Refrigerator Chicken and Vegetable Soup

How to make Chicken and Vegetable Soup from what you have in the refrigerator |

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Do you ever find a refrigerator full of a little of this and a little of that?  Well, this happens to me 2 to 3 times a month.  Once the refrigerator gets to this point, it’s time to make a pasta or soup.  This week the ingredients screamed SOUP.  This Chicken and Vegetable Soup was made using the last of a roasted chicken from which we had already had two meals, some leftover green beans, and fingerling potatoes, and few other fresh vegetables I had in the fridge.

When making a soup from leftovers, there are a few things to think about in the planning stage that can help improve the outcome.

  • Select two to three aromatic vegetables like onion, shallots, garlic, celery, or bell pepper to start the soup, by sauteing them slowly in oil, bacon drippings, or butter.
  • Use a flavorful stock or broth. If you’re using a leftover roast chicken, you can make the stock from the carcass.
  • Select herbs and spices that complement, or that are the same as, the seasoning used in the leftovers.
  • If using uncooked meat, brown the meat prior to sauteing the aromatics. You can brown large pieces or bite size pieces. Remove the meat and set aside.  Use a little bit of liquid to deglaze the pot. Cut up any large pieces of meat and return to the pot when you start adding the uncooked vegetables or right after the stock has been added and brought to a boil.
  • If using uncooked vegetables, add to the soup pot once the stock has been brought to a boil.  However, add in order of slow cookers to fast cookers.  For example, carrots and potatoes should be added and cooked for a few minutes before you add fresh green beans or mushrooms, and then greens, like Swiss chard and kale, should be added after that.
  • If using cooked vegetables or cooked meat, add last and only cook about 10 to 15 minutes, just long enough to heat through and allow some of the flavors from the cooked ingredients to be added to the soup.
  • Don’t add any salt until the end.  Once all of the ingredients have been added, taste the soup and add salt only if needed.


Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Using what's in the refrigerator to make Chicken and Vegetable Soup |

Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe
10 mins
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins

A soup you can pretty much throw together from ingredients you already have in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.

"*" See Kitchen Notes for more information or links to special ingredients.

Course: Chicken, Main Course, Soup
Yields: 5 serving (about)
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
The amounts below are not exact (~). *See Kitchen Notes for more ideas for vegetables and seasonings.
  • 2 Tbsp. fat (oil, bacon drippings, butter or combination)
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ~1 quart chicken stock*
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ~1 cup chopped green beans
  • ~1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • ~2 cups cooked chicken, cut or torn into small pieces
  • 1 small chile, minced
  • ~2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • ~1 cup diced, potatoes* (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. red chile powder*
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Heat the fat in a large soup pot over medium low heat. When hot add the onion, garlic, and celery and slowly sauté for about 3 minutes.

  2. Add the bay leaf, oregano, thyme and chile powder and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
  4. Start adding the uncooked vegetables according to what needs to cook the longest. Simmer, allowing 2 to 3 minutes between each addition. Cook until vegetables are firm tender.
  5. Add the tomatoes, cooked vegetables and cooked chicken. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Taste. Add salt and pepper and other seasoning only if needed.

  7. Serve, topping each serving with a little cheese if desired.
If you have time, let the soup cool for 2 hours or overnight, reheat and serve.
Kitchen Notes

For this chicken and vegetable soup I used fresh carrots, mushrooms, a cherry bomb chile pepper, and tomatoes. The cooked ingredients were potatoes, green beans and chicken.  However, any of these could be uncooked.  Just add them sooner.

Other vegetables that could be used – corn, broccoli, squash (both summer or winter), beans, or greens (e.g., Swiss chard, spinach, or kale). Most vegetables are subtle enough to be used together in a soup creating a taste that is the combined flavor of the ingredients.  However, there are some vegetables that can dominate, overpowering the other ingredients and thus changing a mixed vegetable soup to a single flavored soup.  I personally find cabbage, turnips, parsnips and some greens, like collard greens, to be such vegetables; therefore, I usually avoid using these vegetables in a mixed vegetable soup.


Additional this and that – Potatoes, rice, pasta, beans (pinto, black, red), olives, capers, roasted green chile or other peppers, raw chiles.


Seasoning – The herbs and spices used in this soup were determined primarily by the seasoning that I used in the chicken and on the potatoes.  The chicken was an herb roasted chicken, while the potatoes had been roasted with smoked paprika.  Therefore, think about the seasoning that you used in the soup’s ingredients, and use more of those herbs and spices, or complementary ones.  Blends work well, especially curries or herb blends.


Cornbread – Because of the smoked paprika and red chile powder in the soup, I added 1 tsp. urfa chili flakes to my no fail buttermilk cornbread recipe.  It made a great finishing touch to the meal.


For more idea on how to stretch out a roasted chicken, check out this post over at Spicie Foodie.


How to use what's in the refrigerator for a hearty and delicious Chicken and Vegetable Soup |


If you are looking for more soups to enjoy this fall and winter, here are few of my favorites.

Fenugreek Fish and Clam Bisque

Green Chicken Mushroom Soup

Corn Chowder with Smoked Ham

Butternut Squash with Apples and Red Chile

Spicy Pumpkin and Red Chile Soup

Andouille and Black Bean Soup

And if you’re still looking for more ideas, check out this list:

A Tantalizing Collection of Soups and Stews



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54 Responses to “Refrigerator Chicken and Vegetable Soup”

  1. Soni November 22, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    This soup looks and sounds just about perfect for these cold days and my family would certainly love this for dinner 🙂 I love that you’ve added tons of veggies along with the chicken that makes it such a healthy dish!!Cannot wait to try..

  2. My Inner Chick November 17, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    this is something Minnesotan’s NEED NOW.
    Devine! WOW. Brava! xx YUMMMMMMMM

    • mj November 18, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks so much! I bet you would love of bowl of this right now. It’s cold where you are!!!

  3. Sissi November 15, 2014 at 2:13 am #

    Haha! It happens to me much more often actually, especially in the summer (I don’t know why… maybe I eat more perishable vegetables then?). I also make such improvised soups and am very happy to see the way you prepare them. I will certainly put your ideas and tips into practice!

    • mj November 16, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks Sissi! It’s nice to see so many people that don’t throw out their leftovers. My MIL always struggled with using leftovers. One time when I was down there, I used the leftovers in her fridge to make a fried rice. Everyone was asking “Where did this come from?” They couldn’t believe it was just leftovers. 🙂

  4. Nami | Just One Cookbook November 13, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    I like how you gave tips on each scenario – like you have to boil the soup first before you add cooked meat, etc. It might be common sense to some (who experienced in cooking for a long time) but for a beginner, this kind of thing is a very tricky mystery and a lot of people are scared of cooking because of uncertainty. So I thought it was very nice how you explained all options in detail! Love the soup – I can eat it for lunch and dinner. I won’t get tired of it. 🙂

    • mj November 16, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      Thanks so much Nami! Boiling the soup before you add the cooked ingredients helps to not overcook what’s already cooked. And yes, I have A LOT of years and experience cooking with leftovers. It’s something my mother taught all of her daughters. 🙂

  5. ChgoJohn November 12, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    I can so agree with this post’s theme, MJ. Altho I usually go the pasta or frittata route when I’m clearing out the fridge, I really should consider making soup, especially now that cold weather is setting in. I mean, this soup you’ve made is fantastic. No one would ever believe you were cleaning the fridge — and I’d never tell em. 🙂

    • mj November 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks for keeping my secret John! 🙂 I’m not a big frittata person, so pasta and soups are my standbys. Stay warm my friend!

  6. Choc Chip Uru November 10, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    Haha my mum chucks everything into soup ALL the time 😀
    The method rocks right? Your soup looks so flavoursome, I love that your fridge holds awesome leftover ingredients (as supposed to random excess broccoli like ours :P)

    Choc Chip Uru

    • mj November 11, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

      Yes, the method does rock! Thanks!

  7. anna@icyviolets November 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    what a beautiful soup! i have been cooking for years and have made many soups but the art of the spontaneous soup? i have yet to learn it. this one looks delicious.

    • mj November 11, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

      Thanks Anna! It’s actually quite fun to create a soup spontaneously. Challenging as well. thanks for coming by!

  8. Raymund November 10, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I have that problem as well, a little bit of everything not just in the fridge, freezer as well as the pantry. Its a challenge to clean up and make something out of it, also a time to get creative 🙂

    • mj November 11, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      “a time to get creative” – that’s the way I feel about it as well. It’s fun!

  9. swathi November 10, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    That is delicious and wholesome soup for the weather MJ. I love to have few bowl this winter. Using up everything in the refrigerator is always a wonderful

    • mj November 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

      Thanks Swathi!

  10. Helene D'Souza November 10, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    I am in love with your second picture MJ. Bobby is really training you well in photography. 😉 I know what you mean with little food ingredients crying to be used. I either make a soup (as you did) or pizza. I think so chicken soups were mostly made that way in oldern times. You just throw in what you have in your fridge and which fits to the dish. Thanks for sharing and I wish you a great week ahead!

    • mj November 10, 2014 at 8:10 am #

      Thank you so much Helene! Yes, Bobby has trained me well. 🙂 Love the idea of making a pizza with leftovers. One could come up with some really interesting pizzas. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Carole from Carole's Chatter November 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Nothing like a great creatiave dish inspired by the fridge! Cheers from Carole’s Chatter!

  12. Bam's Kitchen November 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Great little chicken and veggie soup! Hey you forgot one thing, what about the kitchen sink? We do loads of soups in the fall/winter too as is great to make in the slow cooker or just ready for the boys when they come from home from all of their activities. Just shared…

    • mj November 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      Oh darn – I did forget!!! Every leftover soup needs a kitchen sink. Ha Ha

  13. ATasteOfMadness November 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    This soup looks amazing! I seriously need to make more soup!

    • mj November 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks Darlin!

  14. Debra November 9, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    That is exactly what I need to do…I know I need to clean out the crisper drawer. Great looking soup!

    • mj November 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks Debra!

  15. Easyfoodsmith November 9, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    A delicious way to use left overs. The result is a nice hearty healthy soup. I am going to practice this, this winter.

    • mj November 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks so much Taruna! It’s a good practice to get in to.

  16. The Wimpy Vegetarian November 8, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    I completely understand this! I frequently have these odds and ends hanging around and love to use them in a soup. It’s such a perfect use for them, and I love the idea of no waste. Now that I’m making smoothies in the morning, I have ways to use up 1/2 apple, part of a pear, etc now too.

    • mj November 8, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks Susan! Yep, smoothie are a great way to use fruits, soup for the veggies.

  17. Viviane Bauquet Farre November 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Lovely soup, and I’d never guess it was leftover-inspired if you hadn’t told me. Thanks for sharing MJ!

    • mj November 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      Thanks Viviane!

  18. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz November 7, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Reminds me I need to clean out and make a soup soon lol. Love your fridge soup with these items and so many great tips to, I have had the occasional bland result.

    • mj November 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      Thanks Evelyne!

  19. Carol at Wild Goose Tea November 6, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    I think we have all been there MULTIPLE times with this and that in the fridge. But you have put it all together so over the top well. Wonderful spice selection. If you served this to guests, they would never ever guess they were eating leftovers. Ha!

    • mj November 7, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      Thanks Carol! A little bit of spice goes a LONG way! 🙂

  20. Vicki Bensinger November 6, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    I do the same thing. Let’s face it, it’s better than not using your unused ingredients and having to toss them out. Sometimes I actually create new dishes that become regulars in our house – go figure. Great use of your refrigerator goodies. Looks like a flavorful soup!

    • mj November 7, 2014 at 8:06 am #

      I know what you mean Vicki. Sometimes those refrigerator cleanouts are the best meals and having those exact ingredients again, would be difficult. 🙂 Thanks!

  21. Shashi @ runninsrilankan November 5, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Such an awesome use of leftover chicken and veggies! Just last night I made soup with leftover veggies – I was in a hurry and dropped all the carrots, celery, peppers, peas, and corn in at once and did not put the fast cookers in first and then the slower ones and the veggie colors were so muted – so different to yours – your soup sounds and looks wonderful – love the heat of the chili in there.

    • mj November 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Thanks so much Shashi! Sounds like we had almost the same ingredients this week. 🙂

  22. Nancy/SpicieFoodie November 5, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    I love making soup with leftovers, but you make yours look like it was all fresh and planned ingredients. It must have tasted amazing! Serving it with spicy cornbread sounds like a meal made in heaven.

    You always have the most helpful kitchen notes. Thank you for including my link, MJ! 🙂

    • mj November 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks so much Nancy! My planning stage is pulling everything out of the fridge and onto the counter to see what I got. I go from there. You are most welcome!

  23. Angie@Angie's Recipes November 5, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Sometimes I find the recipes made with leftover taste the best. Your soup looks so comforting and tasty, MJ.

    • mj November 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      Totally agree Angie! The combined flavors of the leftovers is hard to beat at times.

  24. Jen @ Baked by an Introvert November 5, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    I love the idea behind this soup, MJ! I am always wondering how to use up the little extras I have left over. And since we are moving in less than two weeks, this is great for emptying out the fridge.

    • mj November 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks so much Jen! Glad to have been able to help! Good luck on your move!

  25. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 5, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    I always call mine clean the fridge soup. Yours looks hearty and delicious!

    • mj November 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks Maureen! I usually call mine refrigerator clean out. 🙂

  26. Karen (Back Road Journal) November 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Your chicken and vegetable soup sounds terrific and your post made me smile. It seems that most Tuesdays I have a meal like this as I know Wednesday is garbage day. 😀 Since it is Tuesday and I must clean out my refrigerator, I’m making potato leek soup.

    • mj November 4, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      I love your “garbage day” Karen! Enjoy your soup and thanks for the comments!

  27. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles November 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I think you must be speaking directly to me today MJ. I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip back to Canada to a fridge full of this and that looking for a welcoming home :). I love the satisfaction factor here (red chile duly noted) combined with waste prevention. I’ve got some beans that I can use as my base and will gather the remaining elements scattered across my crispers. And, I *must* try the bacon drippings!! 🙂 my French mom always saved savory fats from cooking and I’ve got to get into a similar habit. Thank you for the inspiration and reminder of all things good.

    • mj November 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

      I always had the feeling that you had French in your blood. 🙂 oh you really do need to start saving a little of those bacon drippings. We don’t eat a lot of bacon, but I always save the drippings when we do and it’s amazing how just a little bit can add so much flavor. That’s something I learned from my southern mom. Hope you had a great trip back to Canada.

  28. John@Kitchen Riffs November 4, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    We make a ton of soup at this time of the year! And my method for cleaning out the refrigerator — and making soup — is basically the same as yours. Good recipe. Really like the pictures. Thanks for a great post.

    • mj November 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

      Thanks John! I think those of us who have had many years in the kitchen have perfected the refrigerator clean out meals. 🙂 hopefully we can help others see how easy and fun it is.

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