This delicious chicken gnocchi soup has it all – it’s creamy and comforting, it’s low calorie, and you need just 20 minutes to prepare it. Whether you know and love Olive Garden’s creamy chicken and gnocchi soup or not, you’ve got to try this easy copycat version! Prefer to make the soup in your pressure cooker? I’ve got you covered there too!
Your new favourite creamy chicken soup recipe
Looks good, right? So let’s just dive right in (with a big spoon) and find out why this dreamy, creamy easy chicken and gnocchi soup might just be your new favourite crockpot (or pressure cooker!) soup recipe…
- If you’ve ever had a similar soup at Olive Garden, this recipe will teach you to make your own version. I can’t promise it will be EXACTLY the same, but it’s close. If you haven’t tried it, make it anyway and find out what all the Olive Garden soup fuss is all about.
- Thanks to the evaporated milk you use (rather than cream), this is a LIGHTENED UP creamy soup.
- There are just 7 main ingredients in this soup. You see – so easy.
- You make it in your slow cooker with only 20 minutes hands-on time. So why not chop up your vegetables the night before and then throw them in the pot with chicken and stock/broth in the morning for an effort free and delicious dinner?
- Had a craving for this Olive Garden chicken soup at work? No worries – just make the recipe in your Instant Pot / electric pressure cooker when you get home instead.
- This is a very balanced but substantial meal. It’s packed with nutritious vegetables: carrots, celery, onion, spinach. It’s got protein (hello delicious shredded chicken). And let’s not forget those cute little potato dumplings aka gnocchi carbs!
So what’s gnocchi and how do you make it?
As gnocchi is usually right next to the fresh pasta at the supermarket, you might be wondering… erm, is gnocchi a type of pasta? Or is it a sort of potato?
As traditional gnocchi is made from mashed potato, flour, egg and sometimes cheese, it’s actually more like a kind of dumpling.
In fact, in Italian, gnocchi means ‘lumps’. I’m sure this sounds more appetizing in Italian though than it does in English!
Most people boil gnocchi but my favourite way to eat it is to bake it, like in this 30-minute gnocchi with sausage, peppers and tomatoes recipe. Or try pan frying potato gnocchi – they end up almost like crispy little roast potatoes like in this amazing pan fried gnocchi with cherry tomatoes recipe.
For this gnocchi soup recipe, I either buy a good quality ready made gnocchi from the supermarket, or I make my own. It’s actually pretty easy to make gnocchi. I usually use the ricotta gnocchi recipe in this post which is super quick because I don’t use any potatoes – just ricotta cheese, flour, egg, and parmesan cheese!
Whether you buy gnocchi or make it, you know it’s ready when it floats to the top of the soup!
What ingredients you need
I really wanted to keep the ingredients down to a minimum so that it’s a really easy win of a meal. But I wanted to make sure that it still has plenty of flavour.
So… these are the main ingredients in my soup, plus oil for sauteing and salt and pepper for seasoning, of course:
- 4 kinds of vegetables: carrots, onions, celery and spinach
- garlic and Italian herbs (for some good but simple flavour)
- chicken breasts (the best quality I can find)
- chicken broth / stock (again, I try to stick to really good quality)
- evaporated milk (so it’s creamy but lightened-up!)
- cornstarch mixed with a bit of water for thickening the soup
- gnocchi (of course!) – either homemade or store bought. To be honest I usually buy my gnocchi ready made, but I look for a good quality brand.
Pro tip: As there are only a few ingredients, I try to use the BEST QUALITY INGREDIENTS I can find. I particularly like to buy good quality chicken (take a look at Butcherbox! – affiliate link) and organic vegetables, and use good quality stock/broth (if I have some homemade, all the better!).
How to make it in the slow cooker or electric pressure cooker
Photo 1: Chop the vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, garlic – everything apart from the spinach) and get all the other ingredients ready to go. So measure out the stock/broth, wash the spinach, get the herbs out of the pantry…
Throw the chopped vegetables, garlic, chicken and stock/broth into the slow cooker or instant pot. Slow cooker: cook for about 6 hours on low. Instant Pot/electric pressure cooker: 10 minutes on high, then let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes (on my pressure cooker I use the ‘auto quick release’ setting which takes about 5 minutes).
Photo 2: After the cooking time is up, grab two forks and shred the chicken in the pot.
Photo 3: Now it’s time for the lightened-up creamy magic to happen! About half an hour before you want to eat, stir in a can of evaporated milk, some corn flour/cornstarch mixed with water (for thickening!) and the gnocchi. Replace the lid of the crockpot, turn it to high and let it bubble away for a few more minutes to cook the gnocchi and let the cornstarch do its thing. If you’re using your pressure cooker just use the saute function here.
Photo 4: Stir in a bag of spinach and let it wilt into the soup.
Photos 5 and 6: Season to taste and serve!
Pro tip: After quite a lot of experimenting, I have decided that 3 tablespoons of corn flour/cornstarch is about right for a not-too-thin-not-too-thick-soup. When reheating leftovers, the gnocchi soaks up a bit of moisture, so I sometimes add a little water or milk to thin it out again.
What should you serve with chicken gnocchi soup?
Mostly, we just eat it as it is (it’s a wonderful one pot meal!), but if you want to serve some toasted bread with it go ahead!
Can you make it with chicken thighs instead of breasts?
Yes, no problem! Cook for the same amount of time if using your crockpot. If using your pressure cooker / Instant Pot, you can reduce the cook time to 8 minutes if using thighs.
Can you use frozen chicken?
Yes! The cook time won’t change if you’re using your slow cooker.
Here’s a handy guide for using frozen chicken when cooking the soup in your pressure cooker / Instant Pot:
For frozen chicken breasts: cook for 14 minutes on high pressure and release pressure for 5 minutes (I use the ‘auto quick’ setting on my electric pressure cooker).
For frozen chicken thighs: cook for 10 minutes on high pressure and then release pressure for 5 minutes.
Can you use frozen spinach?
Yes again! Just defrost the spinach, then squeeze out any excess water before stirring into the soup.
Can you leave the crockpot on all day?
Although the recipe states to cook on low for 6 hours, your gnocchi soup will be fine left cooking all day. Out at work for 8, 9 or even 11 hours? No worries!
Once you’ve added the cornflour, gnocchi and spinach and the soup has bubbled and thickened, it’s also fine to leave the soup on the ‘keep warm’ setting for a while until you’re ready to eat.
Can you reheat and/or freeze it?
Absolutely. Reheat either in a saucepan or in the microwave at 50% power (so the chicken doesn’t get tough!). See how it looks when it’s reheated, but feel free to add a drizzle of milk or water if it’s looking too thick.
You can freeze for up to 3 months. Simply let defrost, then reheat as above.
How to make your soup taste better than Olive Garden’s!
I say this with my tongue in my cheek. But I truly don’t think you need a ton of fancy ingredients to get a meal that tastes just as good as Olive Garden’s!
In my very humble opinion, all you need to do is use the VERY BEST QUALITY ingredients you can find and/or afford.
In other words:
- local fresh and in-season vegetables. Organic if you can find or afford them. If you’re in the UK, you can check out an organic vegetable delivery company such as the award-winning Riverford [affiliate link]. Their vegetables are on average 20% cheaper than supermarket organic vegetables, and customers say ‘freshness and flavour’ is the main reason they buy from them – so just what we’re looking for!
- fresh and/or organic supermarket chicken stock / broth or homemade stock. How do you make homemade chicken stock? Sometimes, instead of throwing away a roast chicken carcass, I place it in my electric pressure cooker with: half an onion, some (unpeeled) garlic cloves, a carrot, a bay leaf, salt and pepper and some fresh or dried herbs. Then I pour water over (until everything is just covered) and cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. I then let it cool, strain and freeze for the next time I want to make this chicken soup (or these amazing Greek potatoes)! [No worries if you don’t have a pressure cooker. just simmer for 4 hours on the stove top or cook it on low for at least 8 hours in your slow cooker.]
- And, last but not least…
Fennel tastes a bit like onion, or perhaps even celery, but without the onion or celery flavour! The texture is similar to onion or celery, but it has a very subtle aniseed flavour similar to what you get in some Italian sausages. Which is why it works so well with sausage recipes!
If you find that you really like this flavour, definitely add the optional fennel seeds to your bolognese sauce. I’d also recommend trying one of these two salads containing fennel: this quinoa salad with feta, fennel and blueberries, and this fennel orange salad with radishes, feta and pistachios.
Pappardelle is a bit like tagliatelle but wider. As ragu sauces like this sausage bolognese are super rich and tasty, I prefer to use pasta that has a bit of thickness and ‘bite’ to it.
Fun fact: the word pappardelle comes from the Italian verb ‘pappare’, which means ‘to gobble up’!
If you can’t find pappardelle, any larger pasta shapes will work well. In a pinch, even plain old spaghetti will be fine.
I usually use red wine for a deep, rich flavour. But white is fine too – just use whichever you have on hand!
Alternatively, if you’d rather not use wine at all, you can use beer or even a rich, good quality meat stock/broth instead.
This recipe is quick and easy to make just on the stovetop. However, I do usually make it in my electric pressure cooker these days. It’s a bit quicker, but also once you’ve pressed the button on your machine it’s totally hands off.
If your pressure cooker has a ‘bolognese’ setting, that’s perfect! Otherwise, choose ‘custom’ and manually set it for 20 minutes followed by ‘auto quick’ pressure release. You may want to reduce the liquid for a few minutes once it’s cooked using the ‘reduce’ or ‘saute’ setting. Sometimes I find I don’t need to do that.
Yes! This bolognese sauce freezes exceptionally well. Simply let cool and freeze in sealed glass containers.
This recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled if you want to stock up your freezer!
You can also make a pasta or gnocchi bake out of this sauce. Simply stir through cooked pasta or raw gnocchi (no need to pre-cook the gnocchi). Sprinkle panko crumbs and parmesan on top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C/355F until golden on top and bubbling. Alternatively, wrap well and freeze. Let defrost before reheating in the oven.
Riverford’s chickens in particular are exceptionally well cared for and 100% organic. All in all, they’re a pretty cool company!
More easy slow cooked meals
- slow cooker Korean chicken
- perfect Thai chicken and butternut squash curry (stove top, slow cooker or pressure cooker!)
- easy slow cooked Greek lamb with lemon garlic potatoes (oven or slow cooker!)
- Thai pumpkin and red lentil soup (vegetarian and delicious!)
More easy comfort food
- 30 minute Greek macaroni cheese (another lightened-up recipe using evaporated milk)
- Fan of the Mediterranean diet? Or just like chicken casseroles? You have to try this Mediterranean stove top chicken casserole (make it on the stove top or in your slow cooker or pressure cooker)
- creamy lemon chicken orzo soup (a bit like this gnocchi soup, but it’s a stove top recipe ready in just 30 minutes!)
- samosa pie (Like samosas? You’ll love samosa pie!)
- Swedish meatballs!
- pasta alla norma (delicious eggplant and tomato pasta)
- Or check out all of Scrummy Lane’s easy meal ideas!
Last but not least: Need a quick and easy dessert to serve after this meal? Here are 11 really easy dessert recipes (6 ingredients or less).
IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE, LET ME KNOW HOW YOU GET ON BY LEAVING A COMMENT AND RATING BELOW… AND DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP TO RECEIVE ALL MY NEW RECIPES BY EMAIL!
Note: This post has been updated from its original version to include an even simpler and better explained version of the recipe, new photos, step-by-step cooking instructions, an FAQ, similar recipes, and a how-to video. I hope you like it!
Easy crockpot chicken gnocchi soup (Olive Garden copycat, with pressure cooker)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 1.5 pounds chicken breasts skinless boneless (3 medium to large)
- 1 onion large, chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- 4 sticks celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed or chopped
- 4.5 cups chicken stock (US=chicken broth)
- 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs e.g. basil, thyme, oregano (or Italian seasoning)
- 14 ounces evaporated milk (1 can)
- 3 tablespoons corn flour dissolved in a little water (US=cornstarch)
- 16 ounces gnocchi
- 7 ounces spinach (baby spinach)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, stock and herbs in the crockpot and cook on low for six hours minimum (or high for four). If you prefer to use an electric pressure cooker/Instant Pot, cook for 10 minutes on high pressure (70kpa), then quick pressure release (either instant or auto quick which takes 5-10 minutes in my pressure cooker).
- At the end of the cooking time, shred the chicken in the pot with two forks.
- Stir in the evaporated milk, cornstarch/water, and gnocchi (no need to cook it first). Bubble on 'high' until the soup has thickened a little and the gnocchi is cooked (a few minutes). If cooking in a pressure cooker, use the saute function instead.
- Wilt the spinach into the pot, grind in plenty of salt and pepper to taste, then serve.