It's hard to beat the comfort of a warm bowl of freshly homemade chicken noodle soup. Not only is it a cold remedy—thanks to the vitamins and minerals from vegetables and herbs, plus the protein from chicken—but it's also a nostalgic food for many of us.
If you don't have the time to simmer chicken bones for homemade stock or to chop carrots for dinner, grabbing a can at the grocery store is a good backup plan. There are plenty of options in the canned soup department that will fortify you on a chilly night.
So, to keep you healthy and warm this winter, I set out to find the best can of chicken noodle soup to sip all season long by sampling six of the most popular brands.
Here's how all six chicken noodle soups looked and tasted, ranked in descending order from least favorite to best.
Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup
Unfortunately, the most iconic canned soup brand name fell short of expectations. The can is smaller than most because the soup is condensed, which means that you prepare it by combining the contents with a can full of water to dilute it before heating.
The look: The soup has a sunny yellow color that I thought would be an indication of seasoning. When I emptied it into a bowl, I was surprised by the dense clump of noodles that came out. There is little broth (to be expected, since it's a condensed soup), a few tiny bits of chicken, and no vegetables.
The taste: Despite the tasty-looking yellow hue, the soup's dominant flavor was salt, rather than anything herby or nuanced. I'm sure the complete lack of vegetables doesn't help. Celery and onions aren't even listed on the ingredient list, only onion powder and garlic extract. The soup also contains a small amount of sugar, according to the ingredient list, which seems unnecessary. The noodles were a bit mushy, but at least they didn't completely fall apart.
Wegmans Organic Chicken Noodle Soup
This fully organic canned soup from Wegmans had all the makings of a nice meal. The first few ingredients on the nutrition panel include carrots, celery, chicken, onions, and noodles. And all of those elements were tasty, I just wanted more.
The look: The soup is thinner than most of the others I tried, with substantially more broth than fillings. It has thick, curly egg noodles and very small pieces of chicken and carrots. The onions and celery are diced so tiny that they basically disappear into the broth.
The taste: The broth itself tasted fine, neither incredibly delicious nor bland. But there was altogether too much of it given the paltry amount of noodles, chicken, and vegetables. And despite the amount of liquid in the bowl, the chicken bits were dry.
Annie's Organic Chicken Noodle Soup
This soup has less protein and sodium than most of the others I sampled. Surprisingly, though, I found it to have plenty of chicken (it's the second ingredient listed) but it lacked in flavor and was far thinner than some of the other options.
The look: This was the brothiest soup I tried. The can contained just a few strands of egg noodles and tiny bits of diced carrot and chicken that sank to the bottom of the bowl.
The taste: Annie's chicken noodle soup wasn't super flavorful, but it did have a nice subtle herby note from the added seasonings. The broth is also enriched with carrot purée, carrot juice, onion juice, and celery purée, all of which contribute a subtle sweetness to the soup. The chicken was cut so small that it was almost like ground meat, and it was a bit dry.
Amy's No Chicken Noodle Soup
Technically, this is a tofu noodle soup, not a proper chicken noodle soup, but aside from the protein source, it has everything else you're looking for. It's also fully organic and has a similar nutrition profile to the meat-based soups, it just happens to be vegan.
The look: This was one of two canned soups I tried that contained spaghetti instead of curly egg noodles (the other being Campbell's). These thinner noodles tend to break more easily, so they were mostly not intact by the time the soup was emptied into a bowl. The broth looks a bit greener than others and the pieces of tofu and carrots are pretty small.
The taste: I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of this chicken-less noodle soup. The tofu bits stayed moist and chewy (unlike the chicken in some other soups, which completely dried out). The broth had a light, fresh flavor that, unsurprisingly, was more vegetable-forward than the others. There was plenty of diced onion and overall the soup was very well seasoned and not too salty.
Progresso Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup
Full of generous chunks of tender chicken and carrot coins, this savory soup is well seasoned and strikes the right balance between broth and fillings.
The look: This was the last canned chicken noodle soup I tried, and I was shocked by the large pieces of chicken and slices of vegetables that emerged from the can compared to the competition. The carrots are cut into coins, rather than tiny cubes, that are not only visible in the broth, but also large enough to actually chew and taste. The soup has a nice balance of golden broth and fillings with thick and curly egg noodles. There are visible flecks of black pepper throughout the bowl.
The taste: The soup has a rich flavor, probably due to the addition of chicken fat. It's a touch sweet (it's also made with carrot purée and a bit of sugar), and has some subtle herby notes from chives.
Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Noodle Soup
This savory soup is not too salty, made with organic ingredients, and has a short and readable ingredient list. It makes a delicious, warming meal that you can feel good about.
The look: I prefer the larger pieces of carrots in the Progresso soup, but this does have a nice balance between the amount of broth, veggies, and noodles. The noodles were largely intact and the soup had a bonus vegetable: green peas.
The taste: The flavor of this soup from Pacific Foods did not disappoint. The broth has a fresh, not-canned taste, which is probably thanks to the use of real garlic and vegetables instead of extracts and powders. This soup tasted close to homemade and was deeply satisfying.