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!
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 1/4 cup of flat-leaf parsley.
- Heat a large pot to medium and saute the carrots, celery, and onion in a 1/4 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 with turkey meatballs – 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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Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
For the quick stock and chicken meat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 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
- 1/4 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 1/2 pounds chicken thigh meat diced, from above
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.