Chinese herbal chicken soup is one of soups I remember most from my childhood. It's savory from the chicken, and the Chinese herbs add an earthiness and sweetness. The soup is simmered gently until the chicken falls apart, and it feels like a full meal in a bowl. My parents would make this regularly, and sometimes with delicious black silky chicken.
To make this recipe a little less intimidating and more accessible, I chose to use chicken leg quarters instead of a whole chicken, which is the traditional way my parents would make this soup.
Not only is this soup delicious, it's packed with nutrients and immune-boosting benefits from the Chinese herbal ingredients.
What ingredients do I need to make Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup? (pictures included)
Every family will have their own version of Chinese herbal chicken soup, some with more ingredients and some with fewer. These are the ingredients my parents used to make their version!
Ingredients for Chinese herbal chicken soup:
- My parents always make this soup using a whole chicken, but to make this recipe less intimidating, I use chicken leg quarters instead. You can also use a combination of dark meat pieces, like wings, thighs, and drumsticks. I do recommend using dark meat as it's more flavorful and tender!
- We also regularly make this soup with black silky chicken (which is very flavorful and packed with vitamins)!
Pork bones or lean meat
- Another thing I learned from my parents is to add a few pork bones or lean pork meat to this soup. It adds more depth and savory flavor to the soup, and you only need a few pieces. However, you can leave it out if you don't eat pork or don't want to add it.
- As with most other Chinese dishes that include chicken, we add ginger!
Chinese dried wild yam
- Chinese name: huáishān (淮山); waai4 saan1 (Cantonese)
- Scientific name: dioscorea radix (it's sometimes labeled with its scientific name on packaging)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese wild yams are believed to be immunity-boosting and nourishing for the spleen and stomach, among multiple other benefits.
- Chinese name: huáng qí (黄旗) or běi qí (北芪); wong4 kei4 or bak1 kei4 (Cantonese)
- Scientific name: radix astralagi (it's sometimes labeled with its scientific name on packaging)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astralagus root is believed to be immunity-boosting, great for respiratory illnesses, and anti-inflammatory, among other benefits.
- Chinese name: dǎng shēn (党参); dong2 sam1 (Cantonese)
- Scientific name: codonopsis pilosula (it's sometimes labeled with its scientific name on packaging)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, codonopsis root is believed to be immune-boosting, and great for digestion and energy, among other benefits.
- Chinese name: guìyǎn (桂圓) or yuánròu (圓肉); jyun4 juk6 (Cantonese)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dried longan are believed to be good for blood circulation and energy, among other benefits.
Dried Jujube, Chinese Date, or Red Date
- Chinese name: hóng zǎo (红枣); hong2 zao3 (Cantonese)
- You can usually buy these pre-pitted or halved.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, jujubes are believed to be good for your blood, digestive health, and sleep, among other benefits.
Goji Berry or Wolfberry
- Chinese name: gǒuqǐ (枸杞); gau2 gei2 (Cantonese)
- Scientific name: fructus lycii (it's sometimes labeled with its scientific name on packaging)
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, goji berries are believed to be anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants, good for digestive health and liver, among other benefits.
For my parents, the most essential out of these ingredients for this soup are the Chinese dried wild yam, dried longan, dried jujube, and goji berries.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an autoimmune disease, it's advised to consult your doctor or an expert before consuming certain Chinese herbal ingredients.
Where can I buy the ingredients to make Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup?
You can usually find Chinese herbal ingredients at most Chinese supermarkets. I get mine at either 99 Ranch Market or in Chinatown.
Nowadays, they are also sold online! Just be sure to read the ingredients on the package to ensure their quality.
You may also like these other Chinese soups:
- Fuzzy Melon Soup with Pork Ribs
- Lotus Root and Pork Bone Soup
- ABC Soup (carrot, tomato, & potato soup)
If you enjoyed this Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup...
I'd be so grateful if you left me a review below!
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Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup
- 2 large chicken leg quarters (or 1 whole chicken)
- 3 pork neck bones or 3 oz of lean pork or pork ribs
- 5 slices ginger
- 5 slices Chinese dried wild yam
- 4 long pieces astralagus root
- 4 long pieces codonopsis root
- 6-8 dried longan
- 6-8 dried jujube
- 1-2 tablespoon goji berry
- 10-12 cups water
- salt to taste
Blanch the chicken and pork
- Bring a pot of water to boil, then add the chicken leg quarters and pork bones or meat.2 large chicken leg quarters, 3 pork neck bones
- Blanch for 3-5 minutes. You should see a lot of proteins and scum float to the surface. Drain the water.
Make the soup
- To a large clean pot, add the blanched chicken, pork bones, and sliced ginger. Give all the herbal ingredients a quick rinse, then add them to the pot (except for goji berries, which we will add at the end).5 slices ginger, 5 slices Chinese dried wild yam, 4 long pieces astralagus root, 4 long pieces codonopsis root, 6-8 dried longan, 6-8 dried jujube
- Add 10-12 cups of water. Bring everything up to a boil.10-12 cups water
- Once it’s boiling, skim off any extra foam or scum on the surface. Lower the heat so that the water is at a gentle simmer, then cover the pot with the lid. Let it simmer for 2.5-3 hours, or until chicken is fall apart tender. Make sure the soup doesn’t boil too hard during this time, otherwise you’ll experience more evaporation (we want to keep as much soup as possible), and the chicken may end up tough.
- After 2.5-3 hours, add the goji berries. These will only take a few minutes to rehydrate in the soup.1-2 tablespoon goji berry
- Season with salt to taste. Enjoy!salt to taste