Lemon chicken orzo soup is a wonderfully flavored comfy soup that's perfect for chilly days. Carrots, celery, onion, and garlic are simmered in a quick and easy chicken stock with pulled chicken meat and orzo and topped with fresh parsley and lemon juice. Perfect as a full meal, or as a side to sandwiches and salads.
Lemon chicken orzo soup is a Greek-style soup that's loaded with wonderful flavor from the chicken, veggies, and of course the lemon!
This recipe includes instructions to make a "quick" homemade chicken stock but if you're pressed for time, you can certainly use store-bought chicken stock.
This chicken soup with orzo and lemon is perfect to send in a thermos for an on-the-go lunch, but is also great for dinner or anytime you need some comfort!
As with almost any of Sip and Feast soup recipes, some garlic bread on the side would be perfect!
How to make it
First, make the quick chicken stock
- Heat a large stock pot to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the chicken thighs. To prevent overcrowding, work in batches. Sear the chicken thighs skin side down for about 5 minutes until some color forms then flip them over and cook for about 3-4 more minutes longer.
- Add 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock, 10 cups of water, 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 medium celery rib, and 2 large bay leaves.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook until the chicken meat is tender (about 60 minutes). While it's simmering, every so often skim and discard the fat and scum from the top with a large flat spoon.
- Remove the thighs from the pot and spread them onto a cutting board to cool. Turn off the heat and strain the soup. You can either eat or discard the veggies, but these will not be used for the soup as they'll be mushy at this point. Degrease the chicken stock with a fat separator, straining through paper towels as shown above, a bulb blaster, or by just skimming with a spoon. If time permits, refrigerate the stock overnight. As the soup cools, the fat will solidify and rise to the top allowing for easy removal the next day. Once the chicken thighs are cool, remove the meat and either discard the bones, cartilage, and skin, or save them for another use, such as bone broth.
Next, make the lemon chicken orzo soup
- Chop up the chicken thigh meat taking care to ensure no bones are or cartilage left. Dice 3 medium carrots, 3 medium celery ribs, and 1 medium onion. Mince 3 cloves of garlic and a ¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley.
- Heat a large pot to medium and saute the carrots, celery, and onion in a ¼ cup of olive oil for ~10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for around 30 seconds or until incorporated. Note: If you want a thicker soup, you should double the amount of flour in this step.
- Add your chicken stock (should be about 10 cups worth), scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge any brown bits. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to concentrate.
- Add the chopped chicken thigh meat and 8 ounces of orzo. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently, until the orzo reaches al dente. Note: Orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot so be sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking.
- If you need more liquid, add a little water or more low-sodium chicken stock to thin it out. Add the minced parsley and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and give the soup a stir. Taste test the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the soup needs more lemon juice, add more at this time. Serve in bowls and enjoy!
Top tips for lemon chicken orzo soup
- The best chicken for soup. Dark meat, including the thighs, legs, and wings, are best for soups because they won't overcook like white meat will. We used chicken thighs with skin and bone to make the stock in order to extract maximum flavor. If you're pressed for time you can use store-bought chicken stock and pull the chicken meat from a grocery store rotisserie chicken.
- Skimming the fat. If you opt to make your own stock as we did here, you'll want to skim the fat/scum that rises to the top of the pot. Making the stock a day in advance is a good idea as refrigerating the stock will allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify. This will make it even easier to remove the fat. The flavor of a next-day stock will be better too!
- Orzo. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that's great for soup and pasta salads. Orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot so be sure to continue to stir the soup and dislodge with a wooden spoon any orzo that is sticking.
- The herbs. We used fresh parsley for this recipe but you could easily add other herbs such as oregano or fresh dill. Fresh thyme would also add complimentary flavor.
More comforting soup recipes
We love soup and eat it year-round but it's especially good during the cooler months. Here are a few of our favorites that we know you'll love.
- Italian wedding soup - tiny turkey meatballs, spinach, and acini di pepe pasta simmered in a chicken-based broth.
- Italian lentil soup - carrots, celery, onion, lentils, spinach, and a touch of tomato.
- Pasta e fagioli - cannellini beans, ditalini pasta, and pancetta with rosemary.
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For the quick stock and chicken meat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ½ pounds chicken thighs
- 10 cups water
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock store bought or homemade
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium celery rib
- 1 medium onion
- 2 large bay leaves
For the soup
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 medium carrots diced
- 3 medium celery ribs diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 10 cups chicken broth from above
- 1 ½ pounds chicken thigh meat diced, from above
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley minced
- 8 ounces orzo
For the broth and chicken meat
- Heat a large stock pot to medium heat and add the olive oil and the chicken thighs. Sear the thighs skin side down until some color forms (about 5 minutes per side) then add the low sodium chicken stock, water, onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaves.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes then reduce heat to a simmer and cover leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook until the chicken meat is tender (about 60 minutes). Every so often, skim and discard the fat and scum with a large flat spoon from the top of the stock.
- Remove the thighs from the pot and spread them out onto a cutting board to cool.
- Turn off the heat and strain the soup discarding the veggies. Degrease the chicken stock with a fat separator, paper towels, bulb blaster, or by just skimming with a spoon. If you have time, place the stock in the fridge overnight and the fat will solidify as it cools making it easy to remove the next day.
- Once the chicken is cool enough, remove all of the thigh meat. Chop up the meat and set it aside for later. The bones, skin, and cartilage can be used for a bone broth or discarded.
For the soup
- In a large pot saute the carrots, celery, and onion in olive oil over medium heat for 7-10 minutes or until soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir well to incorporate.
- Pour the chicken stock (should be about 10 cups) into the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to remove any brown bits. Turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for 15-20 minutes to concentrate the flavors.
- Add the chicken thigh meat and the orzo. Cook, stirring very frequently, (to avoid sticking) until the orzo reaches al dente. If you need more liquid add a bit of water or extra low sodium chicken stock as required to thin it out.
- Add the parsley and the lemon juice and give it a stir. Taste test the soup and season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste. If the soup needs more lemon juice add it as well. Enjoy!
- Dark meat (thighs, legs, wings) is preferred for this soup since it will not overcook like white meat.
- Orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot. Stir the whole time, feeling the bottom for any stuck pieces.
- Herbs like Greek oregano or dill go especially well with this soup.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Hi Jim, this look fantastic! Cant wait to try it. I just wanted to get your quick thoughts on an idea for a variation I had if you would be so kind.
As you know, chicken thigh with skin has fat which can leach into the soup and has to be filtered out.
And so, I was considering making this soup, but instead, I might use skinless and boneless chicken thighs. Rather than making the stock, I would simply fry them in a pan until golden, discarding the fat on the pan. Then dice the chicken on a board. Fry up the veggies, add pre-made stock (in my case chicken stock cubes), pasta, diced chicken, cook for a bit and enjoy. That being said this does mean that the bones and skin dont have the opportunity to provide flavour to the soup, so you'd rely pretty heavily on the pre-made stock.
Sorry for the long message but I'd really appreciate your input on this. Could it be a good idea or do you think it might fall flat regarding flavour? Thank you so much
Hi Joseph, I say go for it. I think it will still taste great and have plenty of flavor.
delicious! I saw it yesterday and knew I needed to make this today to beat a cold. I did add a smidge of turmeric for color and cold fighting super power. The fresh parsley and lemon are NOT optional!
Oh and I had acini di pepe instead of orzo. Thanks for your wonderful recipes and videos!
Hi Christina, so happy you enjoyed this one. Turmeric is a great addition to chicken soup! Hope you're feeling better!
Delicious! Great variation from my regular chicken noodle soup. Didn’t have time to make my own stock, and used leftover rotisserie chicken (light and dark meat). Will definitely make this again.
I spent the last week craving this soup, finally gathered the ingredients & made it!! (Added fresh fennel, cause I love the flavor in soups) The lemon gives it a brightness & lightness without taking away that comfort food feeling. This was so good!! 9.5 😂 So glad I found your channel, videos so easy to follow! I’m making Italian wedding soup next! 😊
Hi Karen, thank you for the comment! I'm so happy you're enjoying the videos and recipes!
I tried this soup and it was awesome!!!!!
Hi Mike, so happy you liked the soup and thanks for the comment!
Do you have a narrated video of this soup recipe?
Hi Jim, yes, you can access the video from the recipe card on my site or watch it directly on YouTube.
Can you leave the orzo in for leftovers or does it get mushy ?
Hi Ellen, you can keep the orzo separate if you're planning to have leftovers. It will get a little mushy the longer it sits in the soup.
Hi Jim what do you think about putting fresh spinach in the soup?
Hi Diane, we sometimes add a handful of fresh baby spinach to this when we make it and it's great!
Made this for a Church pot luck - it is delicious !!!! no changes needed, enjoy ! Love your recipes !
Hi Ellen, so happy you enjoyed this one and thanks for the comment!
Just delicious! Hits all the spots.Especially on a cold day😍
Thanks for the comment, Bettina and so happy you enjoyed!
Hi Cesarina, so happy you enjoyed this one and thanks for the comment!
This soup looks simple from it's ingredient list, but it is VERY tasty!
So much better than regular chicken noodle soup and a new favourite in our rotation! Thanks so much for providing.
Hi Nicole, so happy you enjoyed this and really appreciate the comment!
Awesome recipe. I used chicken breasts, added some fresh spinach and subbed fresh dill for the parsley. I think everyone added lots of extra lemon juice and Parmesan at the table and also asked for the recipe so it’s definitely a keeper!
Thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed!
I also just made this and used chicken breasts and dill! Fantastic. I also added a little white wine and some milk for a littler more richness. I agree to go heavy on the lemon . It’s a very comforting soup. Orzo is impossible to find where I live right now so I just used ditalini. I’m sure any small pasta would be great
Hi Kim, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed!