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Chicken broth (Recipe: chilled asparagus soup)


When is store-bought chicken broth better than homemade chicken stock?

I know. The answer is supposed to be never.

Or is it?

If you find a brand you like, and get to know its good points, and live miles and miles from a store, and don't want to raise your own chickens so you can turn one into chicken stock on a moment's notice, and if you tend to be a last-minute meal planner, and have a pantry large enough to keep a box or two of chicken broth in it at all times... well, under those circumstances, store-bought chicken broth is great.

What's the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth? Stock is made from bones (carcass, neck, wings), long-simmered to release the flavorful gelatin into the liquid; broth is made from meat, which gives a less rich taste. You can bump up the flavor of store-bought broth by adding carrots, onions, leeks, celery, fennel, bay leaf or herbs (thyme, parsley, chives) from your garden.

Taste several different brands to find one that works for you. (My absolute favorite remains Swanson 99% Fat Free. Great flavor, with not a hint of dish water aftertaste.) Remember that even the low-sodium store-bought broths are higher in sodium than homemade stock. When using store-bought broth, hold back on added salt in your recipe. You probably won't need it.

With chicken broth in your pantry, you can throw together orzo with parmesan and basil, chicken with roasted lemons, chicken pot pie, spicy tortilla soup, Thai cashew chicken or French onion soup in less time than it takes to make chicken stock from scratch.

Chilled asparagus soup

Thick and creamy, but made without cream, this is one of my favorite summer soups. Because I like to serve it cold, the saltiness of store-bought chicken broth enhances the flavor of the soup. If you make this with homemade stock, add salt as needed. Remember: when you serve something cold, it needs to be highly seasoned. Makes 6-8 cups.


1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium russet potato, peeled, cut into chunks
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed, cut into thirds
6 cups chicken stock
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste


In a stock pot, sauté the onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the potato chunks and asparagus, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are quite soft. Remove from heat. With an immersion blender set to "liquify" (or in batches in a blender), process the soup until it is smooth. If necessary (and it usually is not), thin to desired consistency with additional chicken stock or water. Season to taste with lots of black pepper. Serve hot or chilled.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Also in The Perfect Pantry:

Turkey-escarole soup
Chicken soup that feeds a cold
Risotto ai funghi
Mole colorado
Hominy and cactus soup

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I totally agree. I use the same Swanson's all the time, and think it's fine. I don't have enough chicken bones and so forth to make my own broth very often--and I use a lot of broth. Beautiful soup!!!!

Here canned stock is a bit recherché still. We can choose between one good brand that costs the earth, and a really insultingly bad one that´s literally stock cubes dissolved in water and marked up 200%. So sometimes I just use those.

I like the colour of the asparagus soup, must taste awesome! I got a bunch in my fridge . . . maybe make a cup!

I've had the soup often recently- it's delicious cold or hot !

In a dream world, we would all only use homemade stock. Unfortunately, that's not possible.
Lydia, that soup looks super delicious. And in a 9ºC (48ºF) day, it would go extremely well. :)

I ALWAYS have cartons of organic low fat stock in my pantry. I also always make my own when I've roasted a bird, but who roasts so many chickens that they have stock whenever they need it?

Your soup looks perfect for summer.

I agree, Lydia -- it's always good to have the boxed broth around, and I'm a fan of the same brand as you. I like the sound of this recipe -- very light and refreshing!

I love to make my own stock in the winter, (makes the house smell so good!) However in the summer the idea of steaming up the kitchen is not so appealing. I'll definitely try this brand. Chilled asparagus soup would be perfect here; it's in the 90's and staying that way for a long time.

You mentioned asparagus soup in a comment on my blog the other day... I hope this is the one you were talking about. I adore asparagus, so I'm always looking for new ways to prepare them. Sounds great!

With low sodium chicken broth (and a cup of dry white wine) on hand, you can also whip up fantastic, basic risotto at a moment's notice!

I have 4 varieties of chicken broth stocked in my pantry right now. It seems a little excessive I know, but it will all be used by the end of the month.

By the way, this asparagus soup sounds fantastic!

I can stock in sufficient quantity that it is unlikely we would run out, dark beef, veal, chicken and vegetable. We also have some frozen.

If you are going to can you will have very hot summer days at times, but the vegetable juice in mid winter is very good.

I am fortunate enough that my yuppie grocery store sells frozen homemade stock that is wonderful.

Substituting liquefied potatoes for cream... that can be the base for any "cream of" soup -- mushrooms, corn, broccoli. Thanks for the idea, Lydia. :)

Sher, I do love making stock, but just as often I use this chicken broth. It's delicious.

Lobster, those don't sound like good choices at all! Boo hoo.

Big Boys, this soup is as good as it looks -- fresh, light, and yes, so green!

Ted, I think I like it better cold than hot. You?

Patricia, our asparagus season is so short that I love to make this and freeze it.

Ann, this soup is great for right now, if you're still getting asparagus at the farmers' markets. Hope you'll try it.

Genie, this soup makes me want to start an asparagus patch in my garden!

Kalyn, this is a great summer soup. I've cut the potato amount way down, too, to make it a bit more lean.

Erin, absolutely, this is the soup! Try it -- I'm sure you'll like it.

Sandie, some day we'll have to compare pantries -- having four types of broth sounds like something I would do!

NTSC, how great you are to make all of your own stock! I wish I had the time -- and storage space.

Peabody, sounds like a great yuppie store!

Connie you're welcome. It does work in many kinds of "cream" soups.

I agree, Lydia - good boxed broth is an absolute staple! It's saved me more than once when out of turkey stock and making last-minute Thanksgiving gravy. That soup looks terrific - it must be asparagus day!

I use this all the time, but pick and choose where to use it. With chicken noodle soup for instance, I would always make stock, but for any dish with strong flavours I'm more than happy to take the shortcut.

I always laugh when I come home with a box of chicken stock (I use Image brand) because I'm secretly afraid of running out, but seem to keep buying more that I have room for. Currently I have at least half a years worth of stock on hand...hopefully I will remember this next time I see it on sale! I need to try out this soup, I eat asparagus all the time, and this recipe looks super yummy.

Ahhh That looks just lovely. I never knew there was a difference between broth and stock - now I do!!

Marilyn, I actually always combine store-bought broth with turkey stock to bump up the flavor of gravy. It's a good trick!

Neil, same here. The chicken soup I make to cure a cold (yes, it really works) is always made from scratch. I'm not sure it would work otherwise.

Jason, I do that with vinegar. For some reason I always have at least 4 or 5 bottles of plain white vinegar in the pantry, and yet I'm always sure I'm running out of it.

Dharm, this is a lovely soup -- hope you'll try it.

When making chicken soup from scratch (after I've had roast chicken) I'll usually add some canned or boxed chicken broth. But I found something that takes up a lot less room in the pantry. It is jarred paste called "Better Than Bouillon". It comes in chicken, beef, vegetable, etc. Of course it must be refrigerated after opening but seems to last forever.

Constance, I've heard of this product but have never tried it. Usually I stay away from products like that because they can be excessively salty. But I keep earing about "Better Than Bouillon" so I really will have to try it.

Yes, it's true. The cubes and crystals can be full of salt but I don't find "Better Than Bouillon" too salty though it does contain salt. I rarely add salt when making soups and stews until the end. I use the beef when making stew and it adds so much flavor and deepens the color of the gravy.

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