The Ingredient That Will Change Your Chicken Soup Forever

If you thought chicken soup couldn't get any more comforting and delicious, just wait until you try it with lemon juice. According to Epicurious, just a hint of the ingredient can go a long way in making your chicken soup that much more irresistible. Compared to other soups, chicken soup doesn't have the most intense flavor, so you might assume adding something sour may overpower the whole dish. But as the publication explains, lemon juice adds more than just tartness. For chicken soup in particular, lemon juice balances out the more rich and savory flavors, adding an overall brightness to the taste.

It's not only the flavor of the lemon juice that's responsible, but also its chemical properties, The Seattle Times shares. Lemon juice is an acid, which means it activates your taste buds in the same way that salt does. Therefore, when you add it to any dish, soup included, the flavors you taste are heightened, creating an umami effect.

How much lemon juice should you add to chicken soup?

While you could easily add lemon juice to taste, Rachael Ray recommends using ¼ cup of lemon juice. Her recipe calls for adding the lemon juice at the very end of the cooking process when the chicken soup is already done, contrary to what you may be used to. Whereas herbs and spices take time to infuse your soup with flavor, the same doesn't apply to lemon juice because it reacts differently to prolonged heat. For this reason, The Seattle Times warns against putting in the lemon juice too early. Lemon juice that's cooked for too long will inevitably become concentrated and turn bitter and can cause any greens in the soup to lose color and flavor (via Epicurious). 

Lemon zest on the other hand, can go in along with the rest of the aromatics and vegetables, according to the recipe Ray shared. But if you want to take advantage of the brightness that lemon juice can contribute to a chicken soup, stick to adding it at the end.