This Russian chicken noodle soup recipe with chicken meatballs is my take on a comforting old-fashioned soup that my Russian grandmother used to make on chilly winter days and cold nights. Super easy to make, it comes together quickly, and is perfect for easy weeknight meals or weekend lunches.
Our Russian chicken noodle soup recipe with chicken meatballs makes another one of my Russian family recipes, my Russian grandmother’s chicken noodle soup – with a few tweaks. It’s an old-fashioned chicken noodle soup – let’s call it a retro soup – but it’s also a comforting soup as only chicken soups made from scratch can be.
This Russian chicken noodle soup recipe is also an easy soup to make, coming together quickly, in just 30 minutes or so. The juicy chicken meatballs cook in the soup and there’s no stock to make, the flavour coming from the meatballs and subtle use of spice. It’s also a fantastic soup for leftovers, refrigerating well, and tasting even better the next day.
While baboushka made her chicken noodle soup in winter – when she didn’t have big pots of borscht or shchi simmering on the stove – we’ve lived in tropical Southeast Asia so long that we eat hot soups year-round. Southeast Asians believe hot soups make you perspire, thereby keeping you cool.
I’m not so sure about that. Still, I slurp hot soups all year, because our short winters mean only two months of soup weather and for a soup lover like me, ten months is far too long to go without soup.
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Russian Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe with Chicken Meatballs
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to share my baboushka’s Russian chicken noodle soup recipe – although I have to confess that this isn’t exactly the way my baba made her chicken noodle soup. The flavour profile is still there, however, I’ve made a few tweaks.
Firstly, my grandmother’s Russian chicken noodle soup recipe began with making a chicken stock from scratch using a whole chicken or chicken pieces that simmered away for hours with onions, garlic, carrots, and bay leaves in her massive soup pot on the stove.
The chicken and bones were removed, the stock strained before being returned to the post, then more chicken pieces were added, along with fresh onions and garlic that had been fried in a pan, carrots and potatoes, and – just before serving – fine spaghetti boiled in a separate pot.
My Russian chicken noodle soup recipe makes a quick and easy chicken noodle soup from scratch but without a stock. The flavour comes from the onion and garlic fried in olive oil and butter, a subtle use of spices, and the juicy chicken meatballs.
And that’s another way my chicken noodle soup differs: I include chicken meatballs instead of chicken pieces. I’ve used the Russian style of meatballs that are made succulent with plenty of onion, are flavoursome from sea salt, white pepper and garlic, and are held together with an egg.
However, instead of cooking the chicken meatballs beforehand, I drop balls of raw chicken mince into the soup, just like they do here in Southeast Asia when making rice porridge or rice soup, and let them cook in the broth.
I also use a little more spice than my baboushka did – some ground turmeric and a little paprika – and I have also been known to sprinkle a little chilli flakes on at the table, although freshly ground black pepper works.
Here are some tips to making this Russian chicken noodle soup recipe with chicken meatballs.
Tips to Making this Russian Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe with Chicken Meatballs
I have a handful of important tips to making this Russian chicken noodle soup recipe with chicken meatballs as it really is a quick and easy chicken noodle soup to make, coming together in half an hour.
Firstly, let’s talk about the ‘noodles’ in my Russian chicken noodle soup recipe. Rather than Asian style noodles, my Russian grandmother always used fine spaghetti in her chicken noodle soup. Spaghetti is essentially Italian noodles, I guess. That’s my preference too.
Baboushka used a fine spaghetti, or rather a spaghettini – in fact, it was probably angel hair or capellini number 1, which is the finest. I like a larger albeit still fine size, which is actually spaghettini, say number 3 or number 4. I don’t recommend a larger size spaghetti than that, because it will expand in size once in the soup.
Make sure to boil the spaghetti in a separate pot to the soup. Do not add uncooked spaghetti to the broth. It’s really not worth trying to reduce the cooking time by taking seven minutes or so, or however, long your pasta takes to cook (best follow the instructions on the pack), by cooking the spaghetti in the soup. Even if Bon Appetit tells you to.
Over the years I’ve noticed that some chicken noodle recipes – even those in some of the world’s best food magazines and world’s best newspaper food sections – call for the pasta or noodles to be cooked in the pot. That’s a terrible idea.
Firstly, if you cook the spaghetti in the pot, you’re going to have the starches affecting the colour, flavour, aroma, and text of the broth. Yuk.
Secondly, the spaghetti will over-cook, especially if, say, you’re making a main and dessert, and you need to make the soup ahead and let it simmer for a while before serving. And if you plan to re-heat leftovers the next day you’re going to have mushy pasta. Urgh.
Always boil the spaghetti in a separate pot to the soup and only cook the spaghetti al dente. My spaghetti was al dente at seven minutes but your pasta might take more or less time depending on the size and brand. Do follow the instructions on the packet.
If you’re going to be serving your chicken noodle soup immediately, add it at the stage suggested in the recipe. If you’re not going to serve the soup for a while, then leave the spaghetti out of the soup and add it when you re-heat it or just before serving.
You could also transfer the spaghetti once cooked directly to the soup bowls and then ladle the chicken noodle soup onto the pasta. If you’re making this for two for dinner, and planning for leftovers for lunch the next day, you could also leave half the spaghetti out, and add it to the pot when you reheat it for lunch.
When you’re frying the onion, fry the onion alone until soft and translucent, then add the chopped garlic and fry for a minute or so until fragrant, taking care not to let it go too dark or brown. Don’t add the onion and garlic at the same time, as the garlic will burn by the time the onion is as soft as we want it.
I only use water in chicken noodle soup recipe, as I think there’s another flavour from the chicken meatballs and spices, but feel free to add a little chicken stock if you like.
The measures of sea salt, white pepper, turmeric, and paprika work for us, but always taste the soup at the stage I suggest, and adjust the seasoning to your own palate. We use a lot of spice in our cooking and love loads of flavour.
If you prefer an even more subtle use of spice and you don’t normally use a lot of salt or pepper, then start with half my recommended measures, as you can add more later, but you can never take away.
When you make the chicken mince mixture, you will probably think there’s too much onion and that it seems too ‘wet’ after you add the egg. Don’t worry, that’s how it’s meant to be. The onion makes juicy chicken meatballs and you need the egg to hold them together.
As long as the broth is boiling when you drop the spoonful of ground chicken mixture into the soup, the meatballs will take shape, albeit a very rustic shape. They’ll also cook quickly.
So that the minced chicken mixture doesn’t stick to the spoon, dip it in vegetable oil first. You can do the same with your fingers, or just wet your fingertips.
Don’t obsess over trying to get a perfectly round shape on the spoon. It’s impossible. As long as it’s roughly round, it will form a meatball-ish shape as you drop it in or slide it off the spoon into the boiling broth. And you want a fairly gentle rolling boil. If it’s bubbling too much the mince will break apart.
I think the flavours are well balanced, but if you want even more punch, you could add a little paprika to the chicken meatballs, or a sprinkle of chilli flakes to give it a little kick.
Adding chilli flakes is not such a Russian thing to do, but plenty of fresh fragrant dill, a dollop of sour cream, and a dish of dill pickles and slices of dark rye bread on the side will well and truly ensure this Russian chicken noodle soup recipe doesn’t lose its identity.
Russian Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe with Chicken Meatballs
- 100 g spaghettini - No. 3
- 2 tbsp olive oil - extra virgin
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 large brown onion - roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove - finely chopped
- 1 litre water
- 1 large carrot - sliced
- 1 large potato - diced
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp white pepper
- ¼ tsp turmeric - ground
- 400 g minced chicken
- ½ large brown onion - finely diced
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp paprika / chilli flakes - optional
- 2 tbsp fresh dill - roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 4 pieces dill pickles
- 4 pieces dark rye bread
- freshly ground black pepper
- Put 100 g spaghetti (#4) on to boil.
- To a large soup pot with lid on medium heat, add 2 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter and fry the roughly chopped onion for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent, then add the finely chopped garlic clove and fry for a minute or so until fragrant.
- Add 500 ml water to the pot, along with the carrots and potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of white pepper, and ¼ teaspoon turmeric, stir, and cover with a lid and leave to simmer.
- The spaghetti (#4) should be ready now, so drain and set aside.
- To a large bowl, add 400 g minced chicken, the finely diced onion, 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of white pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and egg, and thoroughly combine.
- To the soup pot, add the remaining 500 ml water, bring to a boil, and add the spaghetti.
- Dip a tablespoon in vegetable oil (so the chicken mince doesn’t stick to it), then, working quickly, scoop out a spoonful of the chicken mince mixture, use your fingers to roughly shape it into a ball, then slide it off the spoon into the bubbling broth, pushing it down beneath the vegetables and noodles.
- Repeat until you’ve finished the mixture, turn the heat down to medium, put the lid on and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low and use the back of a spoon to skim any fat from the surface of the soup.
- Try the soup broth and adjust the salt/pepper to your taste and, if you like, add the optional paprika or chilli flakes to give it a little kick.
- Add the chopped fresh dill, stir, ladle into bowls, garnish with a little more dill, and serve immediately with dishes of sour cream and dill pickles, and slices of dark rye bread.
Please do let us know if you make my Russian chicken noodle soup recipe with chicken meatballs in the comments below or tag us on social media, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you. We’d also appreciate a recipe rating if you have a moment.