It’s everyone’s (least) favorite time of year. Colds are being passed around like belated holiday presents, and hot beverages serve more to soothe throats than to warm bellies. The winter sniffles are in full swing, and with them, the need to prepare for potential sick days. Luckily, there’s one cold-weather meal that works great regardless of whether you’re fighting a fever or simply trying to get your fill: a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Of course, if you have the time, you should absolutely cook up a batch of homemade. But not everyone has the resources or energy for from-scratch soup, especially when they’re feeling ill. That’s why we decided to try out six varieties of pre-made, canned chicken noodle soup available online or in grocery stores. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
It’s basic, yes, but Progresso’s chicken noodle soup is everything you want in the classic meal. There are carrots, celery, twisty noodles and a hearty enough broth to pull it all together. This chicken noodle soup won’t win any awards for originality, but it’ll hit the spot when you’re looking for a comforting, noodle-filled bowl.
Once again, Safeway’s generic proves that name brand value alone can’t guarantee flavor. Signature Kitchens’s chicken noodle soup closely mirrors Progresso’s classic flavor, and also manages to retain some crisp-tender life in its vegetables. The noodles in this soup also retained the best texture of the bunch, and resisting the temptation to become soggy messes, unlike some of the competitors. For nearly a dollar cheaper than our #1 pick, this isn’t a bad choice at all.
This is a controversial choice for runner-up. Some of our tasters loved this chicken noodle soup, which includes both white beans and quinoa. But since beans in chicken noodle soup are somewhat atypical, some of our other testers were instantly turned off by this creative take on a classic cool weather favorite. Well Yes! also tastes more strongly of sodium than some of the other options we tried, which is worth keeping in mind if a notably salty broth seems like a turn-off for you.
Best Vegetarian Option
Amy’s No Chicken Noodle Soup ($3.19)
Since Amy’s is a vegetarian company, we were curious how close their option came to the real deal. We’ll admit, using tofu for chicken doesn’t quite impart the flavor we’re looking for in a bowl of chicken noodle—the soup’s broth tastes closer to miso soup than chicken. And it’s disappointing to say that Amy’s, despite being vegetarian, seems to offer fewer veggies than some of its contenders. Beyond that, though, this option is a pretty solid dupe for run of the mill Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. It’ll remind you of childhood, particularly if you take pleasure in slurping up long, thin noodles.
Not Our Favorites
There’s no particularly glaring fault with these brands. They just don’t offer much by way of stand-out flavor. (Honestly, both soups’ defining flavor characteristic was tasting like a product bearing a high sodium content). In Wolfgang Puck’s case, the noodles were also unpleasantly soft, but some consumers may prefer that melt-in-your-mouth texture. Overall, these aren’t by any means the worst meals in the world, especially if they’re on sale. But they’re not worth seeking out, either.