Canja (Brazilian Chicken and Rice Soup)
Updated: Jun 8, 2018
Photo and Text by Cynthia Presser.
Canja is the ultimate Brazilian “food for the soul”. It tastes like a warm, mild, comforting, and delicious bowl of chicken, thick broth, and vegetables.
When someone does not feel very well, you bet that the Brazilian grandma will show up with a big bowl of Canja to cheer up the heart and to sooth the body… I think that Canja is for the Brazilians the equivalent of what Chicken and Noodle soup is for the Americans. It is like love in a bowl.
In Brazil, Canja has another reason to be so popular: it is believed to prevent hangovers! Early in the morning during the week of Carnaval, often restaurants serve Canja for patrons who have partied all night long. Many times, the grandmas who don’t do Carnaval anymore wait for the younger with a big pot of the soup ready to be enjoyed. After eating some Canja, everyone goes to bed – usually at around 6 am. I have done that several times myself! Canja helps people recover so they can party the whole week straight. Viva a Canja!
I had been thinking about sharing this recipe for so long… Finally, with my mom here visiting from Brazil I found the right opportunity… Last week we all got kind of sick around here. Sure enough, my mom made a big pot of this soothing Brazilian remedy. It was deliciously comforting.
This is her recipe in which the rice serves as the thickening agent – the rice almost loses its shape into the broth. There are other versions where the soup is more “brothy”, therefor they spend less time simmering over the stovetop. I definitely prefer the thicker version of my mom’s.
Don't wait until you get sick to try this recipe. Enjoy it today and feel the love :)
Makes a large pot – serves 8 to 10
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
3 cups previously cooked (or roasted) finely shredded chicken (See Cook’s Notes)
12 cups water
3 cups cooked rice (jasmine, basmati, or white)
1 cup frozen or freshly cooked corn
3 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
Set a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and allow to heat up. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft; 4 minutes.
Add shredded chicken and stir. Season with salt.
Add water and allow it to come to a light boil. Stir in rice.
Once the water returns to a light boil, reduce heat to low and partially cover pot. Simmer over low heat for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until soup has thicken and the rice has nearly incorporated into broth.
Remove from heat. Fold in corn and scallions; add more salt if needed. Cover with lid and let it seat 30 minutes off the heat.
Serve warm, topped with freshly shredded parmesan cheese (optional).
I like to use shredded roasted chicken from mixed parts of the bird – for more flavor. Plain chicken breast, shredded into tiny pieces will work well too – you can replace part of the water with the water where the chicken breast was cooked.