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Twice-Cooked Mexican-Style Chicken and Pinto Soup

Sarica Cernohous

1 organic, whole Chicken
8-12 cups fresh Water
2 bunches organic Celery, chopped and divided in 2 batches
4-6 organic Carrots, sliced
1 cup dried organic Pinto Beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight and rinsed once more
2 organic Yellow Onions, chopped and divided in 2 batches
3-4 cups fresh, organic Spinach, or one half 16 oz. package frozen Spinach
1 organic Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
2 organic Zucchini, chopped
1 14.5 oz. can organic, chopped Tomatoes
5 Bay Leaves
2 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Shallots, chopped
1 bulb Garlic, chopped and divided in 2 batches
1 T. + 1 tsp. Cumin powder, divided
1 tsp. + 1 tsp. Oregano powder, divided
2 ½ tsp. Sea Salt, plus additional to bring finished soup to taste preference
1 ½ tsp. ground Black Pepper, plus additional to bring finished soup to taste preference
1 bunch organic Cilantro, chopped
1 Bunch organic Green Onions, Chopped
Finely-chopped, fresh, organic Jalapeno pepper
2-3 organic Lemons or Limes
Chopped organic Avocado
Chipotle powder, optional

In a large stock pot (big enough to well-cover a whole chicken with water, with some room to spare) place the chicken, covering completely with fresh water. Bring chicken and water to a boil on a medium-high heat, skimming the foam that is generated in this early stage of cooking, and discarding. Add vinegar, chopped celery, one half of the yellow onions, chopped carrots, one half of the garlic, chopped shallots, bay leaves, 1tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of oregano, salt and pepper. Bring all ingredients to a boil, skim off and discard any additional foam from the soup, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover with a lid. The soup will now stay at this low simmer, covered, for at least 12 hours—I tend to start mine in the afternoon, and let it cook overnight, removing it from the heat the following morning. Check the pot periodically and add additional boiling water as necessary to keep the liquid level the same.

At the end of this portion of the cooking, remove the soup from the heat and strain out all portions of chicken, bay leaves and vegetables from the soup, placing the solids in a glass or metal bowl (be very careful with this portion—this long of a cooking time can really break down the carcass, putting small bones into the broth.) Allow the meat to cool, then separate out the meat and discard the bones, skin, residual cartilage, and vegetables, reserving the meat in a separate bowl in the refrigerator (you’ll add this back to the broth after the beans are cooked.) Reheat the broth, adding the soaked pinto beans, the remainder of the chopped onions, garlic and celery, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a medium simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the beans lose their mottled coloring and become an even, light brown.

At this point, some additional boiled water may be needed—you’ll want to have at least half a pot of liquid as you cook the beans. Once the beans are cooked, add the bell pepper and zucchini, as well as the tomatoes. Allow new vegetables to soften, then add the shredded chicken (there is a lot of meat from the entire bird, so you may choose to reserve some for a different use.) Remove the soup from the heat, then add the spinach to the soup, pushing it down into the hot broth with a spoon. Once the spinach is wilted, ladle out soup into a deep bowl, topping with chopped avocado, cilantro, jalapeno and green onion, and a healthy squirt of lemon or lime juice; adding a dusting of chipotle powder will add a smoky, hot component to the flavor profile—but be careful not to add too much—it is quite hot.

This is such a nutritious soup, perfect for this early foray into spring. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, springtime is the season of the Wood element, which encompasses the Liver and Gallbladder acupuncture meridians. All of the elements are assigned a flavor, and sour is the flavor of the Wood element. Early spring is a transition time, from the deep, slumbering nature of winter, which is ruled by the Water element, and encompasses the Kidney and Urinary Bladder acupuncture meridians, into the budding new energy of spring. The flavor assigned to the winter’s Water element is salty. This soup has root notes in both flavors, and offers a bright hit of spicy to help move the energy of the Lungs and Large Intestine, as these meridians, embodied in the Metal Element and assigned the ‘spicy’ flavor, can become sluggish with the lack of activity in the quiet and cold of Winter. Adding some spice helps them to move more freely, which encourages a gentle cleansing through digestive and respiratory functions. And who couldn’t use a little internal Spring-cleaning?

Adding a little vinegar to the cooking broth from the outset is an important component to getting the most nutrition from this soup—by doing so, minerals are released from the bones of the chicken, putting them into the broth solution (you might have experienced this with a science-class exercise, where a raw bone was placed in vinegar and left for a day or two. When the bone was later removed, its hard structure became soft and pliable—the minerals had been leached by the acid of the vinegar, and the remaining bone matrix was soft without the hard composition of the minerals intact.) The acidic component, coupled with the long, mellow cooking time, helps to bring minerals and other components—such as chondroitin sulfates and glucosamine, both excellent for joint health—into the broth. When combined with the iron from the spinach, the vitamin C from the peppers, the liver-cleansing properties of the cilantro, and the joint- and immune-benefiting sulfur compounds from the onion and garlic, this tasty soup becomes a nutritional powerhouse! Bon appetit!

Sarica Cernohous, L.Ac., MSTOM, is a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, living and practicing Japanese Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Counseling in Peoria, AZ. She can be reached at
The information listed above is not intended to treat, cure or prevent illness or disease.

Sarica Cernohous

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