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Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup is a flavorful and filling dish that is so homely and comforting. Made from scratch with an easy to make chicken stock, this soup comes together quickly and is a healthy meal that the whole family will love. Loaded with veggies, this fragrant soup is perfect for make ahead meals or an easy weeknight meal.
We all love the comfort of chicken noodle soup…it’s good for the soul, good for the tummy! This Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup reminds me a lot of chicken noodle soup. It has the three popular vegetables in most soups – onions, celery and carrots (aka mirepoix), it’s loaded with shredded juicy chicken, and filled with orzo pasta – all in a fresh and lemony chicken broth.
If you’re a soup fan like I am and want to change things around this week, try this recipe and you’ll feel so much comfort and joy from this warm bowl of yumminess! In my opinion, it’s better than a spoonful of sugar to help you feel good, especially if you’re fighting any bugs this winter. And if one soup isn’t enough for you, check out my other soup recipes.
What is orzo?
Orzo is a type of small pasta that is similar in size and shape to rice. Traditionally it is made with semolina flour and features in a lot of Italian and Greek dishes. It is often used in soups, casseroles and salads and it really takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked in. It’s a great way to bulk up soups like this and create a well balanced family meal.
Homemade chicken broth
This sounds like one of those fancy things you only do if you have extra time in the kitchen. But making your own homemade chicken broth is so easy, especially if you’re preparing vegetables to make this chicken lemon orzo soup. What I recommend doing is not only using the chicken in the recipe to make the broth, but also using the vegetable scraps.
What do I mean by scraps? Well, it’s basically the outer layers of the carrots that you peel away, the leafy ends of celery sticks and the outer layers of the onions. You can use the white outer layers only or the washed brown layers of onions for a darker colored broth. This is a wonderful way to use up these scrap vegetable parts that you may have tossed otherwise.
Steps for making chicken broth
- Prepare vegetables for the broth. Peel the outer layers of onions and outer layers of washed carrots; cut the ends and leaves of celery stalk. Place those “vegetable scraps” on the bottom of a large stockpot. You can also add leftover herbs here like sticks from parsley or cilantro, for example, or fresh herbs like rosemary.
- Season chicken breast. Simple salt and pepper seasoning will do here, but you can also add any others you’d like.
- Add boiling water. You’ll need about 8-10 cups of boiling water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and tender.
- Remove the chicken and shred. Then strain the chicken broth and toss all the vegetable scraps.
How to make chicken lemon orzo soup
Making the chicken broth is probably the most tedious part of the recipe. But once you have that, it’s as simple as throwing everything in a pot and cooking the soup. I like to do this in stages though. Start with the onions, carrots and celery. And small dice them so that every bite includes a little bit of everything.
Next sauté the vegetables with garlic, salt and pepper until they become tender and aromatic. This is where all the flavor of the chicken lemon orzo soup comes from. When they soften, you can add the orzo pasta and the dried rosemary. I sometimes like to add a pinch or literally an eighth of a teaspoon of turmeric too because it gives it that yellow color, which really complements the lemony broth.
Now you’ll add back that shredded chicken along with the homemade chicken broth and let everything cook. The goal here is for the orzo pasta to soften and for the broth to thicken with the starch from the orzo. When it’s all done you can squeeze the juice of one or two lemons to finish off the dish.
If you feel at this point that the broth is too clear, feel free to add the turmeric and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
And then you’re ready to enjoy the chicken lemon orzo soup. I like to garnish it with fresh parsley. For this time, I only had mint on hand so I added it, and it brought out a wonderfully fresh taste to the soup!
Tips for making chicken lemon orzo soup
- Use a whole chicken or chicken thighs for best flavor. This will add more calories and fat overall to the chicken lemon orzo soup, but it definitely adds a lot more flavor since the meat will be more juicy and tender.
- Season the chicken well before making the stock. I can’t stress how important it is to season your ingredients in layers as you cook. This allows the salt to penetrate the chicken thoroughly from the beginning of the cooking process. And that means the flavor is better this way than it would be if you seasoned after shredding the chicken.
- Keep the stock clear by skimming if you notice any cloudy appearance. This is pretty common when making chicken broth from scratch, but it can be unattractive. So just make sure to use a large spoon and skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
- Add the orzo towards the end of cooking. This will ensure that they don’t get too soggy in the broth while you’re cooking the vegetables. It has a fairly short cooking time, and I recommend keeping it al dente.
Frequently asked questions
Do you have to make your own stock for this orzo soup recipe?
Homemade stock is so much more flavorful than store bought and it’s so easy to make. So I really recommend you do make your own because the difference is measurable! Of course, you can use a store bought stock for convenience. I like to make a big batch of stock so it’s easy to grab and use whenever it’s needed.
Can you substitute the orzo for rice?
Although orzo and rice aren’t the same thing, in this recipe, you can absolutely use rice in the place of the pasta. This is especially good if you or anyone in your family is gluten intolerant. If you don’t have orzo, you can also use another pasta like penne or elbow macaroni.
How long does chicken lemon orzo Soup keep for?
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and it will stay fresh for about 4-5 days. You can freeze the soup, but the texture of the orzo may change slightly. So if you are making this to freeze, it’s best to leave the pasta out of the dish and then add freshly cooked pasta when you reheat it.
You can make the homemade chicken broth ahead of time and freeze it for up to 3 months. When ready to use the broth, just thaw in the fridge overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.
For more chicken soup recipes, check out:
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Chicken Lemon Rice Soup
- Easy White Chicken Chili
- Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- Easy Ravioli Soup
- 5 Ingredient Tomato Soup
This is such a light and refreshing soup packed full of flavor – I can’t wait for you all to try it! The homemade stock makes all the difference in this hearty and easy family meal.
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
I created this blog post first on May 8, 2017. I am updating it today to include improved new step-by-step images, more detailed recipe information and a video tutorial.
Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 onion diced
- 3 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
- 3 celery stalks small diced
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3/4 cup orzo pasta
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric optional
- Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
- Fresh parsley
- Place chicken and scraps from the outer layers and end of the onions, carrots and celery along with a couple bay leaves in a large stock pot. Add bay leaves and 8-10 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken and shred; then strain the chicken broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard the vegetable scraps and bay leave
- Heat oil in a the same pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, orzo, rosemary and turmeric (if using). Then return the broth to the stockpot and bring a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh parsley or mint, if desired.
- Instead of orzo, you can use white rice or brown rice. If you’re using brown rice, be sure to add an extra 25 minutes to the cooking time though. You can also use potatoes, riced cauliflower, celery root or chopped zucchini for some grain free and/or low carb options.
- If you don’t have rosemary, feel free to use thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro or other herbs.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.