Chicken Tarragon Soup satisfies all the senses and cravings when it comes to comfort food. Incredibly easy to make, ready in no time. But before we get talking about the soup itself, you might wonder…
What is Tarragon?
Tarragon, an herb that’s a member of the sunflower family (yes, really), has leaves that are long, flat and narrow. There are three varieties of tarragon- Russian, Mexican, and French, with Mexican tarragon being the most common and the variety I used in this recipe. It’s probably what you’ll find the most readily in your supermarket. This tarragon is both sweet and bitter, with a slight anise flavor which pairs wonderfully with poultry or fish, and in soups and sauces. Tarragon in this recipe for Chicken Tarragon is the singular “just right” herbed component that makes the soup irresistible.
Okay, let’s make the soup. A combination of onions, garlic and leeks get sautéed until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant. Sliced celery gets added in for the freshness it imparts. I add the celery after the alliums because I want it to retain its raw flavor just a bit. Dried tarragon is added next, then remove the skin from bone-in chicken thighs and nestle them in the mix. The broth base consists of white wine, chicken broth, lemon juice and some heavy cream. Do you see where this is going? The combination of ingredients in this soup, including the flavor that will come from the chicken bones, is rich but fresh. Creamy without being heavy.
After the soup simmers for 30 to 45 minutes, remove the chicken from the soup, take the meat off the bones and return it to the pot for a hearty, rustic soup. If you want a soup that’s a little bit “fancy, before placing the chicken pieces back in the soup, using an immersion blender, blend the soup base until nearly smooth and then add the chicken back in. This method provides a more silky, rich soup base. Both options are delicious and my family couldn’t really choose which they liked better. They said they were both good in different ways. So, personal preference rules here.
Another way that you might want to change up the Chicken Tarragon soup- if you like your soup with more broth or juice for dunking bread or crostini (or if you want to eek out an extra serving), I give instructions in the recipe notes for easily increasing the soup base during cooking.
I’ve made this soup so many times recently, tweaking it until we felt it had all the right textures and flavors, while keeping the recipe incredibly simple. Instructions that follow can be done on the stove or in your slow cooker (and will definitely adapt well to a pressure cooker). As you can hopefully tell, the chicken cooks in the soup to perfect tenderness. If you’re in an even bigger hurry or have some leftover chicken, you can make the base and add in the cooked chicken at the end for a 20 minute meal.
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Chicken Tarragon Soup
- 1 large yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 leek
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 2 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Slice the leek and carefully rinse any dirt from the leek. Slice the celery.
- Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and add the onion, garlic, and leek. Cook until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add the celery, chicken pieces, wine, tarragon and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the heavy cream, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, turning the chicken once or twice. Cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and pick the meat off the bone. Return the meat to the soup, add the salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt to taste, if needed.
- If you want a smooth and creamy base to the soup, once you remove the chicken use an immersion blender and puree the soup until smooth. Add the chicken once removed from the bone, salt and pepper to taste.
- This soup can also be prepared in a slow cooker on low heat over 8 hours.
- If you like your soup to have more broth for dipping bread, you can easily increase the broth to 4 cups, the wine to 1 3/4 cup, the tarragon to 3 teaspoons, and the heavy cream to 1 1/4 cup. The rest of the ingredients don't need to be increased.
- If you have fresh tarragon that you'd like to use in place of dried, I suggest adding it at the end of cooking, maybe when you have about 10 minutes left of cooking time. Whenever you use fresh herbs over dried, you need to increase the amount in the recipe, generally about 3 times as much as the dried herbs called for. So with this recipe, I'd use 2 to 3 tablespoons of fresh tarragon plus more for garnish before serving.
- Lastly, if you're wondering if it's okay to add the cream during the simmer without having it curdle, the answer is 'yes' and 'maybe'. If you're cooking it on the stovetop or in the slow cooker, the fat from the cream, olive oil, and chicken help to prevent the cream from separating. That being said, if you're trying to adapt this recipe to the pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot, I would add the cream at the very end, before serving.
Recipe adapted from The Winter Table.