Chicken and Chestnut Soup

Bone-in chicken thighs cooked slowly with chestnuts and black cardamom add richness to this comforting and brothy soup.

Chicken and Chestnut Soup

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 5 mins
6 to 8

Tender, falling-off-the-bone slow-cooked chicken thighs simmer alongside roasted chestnuts and smoky black cardamom to form the base of this satisfying soup. Traditionally, it is served with bone-in chicken meat, but in this version, for ease of eating, the soup is slowly cooked with bone-in chicken thighs and a chicken backbone for extra flavor and richness, and then the meat is shredded and the bones are discarded before serving. There’s no need to discard the cardamom pods — just give the soup a couple of minutes to settle before serving, and they will sink to the bottom of the pot. Chinese black cardamom and Chinese chestnuts sold in snack packs are available at specialty spice shops and at Chinese markets. Substitute pre-shelled jarred Italian chestnuts if you cannot find Chinese chestnuts.


  • 2 black cardamom pods

  • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 1 (10- to 12-ounce) chicken back

  • 8 cups water, divided

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 3 cups roasted and peeled whole Chinese chestnuts (such as Asian Taste)


  1. Lay flat side of a cleaver or a large knife over cardamom pods. Using heel of your hand, smack knife against cardamom pods until they begin to split open; break each pod into 3 to 4 pieces using your hands. Place pods and seeds in a large dry wok or a large skillet; cook over high, stirring occasionally, until toasted and very fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  2. Arrange chicken thighs and chicken back, skin sides down, in an even layer along bottom and sides of wok. Cook over high, flipping chicken occasionally, until chicken is just beginning to lightly brown in spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer chicken, cardamom pods, and cardamom seeds to a medium-size soup pot. Do not wipe wok clean.

  3. Place wok over high heat, and add 2 cups water. Scrape up any browned bits using a spatula, and add to chicken thigh mixture in pot. Remove wok from heat. Add salt and remaining 6 cups water to pot. Bring to a boil over high; cover and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer, undisturbed, 30 minutes.

  4. Uncover and stir chestnuts into chicken mixture in pot. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high. Cover and continue to simmer over low, undisturbed, until broth darkens in color, is fragrant, and chicken easily pulls away from bone, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat.

  5.  Remove chicken from pot. Remove skin; shred meat, and discard skin and bones. Stir shredded chicken into soup. Ladle soup evenly into 6 or 8 shallow bowls.

To Make Ahead

Soup can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored in refrigerator with chestnuts and chicken stored separately. When ready to serve, simmer to reheat.

Suggested Pairing

Savory but light white: Domaine de l’Ecu Muscadet Granite

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