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I tried 7 canned chicken noodle soups and the winner was comfort in a can

The best store-bought chicken noodle soup was indeed good for the soul.

Chicken soup isn’t just a series of soulful books I read in the ’90s. It’s quintessential sick food, bolstered in popularity by the world’s worst gift to mankind: COVID.

When I was recently obliterated by the illness’ latest subvariant, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and order practically every canned chicken soup under the sun, though I am, admittedly, not a typical soup-seeker when I’m feeling under the weather. Instead, I rarely have an appetite and, if I do, it’s always for a carb that I douse in so much hot sauce that my nose feels like it’s going to roll off my face and into my plate.

But after scrolling through Instagram for hours, as one does when they’re quarantined, I stumbled across food blogger Tinger Hseih’s Instagram Reel of Chicken Tortilla Soup. The craving for something warm, satiating and satisfying took over my body and, as a result, that’s how I ended up with the aforementioned cans to be tested. It turns out that Hseih is a chicken noodle soup fan herself after I slid into her DMs to ask about her favorite store-bought offerings (because let’s face it, I wasn’t going to get out of bed and cook up her soup myself).

“I personally recommend looking for chicken noodle soups that are made with organic bone broth in the refrigerated section with no artificial coloring or additives and relatively low sodium,” she says. “When I’m at home, I will often add more bone broth to dilute the saltiness of the grocery store or restaurant soups.”

While this was excellent advice, especially coming off the heels of a bone broth taste test, I had to maintain consistency across the board: no creative iterations, no low-sodium labels and no cartons or even jars. O.G. cans only and without all the bells and whistles. Here’s how they stacked up.

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7. Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Noodle Soup

Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Noodle Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

Pass the peas, please, but not much else. This was quite watery and practically chicken-less, which made me cluckin’ angry. That said, I did appreciate the hints of garlic and spices that frankly saved the can from an eternity of sitting in the back of my pantry. It may have ranked last, but I’d buy it again if I’m desperate.

6. Annie’s Homegrown Organic Chicken Noodle Soup

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Chicken Noodle Soup.
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

This has a great flavor, but Annie, like Pacific, also skimped on the chicken. And if there’s anything in the world I hate most (besides bullies and Rihanna not releasing new music), it’s false advertising. Don’t call something chicken noodle soup if it’s really just soup with a hint of chicken. That said, if it was chock-full of protein, it would have absolutely been a top-three contender. I loved the hint of herbs, black pepper and even tomato.

5. Happy Belly Chicken Noodle Condensed Soup

Happy Belly Chicken Noodle Condensed Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

Oh, Amazon: Campbell’s you are not. And while I appreciated an attempt to mirror the most iconic chicken noodle soup brand of the bunch, it simply lacked the same craveworthy sodium content I grew up with. There was, however, quite a robust amount of noodles and chicken. And I was extremely grateful to see this after spooning through options six and seven. So if you’re looking to save a dollar or two, this can is a solid choice.

4. Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle Soup

Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

I enjoyed this lighter take that lived up to the brand’s name of “healthy.” The broth tasted more pure and unprocessed and the presence of celery and spiral noodles definitely made the mouthfeel more substantial and interesting. But this could have used a helluva lot more chicken, which docked it some critical points in the end. Pro tip: The brand offers a bone broth-based alternative that is fantastic and ... drumroll, please ... even healthier!

3. Wolfgang Puck Organic Free Range Chicken Noodle Soup

Wolfgang Puck Organic Free Range Chicken Noodle Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

Wolfgang’s Puck beloved can was quite difficult to find, so don’t expect to wander into any ol’ grocery store and see an assortment of it on full display. But sometimes good things are more elusive and such is the case with the famous chef’s more gourmet iteration of chicken noodle soup. It tasted very homemade and artisanal with a high noodle content and onion-forward broth. My only gripe was that it definitely erred on the saltier side, which is saying a lot from the guy who has no less than four salt shakers scattered around his apartment.

2. Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup

Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

The only thing missing from Campbell’s take on the timeless classic was Bob Barker (RIP), a humidifier and the soft caress of my mom’s hand on my back. This was a sick day staple as a kid and nothing will take away from its comforting nostalgia. Did I want to doctor this up with hot sauce? Yes. Did I wish it had more complexity beyond noodles and chicken? Also, yes. But was I left feeling delightfully satisfied and even wanting more? Absolutely.

1. Progresso Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup

Progresso Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup
Amazon / TODAY Illustration

Chewy, slippery egg noodles for the win! Each and every bite of this familiar Progresso can possessed an abundance of its ingredients. In fact, I was quite shocked by the larger chicken and vegetable pieces, despite the product’s low price point. And while this wasn’t as salty as I would have preferred, its heartiness gave it a lasting impression that resulted in a well-deserved win.

But if I’m being honest, consuming this much soup in one sitting was quite difficult and I pray that I’m not sick again any time soon. Nobody should be subjected to the torture of chicken noodle soup in excessive amounts, no matter how delicious it may be.