This healthy, hearty soup recipe was inspired by Panera Bread's Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup!
This beloved soup has been one of my favorite meals since I was a kid. All these years later, this cozy recipe is still one of my go-to comfort foods throughout the cold Winter months!
I designed this copycat recipe to taste just like Panera's original using simple wholesome ingredients. The homemade version of this Panera copycat recipe tastes just as delicious while being filling, healthy, and even sneaking in some hidden veggies! Keep reading to see the step by step process and how to handle the leftovers (if there are any!). Otherwise, feel free to skip straight ahead to the yummy recipe!
Ingredients for This Recipe
To make this copycat Chicken and Wild Rice Soup recipe you'll need the following ingredients:
- Pulled (or Diced) Chicken - This recipe works great with a rotisserie chicken, leftover roasted chicken, or simple poached boneless chicken breasts. As pictured, we used a 2½ pound rotisserie chicken which yielded about 4 Cups of shredded white and dark meat.
- Wild Rice - We used wild rice blend with whole grain, brown and long grain rice. Make sure to cook the rice before adding it to the soup!
- Carrots, Onions and Celery - For this recipe, we puree some of the vegetables directly into the creamy soup base. This method keeps every bite flavorful, helps to thicken the soup and sneaks in some hidden vitamins and veggie value! (Perfect for the kiddo's who plan on eating around those carrot slices!)
- Garlic - We went with 4 cloves, but measure that with your heart. Minced garlic works well, too.
- Thyme & Bay Leaf - We like to use fresh herbs whenever possible. Here we used fresh thyme and dried bay leaves.
- Vegetable Oil
- Butter - Unsalted butter is perfect for cooking the vegetables and building a traditional roux. Feel free to substitute olive oil instead.
- All Purpose Flour - Gluten free flour can also be used, if necessary.
- Chicken Broth - Homemade if you have it!
- Milk - We used whole milk for a rich and creamy soup. You can use 1 or 2% milk for something a little lighter.
- Heavy Cream - Completely optional! We used a half cup of heavy cream stirred in for a the extra creamy mouthfeel.
- Salt & White Pepper - We love the subtle earthy spice that ground white pepper gives this soup. However, you can use black pepper if that's all you have or prefer.
How To Make This Recipe
This copycat Panera Chicken and Wild Rice Soup recipe is easy to make. Here's a step by step demonstration:
1. Prepare the vegetables. This soup uses a classic mire poix (carrots, onion and celery). Start by slicing bite-sized pieces of half of the carrots and half of the celery. Set aside. Then, finely dice the remaining carrots and celery and all of the yellow onion and garlic. To save time, we did this step in the food processor for about 20 - 30 seconds. If chopping by hand, the mire poix does not have to be diced quite as finely, but larger pieces will take longer to cook later on.
2. Heat a small splash of cooking oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Saute the sliced carrot and celery for 2 - 3 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly softened. (The vegetables do not have to be completely tender - they will finish cooking in the soup, later on.) Use a wooden spoon to remove the veggies from the pot and set aside.
3. Next, melt a stick of butter in the pot with the finely diced mire poix. Season lightly with salt to begin building flavors. Cook the mire poix for several minutes, stirring frequently, until aromatic and mushy. Take your time, and allow the mire poix to cook slowly - this process helps to build great flavor in the base of the soup.
4. Add flour and fresh thyme leaves. Stir to combine while cooking to eliminate any raw flour taste. At this stage, the mixture will be thick and paste-like.
5. Now add the chicken broth and milk. Stir frequently to incorporate the flour-y mire poix, being sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the bay leaf (ours were small so we added two). Increase the heat slightly to bring the soup to a boil.
6. Once boiling reduce to simmer for 15 minutes and add the heavy cream, if using.
7. After simmering, it is time to puree the soup base until smooth. First, be sure to remove the bay leaves! Then, remove the soup from the heat and puree the soup on high speed until completely smooth and emulsified. We used an immersion blender to make it be easy - but you can do this in small batches in a standard blender, as well.
8. Once the soup is pureed, it's time to return it to the heat and add in the sautéed carrots and celery, the cooked wild rice blend and the shredded chicken.
9. Bring the soup back to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 10 - 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the Cream of Chicken Wild Rice Soup has thickened. Season to taste with additional salt and white (or black) pepper, as desired. Now for the best part! Enjoy a big cozy bowl of the best soup!
Healthy, homemade soup is the perfect way to nourish your soul any day of the week! We usually enjoy this creamy chicken soup as a main course with a big hunk of crusty bread! To bring Panera home to you - serve this soup in a bread bowl!
For an easy next day lunch, serve a cup of this soup with a nice sandwich or a seasonal salad. Try it with our Beautiful Blood Orange Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing!
How To Make A Bread Bowl
For a quick and easy bread bowl, start with a mini sourdough boule. (The mini boules from Whole Foods bakeries are perfect!)
- Visualize a large circle on the top of the boule. Then, using a small serrated knife, begin to cut into the boule about two-thirds of the way down. Hold the knife vertically and gently saw up and down to create a bowl. Be careful not to cut all the way through!
- Once you have cut all the way around the circle, use your hand to pull out the cavity of bread. If needed, you can cut or pull out additional bread from the interior of the loaf to make room for more soup.
- Warm the bread bowl and the removed boule top in a 300 degree (150 degrees celsius) oven, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until warmed through. Ladle in hot soup and serve immediately! Enjoy!
Saving & Storing Leftover Soup
This Panera soup recipe makes a big batch that is enough to feed the whole family (about 4 quarts, as pictured in the dutch oven). If you have leftover Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, make sure to cool the soup as quickly as possible. Transfer the soup out of its cooking vessel and stir frequently to ensure the soup cools quickly and is safe to eat later on.
- Refrigerator - The refrigerator is the best way to store this soup. Place soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 - 4 days.
- Freezer - Sometime dairy based soups can separate during the freezing process. For this reason, many cooks don't recommend freezing. Personally, I prefer freezing instead of wasting.
- If freezing this soup, use the stovetop method to reheat and whisk the soup back together to emulsify. During recipe testing, we did freeze a batch of this soup and despite the rice being a bit softer - we still enjoyed the soup very much. Alternatively, you can eliminate the milk and cream from this recipe, freeze the broth based soup, and add the dairy in when reheating to serve.
- Reheating - For even heating, we recommend reheating this soup in a medium saucepan on the stovetop. If the soup has become very thick, stir in a small splash of chicken stock or water until the desired consistency is reached. For the microwave method, reheat individual bowls of the soup in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until hot.
This delicious Panera Bread copycat recipe is sure to be a family favorite. Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup is the perfect blend of cozy, healthy and delicious!
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Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
- Food Processor Fitted with the Blade Attachment (Optional)
- Immersion Blender (or Standard Blender)
- 4 medium carrots divided: half sliced, half finely diced (See Note: a.)
- 4 stalks celery divided: half sliced, half finely diced
- ½ medium yellow onion finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic finely diced
- 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
- 8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick)
- ½ Cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 2 Cups whole milk
- 1 -2 bay leaves
- ½ Cup heavy cream optional
- 4 Cups cooked wild rice (About 1 ½ Cups raw) We used a wild rice, brown rice and long grain rice blend.
- 4 Cups pulled or diced chicken rotisserie chicken, leftover roasted chicken or poached chicken breast work great
- fine kosher salt* to taste
- Ground white pepper to taste
- Gather, measure and prepare the Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup ingredients as listed.
- In a dutch oven or large cooking pot, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Add the sliced carrots and celery and sautée for 2 - 3 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly softened. (The vegetables do not have to be completely tender - they will finish cooking in the soup, later on.) Use a wooden spoon to remove the veggies from the pot and set aside.
- Add butter to the pot with the finely diced carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Season lightly with salt to begin building flavors. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they are aromatic and mushy.
- Add flour and fresh thyme leaves. Stir to combine and cook for 1 - 2 minutes. At this stage, the mixture will be thick and paste-like.
- Add the chicken broth and milk. Stir frequently, being sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the bay leaf. Increase the heat to bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling reduce to simmer for 15 minutes and add the heavy cream, if using.
- After simmering, remove the bay leaves. Then, remove the soup from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion (or standard) blender on high speed until completely smooth.
- Return the soup to medium heat and add in the sautéed carrots and celery, the cooked wild rice and the chicken. Bring the soup back to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 10 - 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the Cream of Chicken Wild Rice Soup has thickened. Season to taste with additional salt and white (or black) pepper, as desired. Serve hot with crusty bread or a big salad!
*Unless otherwise noted, foodworthfeed recipes are developed using Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt. If using iodized or table salt, reduce quantities by about half.