and stir until evenly melted; stir in the cooked wild rice and chopped parsley. Ladle into bowls; garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

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A bowl of this soup, a mixed greens salad, and a slice of crusty bread or half a grilled cheese sandwich is just what you need for a blustery day. With eight ample servings, it’s ideal for an autumnal potluck dinner or gathering of friends, but it also stores in the refrigerator for several days and reheats with ease for a hearty and filling weekday lunch or busy evening dinner. I would not recommend freezing it, however, because the diced potatoes take on an unpleasant texture when thawed.

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~ by Jason on September 7, 2010.

4 Responses to “Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup”

  1. Wow! This looks amazing, and is just what I was looking for. Thank you!

  2. I made this on Sunday, while I was also making my first seasonal batch of chicken stock for the freezer. We both loved it, and have lots left over – it will be so handy to pull from the freezer for another meal.

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