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Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Corn Rivel Soup

Sophie Light Sophie Light

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One sunny morning in November, we sat down with long-time Fredericksburg resident and restaurateur, Sophie Light, in the kitchen of her remodeled 1770 Victorian Farmhouse to talk to her about some of her iconic recipes, but there was so much more to her story. We just have to share it.

Sophie’s father died when he was 48, so her mother worked at the local chicken processing plant to support her 8 children. Sophie was the 7th of 8 children, and her older brother drove truck for the plant.  She developed Rheumatic Fever when she was 11 years old.  Since it kept her home from school for almost an entire school year, she got bored and decided to try her hand at cooking. She learned on a wood stove, which made baking challenging, depending on how much wood you put in the stove.

Her mother had only 2 cookbooks, but Sophie said, “We just put things together back then.  We didn’t measure anything.”  For a whole year, she cooked for her mother and 7 siblings.  She become so good at cooking, that by the time she was a young mother, and a job opened up at a local diner, her mother quickly recommended her for the job.  Sophie began her cooking career at Esther’s Family Restaurant, working part time in the evenings making salads and other dishes.

Esther's Family RestaurantIt was during one of those evenings, when she developed the Esther’s Family Restaurant Chicken Corn Rivel Soup Recipe.  In Sophie’s words, “We filled a stew pot with chicken legs and thighs.

Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Corn Rivel SoupThen we filled another one.  We cooked that off then added the other ingredients. We cooked a big batch of soup.  People were lined up outside, waiting for our home cooking.”

To this day, it is one of the most requested soups in the Pennsylvania Dutch saturated area.  Though Sophie recently retired from owning her own restaurant, The Farmer’s Wife, she wanted to share her recipe with us.  And we want to share it with you!

Did you make this recipe? Tag @BellandEvans on Instagram and hashtag it #TheExcellentChicken


  1. Joy L. says:

    How. Much water to start

    1. Hi Joy! We cooked the chicken legs in a 4-5 qt pot- We filled it about half way with water before adding chicken.

  2. Ima W. says:

    Sounds delicious!

  3. Sherri says:

    Do you know how to make butter balls?

    1. Can you give more detail, Sherri?

  4. Joan says:

    What is chicken base?

    1. Hi Joan! This is a popular brand of chicken base. It’s a very thick liquid that you scoop out with a spoon and dissolve to make stock. Bouillon does the same thing. It’s just usually a dry powder that comes in prepackaged cubes and is shelf stable because it’s dry.

      1. R. Baver says:

        Love the Better than Bullion, it does not seem to be as salty as the other bullion.

  5. Travis says:

    Oh how I miss living back in Lebanon County, and all of my PA Dutch favorites at Esther’s & the Farmers Wife.

  6. Pat Bernheisel says:

    Hi Sophie. Pat Bernheisel.
    I worked with her at Esthers. She was an excellent cook. I was a waitress’s d we were super busy. I also loved to go to the farmers wife still great food.
    Thanks for the story.

  7. Steve G. says:

    Familiar with your chickens, but never knew you produced turkeys. Purchased one for thanksgiving, and OMG. Never had a bird that good. Cooked it outside on a rotisserie, and my family agreed it was the best ever. Thank you. Just fantastic.

  8. alma says:

    My neighbor mom use to fix this for me love it

  9. alma s. says:

    Love this recipe

  10. Catherine says:

    Does anyone know how to make rolled butter with spices in it that the Germans put a slice of this seasoned butter on top of their steaks when cooked?

  11. Catherine says:

    Does anyone know how to make rolled butter with the spices in it
    That the Germans would serve a pat on their cooked steaks

    1. TINA says:

      Look for a recipe called herbed butter.

  12. Dale H. says:

    Does anyone have the good recipe for oyster pie?

  13. charlotte m. says:

    John_____ of Lake Panasoffkee made this for us at Bushnell Presbyterian church for our fellowship hour on Emma Cannon’s birthday 2020. He is from Pennsylvania…none of us had evrrr heard of Rivels.😊 Patti Peavey

  14. Donna F. says:

    Hello, My Grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch. She would make revel soup. It was oh so good. Seeing this recipes takes me right back to her kitchen, and the wonderful aromas.

  15. Jeremy E says:

    My mother was from a little town called McClure near Lewiston PA. She would make the stock and let it sit in the refrigerator over night. She would then skim the chicken fat off and then continue with the rivels. It was awesome!
    I try to make it like she did but it never comes out tasting like hers.
    Thank you for the recipe I miss good old PA

  16. Susan J. says:

    Your suppose to put chopped hard boiled eggs in at the end.

  17. Jim says:

    Hi. Looks good. But what about the saffron? 😊

  18. Leslie says:

    My grandmother always stirred in chopped hard boiled egg at the end! Try it! It’s delicious:)

  19. Todd says:

    I grew up in PA Dutch country of Lancaster PA. Had this soup many times.

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