Canja – Portuguese Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken orzo soup

Big Fat Portuguese Wedding Soup

When I first saw the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with my friends many years ago, they laughed hysterically at the quirky customs, the outrages family members and the huge bridal party.

Although I did love the movie, I found nothing strange about it since I had lived through many of the same big crazy weddings many times.

In fact, I’ve probably been to over 100, “Big Fat Portuguese Weddings.” Some I attended as a guest, while others, as a waitress during my teenage years.

There is a large close knit Portuguese community in my hometown. It seems that there is literally a Portuguese wedding every week during the summer months where everyone is invited!

Lists of the 300-500 guest’s addresses are handed down from generations to the next who follow the same traditions, customs and even serve the same menus.

A recent email request for the chicken soup that is served at Portuguese weddings brought back the memories from weddings attended long ago and the soup that is still on the menu.

An abundance of food is very important for any Portuguese wedding. Generally, the menus consist of a wide range appetizers such as Bolinhos de Bacalhau (Cod Fritters), Rissois de Camarao (Shrimp Turnovers), Folar (Meat stuffed bread) Roast Suckling Pig, Shrimp Cocktail, Cheese, Fruit, Presunto and other cold cuts, a soup course; Caldo Verde (Green Soup) or Chicken Noodle Soup, a fish course which varies from; Seafood Paella, Fish Fillets with Shrimp Rice or Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa (Salt Cod Casserole), and a meat dish with either; Roast Pork Loin, Roast Beef, or Steak.

Later in the evening a buffet is served similar to an “Italian Venetian” hour with many of these same items along with other traditional classics such as Feijoada (Bean stew), Dobrada (Tripe), and many other classic desserts and pastries to many to mention.

Here’s my recipe for “Portuguese Wedding Soup”. It contains a secret ingredient used by some of the caterers.

Keep it a secret if you wish, it’s up to you! Enjoy!

Portuguese Wedding Soup


3 lb fresh Chicken (whole or cut into pieces)

12 cups water

1 large chopped onion

2 large celery stalks

2 large carrots

2 cloves garlic (peeled)

3 sprigs parsley

1 tbsp salt

1 /2 tsp freshly cracked pepper

1  – 1/2 cups ORZO pasta (or white rice)

(1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes optional) 



In a large stock pot, place the water, onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, salt, 2 sprigs parsley and garlic and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and let it cook on medium for 2 hours. (If desired: remove one chicken breast after 1/2 hour of cooking time, remove bones, dice the meat and reserve for later).

After 2 hours remove the chicken and vegetables. Strain the soup through a strainer to remove any scum or fats. *Note: (Discard the chicken and vegetables since they have lost their nutrients and con not be re-used). Place the pan with the broth back on the stove and bring to a low boil. Slice remaining carrot and celery into desired small slices.

(TOP SECRET-Restaurant TIP: For an even more Chicken flavored soup, add 1 or 2 KNORR Chicken Bouillon cubes to taste)…HUSH.. HUSH!!

Add the ORZO or rice to the soup and cook on medium for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the diced carrots, celery and the reserved diced chicken to the soup and stir.

Let the soup cook on medium for additional 10 minutes. Remove the soup from heat. Season to taste by adding more salt if needed and add the fresh black pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley.

(*Note: – Some people like to add 1 mint leaf as garnish instead of Parsley) (*Note: Add crushed red pepper flakes to kick up the soup if you want a little heat. The crushed red pepper is great to relieve nasal congestion, but do not give to your younger children).

Serve, or store in refrigerator after the soup cools.  Enjoy!

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