Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Updated 7th November 2023
This is the perfect weeknight chicken soup with orzo, leeks, lemon zest and loads of lemon juice for serving, plus spinach and a handful of fresh dill or parsley. A healthy and fresh soup bursting with bright lemony flavors and tender orzo pasta! Each bowl has tender pieces of meat and hearty vegetables, plus a squeeze of lemon juice for bright citrus flavor. Want to make this tasty recipe even easier? Feel free to use leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken instead.
You can definitely use rice instead of the orzo but I love the addition of the orzo. It gives the soup almost a velvety finish because some of the starch that escapes the orzo thickens up the soup perfectly. It takes less than 10 minutes to cook. I add it right into the boiling stock, which infuses more flavor into the noodles instead of cooking it separately and adding it later. Saves you from using an extra pot too.
I like to add the zest at the beginning of the recipe and serve this soup with lemon wedges so each person can add as much lemony flavour to their soups as they like. If I was making this just for me I would add a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice into the soup after I have stirred in the fresh herbs because I love a lemony soup. Feel free to do what you like according to your taste and make sure to season the soup as you go.
This is what I crave during the winter months of course, or when I’m feeling a bit under the weather, but also during the spring or that bit of time between spring and summer when the days are starting to warm up slightly but the evenings still have a chill in the air. It’s loaded with flavours that I think are totally springlike - spinach, leeks, fresh and fabulous herbs and lemon. I also love to add fresh or frozen peas to mine sometimes amping up the veggies and springlike vibes.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup Ingredients
- OLIVE OIL: Extra virgin olive oil is what I use to saute the veggies in. If you prefer to use butter to do this that is fine too
- LEEKS: I love the flavor leeks give this soup but feel free to use one yellow onion in its place
- CARROTS & CELERY: The veggie classic combo for soup base.
- GARLIC: Adds really nice flavour to the soup - feel free to use as much or as little as you like.
- HERBS: I like to use fresh herbs when I can but dried herbs work well here too. I use a combination of rosemary and thyme but if you prefer one over the other feel free to use whichever you like. To finish off the soup I like to stir in some chopped fresh parsley or fresh dill or a little of both.
- CHICKEN: I usually use skinless boneless chicken breast but skinless boneless chicken thighs will work here too. For a speedier version of the soup you can use precooked chicken or rotisserie chicken - or leftover cooked chicken or turkey chopped or shredded and stirred into the soup at the end.
- LEMON: I use the zest right at the start to really infuse the soup with lemon then I usually serve the soup with lemon slices or lemon wedges so that you can squeeze in as much lemon juice as you would like to your bowl of soup.
- CHICKEN BROTH: I like other use either store bought or homemade chicken broth and if you are using store bought chicken broth or chicken stock - I recommend using low sodium chicken broth
- ORZO: If you don’t have orzo you can use any short pasta like macaroni or tubetti pasta - regular or gluten free pasta. You can also swap it out for rice but rice will take longer to cook so you will need to simmer the soup longer and may need to add a splash more broth.
- SPINACH: I love adding greens to my soups especially baby spinach or kale - leave the baby spinach as is or give it a rough chop - up to you
How to make Lemon Chicken Orzo soup:
- Start by sautéing your mirepoix (this time the combination is leeks instead of onions, carrots and celery) until veggies are tender. Then add the garlic, herbs and the lemon zest
- Add broth and chicken and simmer away until chicken is cooked through. Skip this step if using left over roast chicken or rotisserie (for added flavour you can brown chicken in the oil before adding in the mirepoix - optional)
- Remove chicken and shred - set aside
- Add the orzo (or sub with rice or any small pasta) and simmer until cooked through
- Stir in the chicken, spinach and the fresh herbs and simmer another couple of minutes until spinach has wilted. Then enjoy!
Can I Saute My Chicken First?
I get asked this question a lot. Many don’t like that the chicken simmering with the veggies. That is totally cool - feel free to sear your chicken whole or cut it into cubed and sauteed unit cooked through. Remove chicken from pot and proceed with recipe - sautéing the veggies then shred and chop chicken if needed, and stir it into the soup when you add the shredded chicken back into the soup in the recipe instructions.
If you like this recipe you will love these:
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ½” thick
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme or rosemary (dried or fresh)
- 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breast *
- Zest of one lemon
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ¾ cup orzo
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Dill or parsley
- Lemon halves (for serving)
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek, celery, carrots and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, thyme and lemon zest.
- Add chicken and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred or chop chicken into bite-size pieces.
- Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.
- Test for seasoning. Stir in the shredded chicken, spinach and dill. Simmer another couple of minutes until spinach is wilted then serve with lemon halves or wedges for squeezing over.
- Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. To reheat, use either your microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat.
- To make it avgolemono you will need 2 eggs, and juice of 2-3 lemons (about ½ cup). With the pot off the heat when soup is done. Whisk the eggs and lemon juice together in a small bowl. The idea here is to warm up the egg mixture slowly (without scrambling the eggs). Slowly add a scoop of the soup into the egg mixture. Then add your warmed egg mixture back to the soup pot – stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy.
- Feel free to add extra veggies to this one if you like. I love to add green peas to mine too.
- Feel free to substitute the leek for one large yellow onion.
- If you would like use leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken - you can. You should have approx 3 cups of shredded chicken.
- If not serving the lemon chicken soup right away, you’ll notice that the liquid disappears slowly. The starches soak up the liquid. Just add some stock to the soup for a less thick consistency, and when storing or reheating later.
Apdapted from Epicurious