Homemade Chicken Soup with Rivels

It’s funny how heritage can greatly influence what we cook and eat.  Cultural food can bring about great comfort. It brings families together, but more importantly, it allows us to carry on those traditions for generations to come.

The older I become, the more sacred these traditions become. When I was 19 I lost my 18 year old brother in a traumatic auto accident. Three years ago this coming May, we lost my dad to stage IV lung cancer.  That same year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was very ill, and has traveled a long and windy road to recovery.  But she beat it!

She. Kicked. Cancer’s. Ass!  Two years cancer free and counting. Yaaaay Mom! She’s one tough cookie. She never once complained throughout her whole sickness. In my eyes, my mom is the most beautiful woman in the world.

Growing up, whenever my mother would prepare a roast, occasionally, instead of potatoes she made a sort of egg and flour dumpling and added them to the broth and called them “rubbs.” As strange as it sounds, it was one of my favorite meals to eat. I couldn’t get enough when she served up the steaming pot of roast and rubbs.

I remember as I grew older, I asked my mother one day, “Why are they called rubbs?” Without skipping a beat, she replied, “I don’t know. That’s what my mother called them.” Fair enough. I never questioned it again. It’s not like I could get on google back then and look it up. I just gobbled them up whenever she made them.

I also never attempted to make them myself until a few years ago. I think it had more to do with I didn’t think I could make them as well as my mom. It’s like one of those comfort foods and feelings only your mother can elicit.

Believe it or not, I got it right on the first try. I called my mother and she walked me through how she made them, and it’s not like there was an exact recipe. Upon completion, I was pretty darn impressed with myself. I didn’t add them to a roast either, I added them to some chicken soup.

So what are rivels?

Turns out my mom knew what she was talking about…even though she didn’t know exactly what she was talking about. If that makes sense. Rivels or rivlets, prepared mainly by the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish, are a wheat flour and egg dumpling used in hearty soups such as potato soup or chicken corn chowder. Often used to stretch out the soup to feed large quantities of people.

Typically, the egg and dough are mixed by making a well with the flour and a little salt and pepper. Eggs front and center. Then, with your hands you slowly incorporate the ingredients until you have a tacky stretchy dough. The dough is then broken off and “rubbed” (Oh my gosh! Rubbs!) between your fingers until pea sized dumplings are formed. Which are then dropped into the boiling broth 15 minutes before the soup is served.

I always knew that I was Polish by way of my maternal grandfather, but I never knew my grandmother’s Nationality. That is, until I knew I was going to write this post, and I asked my mom, “What Nationality was Moger?” (That’s what we called my grandmother.)

My mother firmly answered, “She was Pennsylvania Dutch.” EUREKA! Now it all made sense. All these years, and I never knew my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch. Just a little fun fact, I was always told the story that my cousin couldn’t pronounce grandma, and called her Moger instead. Moger is Dutch according to google. Coincidence? I think not! I think my grandmother secretly taught my cousin to call her that, and so it stuck with all the grandkids. Kinda like how my kids and nieces and nephews call my mom, Mamaw! Or how the Italians refer to their grandmothers as Nona.

So there you have it. Mystery solved. I’m part Pennsylvania Dutch and my mom knew what she talking about (kinda sorta) when she called rivels “rubbs.”  There  isn’t an exact recipe for rivels or for my homemade chicken soup. But I’ll do my best to give you measurements.  I also add some parmesan cheese to the rivel mixture and make them bigger than pea sized. If you make them right, you will have an airy chewy center when you bite in. It may take you a few tries to get the right consistency, but once you get the feel for it, you’ll easily make them every time.

Homemade Chicken Soup with Rivels
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Pennsylvania Dutch
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
Homemade chicken soup with rivels…the Pennsylvania Dutch's alternative to Jewish Penicillin.
  • 3 large chicken breasts with rib meat (can use a whole chicken if you prefer dark meat.)
  • Package of chicken backs.
  • Water for boiling
  • Two 32 oz. containers organic chicken stock ( I use Emeril's organic brand.)
  • 1 Tablespoon chicken base (can find in same area as chicken stock)
  • One large white onion (half for boiling chicken and half for soup)
  • One large red/purple onion (half for boiling chicken and half for soup)
  • Large bag of carrots (plus extra for boiling chicken)
  • 4 large celery stalks/ribs
  • 1 large minced garlic clove
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-5 handfuls of all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  2. In a large stock pot place chicken breasts and backs in pan and cover with water. Slice half of white and red onion and add to water.
  3. Add large handful of carrots
  4. Add 3 large celery stalks/ribs
  5. Add Salt and Pepper to taste
  6. Bring water to a rolling boil and boil chicken on high heat for about 20 minutes.
  7. When chicken is done grab another large pot and place a colander over the pan in the sink.
  8. Carefully pour the hot contents of the pot into the colander and reserve the stock you just made.
  9. Place chicken breasts on a plate and let cool.
  10. Discard the chicken backs & cooked vegetables.
  11. Wash out pot.
  12. Next, take the reserved stock in the other pot and pour back into pot you just emptied & washed.
  13. Add 48 ounces of organic chicken stock to pot.
  14. Add 1 tablespoon chicken base
  15. Add rest of bag of sliced carrots.
  16. Add other half of sliced red and white onion.
  17. Add minced garlic clove
  18. Add desired amount of sliced celery ( I used 1 and ½ stalks chopped)
  19. Add ⅛ tsp of nutmeg
  20. Add desired amount of chopped fresh parsley
  21. When chicken cools enough peel and shred into pot.
  22. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  23. Let simmer for at least 30 - 40 minutes
  24. Meanwhile prepare rivels.
  25. crack 2 eggs into medium bowl.
  26. Whisk well.
  27. Add fresh grated parmesan
  28. Salt & Pepper to taste
  29. Add flour a large handful at a time.
  30. Mix each handful well with a fork.
  31. Keep adding increments of handful of flour at a time until the consistency is tacky and stretching. It should not be wet, but should stick to your fingers if you touch it.
  32. minutes before ready to serve soup, turn up heat to hight and bring broth to a rolling boil.
  33. Test a small rival by taking a fork and adding a small about of flour mixture to the fork and dropping in broth with a butter knife.
  34. Wait a minute or two. Rivel will float. Take it out.
  35. Let cool taste.
  36. If you bite in and it's airy and chewy inside and has the consistency of al dente pasta, continue dropping small forkfuls into broth until all of mixture is used up. Make to your desired size.
  37. If rivel looks more like a scrambled egg and is soft and mushy, or dissolve into broth, you will need to add small flour increments until you get the right consistency.
  38. Please leave any comments or questions below. I will be happy to answer.

Please leave any comments or question below. I will be happy to answer.

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  1. avatar

    Your Mom looks great! You have such a beautiful family. Love to learn more about you as you learn about your family and heritage.
    Do the “rubbs” absorb the flavor of the broth? I make a traditional Portuguese stew, and I’m thinking the rubbs would be a great addition!

    • avatar

      Yes Jean. I should have put that in the description. They most definitely absorb the flavor of the broth. They are great for stews, soups, and as a reader recently pointed out on my Old School Lunch Lady Hamburger Gravy recipe post, she makes them and puts the gravy over them. I’m going to try that.

      Careful, these noodles are addicting!


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