Don’t be a sucker by wasting leftover chicken! Cook the bones from your Costco rotisserie chicken (or roasted chicken) to make this intense, rich broth. With 5 minutes of prep and simmering for hours, it couldn’t be easier.
Did you buy a Costco rotisserie chicken for dinner? Did you roast a whole chicken for Sunday supper?
Maybe you’re wondering what to do with the turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Re-purposing leftovers to make a bone broth is the perfect way to use up the remaining bones.
Read on to learn how you can make this easy chicken soup and transform your trash into a treasure.
Why boil leftover bones for soup
I’m fascinated by how people pull apart a roasted chicken.
Growing up with a frugal poor immigrant mother, I watched my mum meticulously scrape off every bit of skin and meat from a chicken.
Just when you’d think she was done, somehow she’d find another cranny to hollow out.
Fast forward to my opulent American lifestyle, I watch how Alex carves a roasted chicken or turkey. He focuses on getting the drumsticks, breasts, and legs. The rest is an afterthought.
I don’t begrudge him or anybody else who doesn’t have the patience to carefully preserve every last piece of meat. After all, I know you’re busy people.
That’s why I’m a fan of boiling the leftover chicken bones to make a rich chicken broth.
Not only is it less wasteful, but the resulting broth also tastes better than anything you’d buy in a store.
Considering it takes 5 minutes to assemble the ingredients, and you come back 1-2 hours later to find a silky, flavor-packed soup waiting for you, there’s no reason to throw the leftover chicken in the trash.
TIP: If you’re not ready to make broth for a while, you can freeze the chicken carcass. When you’re ready to make the soup, add the frozen chicken directly to the soup pot for boiling.
Types of chicken to use
You can use any kind of chicken bones for this recipe.
A whole roasted chicken, rotisserie chicken, and smoked chicken are the best kinds of carcasses to use.
Not just leftovers. You can use the following:
- Whole raw chicken
- Chicken wings and backs
- Chicken feet
- Chicken thighs and drum sticks
While any kind of leftover chicken is suitable for making broth (for example, I’ve used scraps from braised drumsticks and legs or an assortment of wing tips), the trick to good broth is to make sure there’s still bones, skin, and a bit of meat left.
NOTE: I’ve never tried making bone broth from fried chicken so YMMV (your mileage may vary).
How to prepare the chicken
The only thing you need to do is remove all the meat that you’d like to eat. And then break the chicken carcass down to a size that fits your soup pot. That’s it!
The fun part about making this chicken soup is thinking of the flavor variations you can conjure.
If I’m making a European-style soup, like a lentil and sausage soup, I stick to a French base using a mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery).
If I want a broth for drinking, I pack it with umami-rich ingredients.
If I want a Chinese flair, I add some special aromatics like ginger and spices that produce a stronger “medicinal” flavor that reminds me of soup from my childhood.
Here are the most common aromatics I add to my broth:
- Aromatic vegetable base
- Hearty herbs
- Herbes de Provence
- Dried shiitake mushrooms (for umami)
Exotic mix-in ideas
These are the common ingredients I grew up using when making Chinese broths (I’m leaving out the Chinese herbal medicine ingredients like willow bark and ginseng 😝):
- Fresh apples (adds a touch of sweetness)
- Dried longan (a favorite mix-in that my mum always uses in her broths)
- Star anise
- Bay leaves
- Dried scallops (packed with umami)
- Soy sauce
- Apple cider vinegar (maximum 1 tablespoon)
- Fish sauce
TIP: When I add sauces, I use about 1 tablespoon to avoid overpowering the subtler aromatics.
Tips for success
- Strain it: If you want clear broth for drinking, you can strain the soup through a colander to separate out the bones and vegetables.
- If you don’t have a fine-mesh strainer, you can scoop out the bones and vegetables using a slotted spoon.
- Use a big soup pot. You don’t want to run out of room after adding half the water.
- If you’re simmering for a long time (2+ hours), make sure there’s enough water so the soup doesn’t completely evaporate and burn the bottom of your pan.
How to scale the recipe
This chicken broth recipe scales very easily. If you have 2 or 3 chicken carcasses to add, you can simply add more aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices.
The key is to add enough water to cover all the bones. Plus, you’ll need a bigger soup pot.
Chicken broth made with leftover rotisserie/roast chicken
- Chopping Board
- spice sachets
- Soup Pot
Herbs & spices
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 20 (½ teaspoon) Peppercorns
- 3 star anise
- 1 palmful (5 g) savory
- Gather the ingredients.
- Make a spice sachet. Put the sliced ginger and garlic as well as herbs and spices inside the spice sachet and tie it with twine. This step is optional but it can save you time when removing the spices if you're not straining the soup.
- Put the chicken carcass in a soup pot. Make sure the soup pot is large enough to fit the chicken, vegetables, and water.
- Add the chopped vegetables on top of the chicken in the soup pot.
- Add the salt and tie the spice sachet to the soup pot handle (if using).
- Add enough water to cover the ingredients. The water level doesn't have to be perfectly above every item but it should cover most of the vegetables.
- Bring the ingredients in the soup pot to a boil over high heat. It could take as long as 15 minutes to come to a boil.
- As soon as you see the soup beginning to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Simmer the chicken broth for 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how concentrated you want the broth.
- Taste the soup. Don't burn your tongue. If you're happy with the flavor, turn off the heat.
- If you plan to strain the broth, allow it to cool enough so it doesn't scald you when you pour it out. Strain through a colander or a fine-mesh strainer.
- Your chicken broth is ready to use! Or you can drink it straight.
What to use chicken broth for
There are so many uses for chicken broth and stock. I love drinking it straight when I’m cold (❄️ Boulder winters).
When I’m sick, I drink bone broth to feel better. I like to add a bit of salt and serve it with cooked pasta or rice. If I’m feeling energetic, I may add some mushrooms and vegetables.
Check out these ideas for how to incorporate chicken broth into different dishes:
- Savory oatmeal
- Use it as braising liquid
- Braising kale
- Braising chicken
- Congee (rice porridge): cook raw rice in a mixture of chicken broth and water until it’s the texture of porridge
- Wontons and dumplings
- Use it to boil plain vegetables (more flavorful than using plain water)
- Frozen vegetables: Boiling frozen vegetables in chicken broth gives them a lot more flavor because they’re often bland with a soggy texture
Can you make this in advance?
Yes, you can make chicken broth ahead of time. Keep it in the fridge for no more than 5 days.
How to store leftovers
Store the chicken broth in the soup pot, plastic containers, glass containers (if you’re not freezing), or resealable plastic bags to store in the fridge.
NOTE: Cooled chicken broth, especially homemade, high-quality bone broth, will become gelatinous when it’s cooled. Don’t be alarmed if your soup becomes a wobbly block of jelly when it’s refrigerated. That’s normal.
Can you freeze it?
Yes this chicken broth freezes well. Portion out the broth into plastic containers. You can place the entire pot of soup (after straining) into 1 big container if you plan to cook all of it in one go.
Use smaller containers if you want to split it into 2-3 portions for easy defrosting.
You can freeze concentrated chicken stock in ice cube trays if you’re planning on using it for making gravy or sauces. If you’re freezing it in ice cube trays, you can simmer the broth until it’s very concentrated (at least half the water volume has evaporated) since the ice trays can’t hold much liquid.
If you freeze soup, I recommend labeling it so you can recommend how long it’s been in the freezer.
TIP: If you’re low on freezer space, you can store the broth in sealable plastic bags and stack the bags in the freezer. You can reuse the bags after rinsing them with soapy water and allow them to dry.
How to reheat
For small quantities, you can put refrigerated broth in a microwave-proof mug to reheat it in the microwave.
For large quantities, such as broth to make chicken noodle soup, reheat it on the stove top.
NOTE: I may be paranoid about food safety but I tend to reheat it until it’s boiling on the stove if I’ve stored it in the fridge for more than 2 days.
For frozen broth, I defrost it in the fridge or on the countertop. If I’m in a rush, I defrost it in the microwave and add it to the pan. I will boil defrosted broth as a precaution.
How to make this in an Instant Pot
Follow the same instructions as this Extra-Umami Beef Broth recipe for using an Instant Pot, except using chicken instead of beef bones.
How to make this in a slower cooker
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on the High heat setting for 2-3 hours or the Low heat setting for 4-6 hours.
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Chicken broth vs. chicken stock
Chicken broth is made by boiling the chicken for a shorter period of time (about 1 hour). The chicken is usually raw or it could be leftovers/odds and ends (like wings and backs). This results in a clearer, lighter flavored broth with a sweet and refreshing taste.
Chicken stock is cooked for many hours and made from chicken (or chicken bones) and vegetables that have been roasted. It’s more concentrated, flavorful, and intense than chicken broth.
When you cook chicken soup at home, it’s a blurry line between chicken broth and stock.
TIP: You can use chicken stock for any recipes that call for chicken broth. You may want to dilute it if the chicken stock is too concentrated. However, if a recipe calls for chicken stock, use your judgment on whether the broth is too bland to substitute for stock.
How long should you boil it for?
There’s no hard limit. I periodically check on it every 30-60 minutes. Perhaps there’s a point at which the soup tastes bad (maybe simmering longer than 12 hours?).
The longer you simmer it, the more concentrated it will taste. You move from chicken broth (clearer, less concentrated) to chicken stock (stronger flavored, thicker) once you’re past 2 hours.
WARNING: The only thing to watch for is whether the vegetables and spices you add might become bitter if you simmer too long. I usually check if the soup is ready by tasting it around the 2-hour mark. I’ve never simmered longer than 4 hours.