Beer-Cheese Soup with Chicken and Bacon
A from-scratch Beer-Cheese Soup recipe that is hearty, easy and delicious.
Like most soups, beer-cheese soup is often made and served on a chilly, stormy day. Making the soup fills your home with not only a steamy warmth that is certainly welcome on a cold, raw day, but also with the smoky smell of bacon, and those wonderful sounds of onions and garlic sizzling in bacon drippings, and the faint and gentle bubbling of the soup as it simmers on the stove.
Like traditional beer-cheese soup, this one cooks up thick, smooth and rich. What makes it different is the addition of bacon and chicken. The bacon adds a rich smokiness that goes so perfectly with cheddar cheese, while the addition of a generous amount of chicken will please those meat-and-potato types who wouldn't normally be satisfied with simply soup for dinner.
I do serve this soup for dinner, and my husband never complains, even though he is one of those meat-and-potatoes kinds of guys. His favorite is still my famous Smoked Chicken Chowder, but this one comes in at a close second. He also loves bread and knows that he'll be treated to a fresh, hot loaf of homemade bread along with his soup. In keeping with the beer theme, I usually make four-ingredient beer bread because it is so unbelievably delicious, quick and easy. There is no kneading, rising or yeast involved -- just mix it up the four ingredients and pop it in the oven.
I make Beer-Cheese Soup with Bacon and Chicken with whatever beer I have available at the time. Different beers give the soup different flavors, but I love the soup with every beer I've tried. Naturally, a lighter beer will produce a lighter flavor, and a darker beer will produce a richer flavor. It's fun to experiment and discover what you prefer. We love dark beers here at our house, so I tend to save those for drinking, and use for cooking whatever type we least want to drink. The results are always delicious, no matter what.
- 6 ounces bacon, chopped
- 3/4 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon diced garlic
- 2 15-ounce cans chicken broth
- 1 12-ounce can or bottle beer, any type
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups half-and-half
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large dutch oven or soup pot, combine the chopped bacon and diced onion. Fry/saute on medium heat until the bacon pieces are slightly browned and the onions are clear. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Do not let garlic or onions burn.
- Turn burner off. Drain all but about one tablespoon of the bacon drippings.
- Turn heat to low and pour both cans of chicken broth into the pot over the bacon, onions and garlic. Use a spatula to scrape any stuck-down bacon pieces from the bottom of the pot. Scrape and stir until bottom of pot is clean.
- Place chicken breasts into chicken broth/bacon mixture. Cover, turn heat to high and bring the broth to a gentle boil. Once broth begins to boil, turn burner heat to low and allow chicken breasts to simmer, covered, approximately 30-45 minutes, until fully cooked and very tender.
- Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool.
- Pour entire bottle or can of beer into the pot of broth. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, uncovered. This evaporates the alcohol from the beer, making the soup safe for kids and those who prefer not to consume alcohol.
- Mix 1/4 cup corn starch with enough water to make a thin paste. Stir the paste into the broth mixture. Allow the broth to boil gently for a few minutes. Boiling the broth with the cornstarch paste will thicken the broth. If the broth does not thicken after a minute or two of gentle boiling, repeat the procedure with another 1/4 cup of cornstarch mixed with water.
- When broth has thickened, reduce heat to medium. Chop or tear chicken into chunks. Add chicken chunks to the soup.
- A little at a time, sprinkle cheese onto top of soup, stirring after each addition. Allow cheese to melt, then sprinkle on and stir in more cheese until all 3 cups are melted into the soup.
- Turn heat to low. Stir in half-and-half. Allow soup to heat through until steaming. Simmer a few minutes if you like, but do not bring to a boil and do not simmer for for an extended period of time, or the half-and-half will curdle. Serve immediately.