This super simple chicken and rice soup is such a cozy fall or winter meal. The combination of bone-in chicken thighs, tomato paste, and soy sauce gives the broth a deeply savory, chicken flavor without using boxed broth (something I rarely ever use). It brightened up with lots of lemony flavor by using both lemon zest and juice. Try adding some freshly grated ginger for a digestion boost!

Ingredient highlight

Chicken thighs! The nutrition in thighs is similar to breasts, but has a higher fat content. Chicken is a great way to get in easy protein that’s packed with selenium, choline, niacin (Vitamin B3), and vitamin B6, and B12.

I will always choose chicken thighs over breasts for two reasons. Reason one: chicken thighs have higher fat content and are way more flavorful. Reason two: chicken thighs are pretty much impossible to overcook.

Servings 4
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 lemon, zest peeled into strips (optional)*
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 ½ lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed or skin removed**
  • ½ cup short grain brown rice
  • 4 cups loosely packed spinach or chopped kale
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Fresh herbs (optional)**
  • *This adds a more lemony flavor, but can be skipped or just zest your lemon with a zester (we’re adding the juice from the lemon at the end). Watch the video to see how I do it!
  • **You can remove the chicken skin before or after cooking. You could also use 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken thighs instead.
  • ***The herbs really brighten and freshen up this soup. My favorite is dill!


  • In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, lemon zest strips (if using), and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and fennel seeds and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  • Add the water, soy sauce or tamari, chicken, rice, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until rice is tender. Transfer chicken to a cutting board or plate to let cool. Add your greens to the soup and simmer until wilted, about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  • While the greens simmer, peel the skin off of the chicken, then shred the meat off of the bone (save your bones for bone broth!). Stir the meat back into the pot along with the lemon juice, starting with one tablespoon. Taste and add more if you’d like it more lemony. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
  • Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and freshly grated black pepper.

Items you can prep ahead (optional)

  • Chop 1 yellow onion
  • Chop 2 carrots
  • Chop 2 celery stalks
  • Chop 2 cloves garlic
  • Trim excess fat or remove the skin from 1 ½ lb bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • Chop 4 cups kale or use spinach
  • Make the soup


  • To make vegetarian/vegan: Make it a chickpea and rice soup. Add 2 cans of rinsed and drained chickpeas in place of the chicken. You will also need to add more flavor. I would recommend using double the tomato paste and mixing in 1-2 tbsp of mellow white miso paste at the end. If you don’t have miso paste, add more soy sauce. 
  • Add in any veggies you like here. Always keep in mind how long it takes to cook when you add. 
  • Use sweet potatoes, potatoes, or even quinoa instead of rice.
  • Skip the rice and add in some extra veggies or serve with bread!


  • Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months

Leftovers + Repurposing:

  • Warm the soup up. Add a squeeze of lemon for leftovers, since that bright lemon flavor fades when reheated.
  • Try topping it with a soft boiled egg or an egg yolk. When the yolk breaks and mixes into the soup, it makes the broth turn velvety and creamy. Yum!
  • Top with a garlicky herb oil (See the Lentil, Cabbage, Potato Soup!)
  • Serve with crusty bread

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