Chicken and Rice Soup (Canja)

Brazilian Penicillin?

This soup was a part of my collective food memories well before I had even worked behind a stove.  Both my Brazilian and Sicilian ancestors believed in the power of chicken and rice soup, so as a kid, if I was feeling punkish, this is what I got.  If I was REALLY sick, I had this soup without the veggies and chicken – just broth and either rice or pastina (itty bitty italian pasta as small as grains of rice).  To this day, if I need a comforting meal, I make a pot of this recipe for canja or some Italian Chicken Soup.

The beauty of this soup is that it’s 100% made from scratch, all with ingredients lying around the kitchen.  Sure, it takes a little longer than cracking a can of Progresso, but the resulting soup is like a giant hug.  Last time I checked, canned soups weren’t passing out hugs.  I’ve detailed the recipe below as if you were making it without any leftovers, but know that I rarely actually make it this way.  Typically, I save the bones and leftover meat from a Roast Chicken night and use that as the basis of my stock.  Also, rather than simmering uncooked rice in the stock, I toss in a carton of leftover steamed white rice from Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese takeout.  If you want to learn more about my perfect tricks for stock, take a look at this.

Traditional canja uses a few different ingredients than the recipe below – the stock is fortified with pork of some kind, and tomatoes and cilantro are often included as well.  You can make the more authentic version with the recipe below by adding a meaty ham hock with the chicken and a can of petit diced tomatoes with the carrots, celery and onion.  Finish with a bit of fresh, chopped cilantro and nurse away any sickness trying to take you down.

Chicken and Rice Soup (Canja)

1 whole chicken (can be cut up or left whole)
3 carrots, peeled
2 stalks of celery
1 onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper
1 c. of long-grain rice

Place chicken (or chicken pieces) into your pot.  Cut your carrots and celery into 2 in. pieces and toss into the pot.  Add your onion, bay leaf, 1 tbs of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.  Fill pot with 12 cups of water and set to boil.  Boil on high until the chicken starts to separate from the bone and the veggies become soft.  Strain broth and put back into the pot.  Set aside chicken and vegetables until they are cool enough to handle.

Separate the chicken, shred and set aside.  Next, take the carrots and celery and mash in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.  Add the leftover onion, chicken skin and chicken bones to the pot and add water to the pot to make around 12 cups of soup (ie. if the water came up to 3/4 of the height of the pot in the first step, add enough water so that the soup comes up to the same level in the pot).  Boil until the stock reduces by a quarter.  Strain stock and taste for salt and pepper.  Throw out the bones and bay leaf.  At this point, you can cool the stock and chill overnight, or you can continue to cook the soup.

Bring strained stock to a boil and add 1 cup of long-grain rice.  Cook rice for 15 minutes, and then add your shredded chicken, mashed carrots and celery.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve.


  • This stock can be prepared with a lot of additional ingredients, to include smashed cloves of garlic, parsley stems, and celery tops.  Add these ingredients after you strain the broth the first time when you return the chicken skin and bones back to the pot.
  • To make traditional canja, use 1 smoked ham hock with the whole chicken in the first step.  When you shred the chicken in the second step, shred the meat from the hock and set it aside.  Return the outside of the hock and the bone to to the pot with the chicken bones.
  • If you just want to follow this recipe to make chicken stock, use the shredded chicken for something else (chicken salad, enchilada filling, crepe filling, etc.) and toss the carrots, celery and onion.

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