Lemon chicken orzo soup is an easy, flavorful, and healthy one-pot dish that transforms very simple ingredients into an aromatic and delicious soup. It is a great alternative to classic chicken soup that is just as comforting and warming!
If you like chicken noodle soup, then you’ll love this lemon chicken orzo soup! The combination of a classic mirepoix, juicy chicken, tender orzo, and the brightness and aroma of lemon lends this soup its incredible flavor.
Plus, this soup is super simple and prepared in only one pot which makes it perfect for a fuss-free, yet delicious dinner.
What is orzo?
Orzo is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cooking that looks like rice but is actually pasta. It is often used to make delicious soups, salads, and even rice dishes.
Just like other kinds of pasta, orzo is typically made from durum wheat which means that it contains gluten. But there are many different versions of classic orzo, such as whole-wheat orzo and chickpea orzo. So even if you are gluten-free, you should be able to find a version that suits your dietary needs!
If you want to try this lemon chicken orzo recipe and you live outside of the US, you might find it labeled as risoni (Italy), kritharaki (Greece), or arpa sehriye (Turkey). They are all the same as orzo, so if you go grocery shopping, look for one of those names and you should be able to find it. The most common name in Europe is risoni.
To make this homemade lemon chicken orzo soup, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Chicken thighs or drumsticks: I always recommend using chicken thighs or drumsticks instead of chicken breast to make delicious homemade chicken soup from scratch. The meat doesn’t overcook as easily as chicken breast does, and the skin and bones add extra flavor to the broth. But if you prefer chicken breast or you only have chicken breast on hand, it also works well in this recipe.
- Orzo: Orzo is one of the key ingredients in this recipe. It is also known as risoni, kritharaki, or arpa seriye outside of the US. So look for packages that are labeled with one of those names.
- Aromatics: Garlic and onion are a must in this recipe! They add tons of flavor and make this soup so much better.
- Vegetables: Carrots and celery are typical ingredients for making homemade chicken soup. And they taste absolutely amazing in this lemon chicken orzo soup!
- Chicken broth: Chicken broth is used for the base of this soup. Just use the one you like most!
- Bay leaf: Bay leaves are great for adding flavor to soups and pasta sauces. So definitely don’t forget to add a bay leaf when making this lemon orzo soup!
- Lemon: Lemon adds brightness and really balances the flavors in this soup.
- Parsley (optional): Parsley makes the soup look great and adds a little extra flavor. I love to use it, but don’t worry if you don’t have any parsley on hand. The soup will still taste great!
How to cook orzo
Since orzo is a tiny shape of pasta, you cook it the same way as pasta. Just add water to a pot, bring it to a boil, add plenty of salt, and cook the orzo. The cook time is usually around 10 minutes.
But if you want to use orzo in a soup, there is no need to cook it in a separate pot! You simply add it to the soup 10 minutes before it finishes cooking and that’s it. Just make sure there is enough liquid as the orzo soaks up some of it.
So if you’ve never cooked with orzo before, don’t worry about it. It’s super simple!
How to make lemon chicken orzo soup
Preparing this lemon chicken orzo soup is super easy! Just follow these steps:
- Sauté the onion and garlic: Preheat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Then sauté the onion and garlic until the onion turns translucent.
- Sauté the chicken: Then add the chicken thighs to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until they start to brown.
- Add the vegetables, bay leaf, and liquid: Now add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and chicken broth to the pot. Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
- Cook the orzo: After letting the soup simmer, add the orzo to the pot. Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes until the orzo is tender.
- Shred the chicken: When the chicken is cooked through, take it out and shred it with two forks. Then add back the chicken.
- Add lemon juice and garnish: Add the lemon juice, take out the bay leaf, garnish with parsley, and enjoy!
Making this lemon chicken orzo soup is super simple, but keep the following things in mind when you make it for the first time.
- Don’t overcook the orzo: Orzo can be overcooked very easily, so make sure that you add the shredded chicken and lemon juice shortly before the orzo is cooked. This way the soup is ready when the orzo is perfect!
- Start with less lemon juice: I recommend starting with half a lemon and using more as needed. If the lemon you use is large, use less than half a lemon and gradually add more (if needed).
- Add more liquid if needed: Depending on your preferences, you might like more liquid. I found 6 cups were perfect, but definitely check on the soup and add more chicken broth or water if needed.
- Lemon zest: If you want to add more of that delicious lemon aroma without making the soup too sour, add some lemon zest to the soup. It tastes great and you can use the zest of the lemon you juice for making the lemon orzo soup.
- Chicken breast: If you prefer to use chicken breast, feel free to use it! Just substitute the chicken thighs with chicken breast in the recipe.
- Leafy greens: Another great idea is adding leafy greens, such as baby spinach and kale! Both taste great with this lemon chicken orzo soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although orzo looks like rice, it is pasta made from durum wheat. In many large supermarkets, you can also find orzo that is made from whole wheat or legumes.
Since orzo is a type of pasta, it isn’t naturally gluten-free. But there are gluten-free versions of orzo, such as chickpea orzo. So if you want to make this soup gluten-free, look for gluten-free orzo in large supermarkets or online.
I recommend storing this lemon chicken orzo soup in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days. The orzo usually soaks up more of the liquid, so you might want to add more chicken broth or water to the soup when you reheat it.
More simple and delicious soup recipes
Need more soup recipes to be fully equipped for fall and winter? Then definitely try one of the following recipes. They are all very simple and taste great!
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1.5 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks with bones and skin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 carrots diced
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup orzo
- ½ lemon juiced, additional juice and zest to taste
- parsley (optional) for garnish
- Preheat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Then sauté the onion and garlic until the onion turns translucent.
- Next, add the chicken to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until it has browned.
- Now add the carrots, celery, chicken broth, and bay leaf. Bring the soup to a boil. Then lower the heat, cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
- After letting the soup simmer, add the orzo. Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for around 10 minutes until the orzo is tender.
- Shortly before the soup is done cooking, take out the chicken and shred it with two forks. Then add back the chicken pieces.
- Add the lemon juice and take out the bay leaf. Garnish with parsley (optional) and enjoy!
- Lemon: I recommend starting with ½ lemon and adding more lemon juice or lemon zest if needed. If you use large lemons, start with less than ½ lemon.
- Chicken broth: As the orzo soaks up some of the liquid, you might want to use more chicken broth than I did. I found 6 cups were perfect, but feel free to add more chicken broth if needed.