This Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup is a cozy classic with a delicious pop of lemon flavor. Easy to make and packed with vegetables and nutrients, this soup is what you will love with a big piece of crusty bread or perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich!
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This cozy lemon orzo chicken soup recipe has quickly become my family's favorite soup. It's a great twist on a classic chicken noodle soup and the lemon flavor makes for a vibrant dish.
While I typically use rotisserie chicken noodle soup, this recipe starts with uncooked chicken and is simmered in the broth for added flavor and delicious juicy chicken.
Aside from the lemon, a touch of parmesan cheese gives the broth a thicker, creamy like feel without any cream at all. You are going to love this recipe and it will be one of your favorite soups for sure!
Why You Will Love This Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup:
- It's so nourishing, cozy and hearty. This delicious soup is a full meal even if you want to have it that way. Chicken, vegetables, pasta--it has it all! Comfort food at it's finest. Perfect for chilly days, sick days and just when you are craving soup.
- The lemon brings a flavor burst to a classic soup. Lemony flavor in chicken soup adds a bit of zest to the same old, same old. No dull and boring chicken soup, this one is jazzed up.
- Great for meal prepping for the week. I think this soup is even better the next day. Making a big pot and then eating it throughout the week is key if you have a lot going on!
- Freezer friendly. I find the the little rice-shaped pasta keeps better than other pasta shapes in the freezer making this soup a great one to store for later.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- chicken: you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast. Either will work just fine, and a combo of the two is great. The thighs will cook a touch quicker if smaller but I find them less likely to become dry which is a bonus of using them. For a quick version of this soup, use shredded rotisserie chicken instead.
- butter: butter or olive oil, the butter adds a bit more of a cozy flavor
- vegetables: carrots, celery and onion--classic soup starters. I use a sweet yellow onion when making this lemon chicken soup.
- broth: chicken broth is ideal. You can use chicken stock. I like to use reduced sodium chicken broth when making soups. Feel free to use homemade broth if you have it. Bone broth is also great.
- garlic: freshly minced garlic cloves are highly suggested. If you do not have any, garlic powder will work. Start with about ½ to ¾ teaspoon and adjust as desired.
- seasoning: dried oregano, parsley and thyme, feel free to stir in some fresh herbs as well before serving. Cracked pepper and sea salt as well.
- bay leaf: these give a subtle flavor to the soup
- lemon: fresh lemon juice and zest are recommended for a vibrant pop of lemon flavor. If you want a more subtle lemon flavor, use just the lemon juice. You can add a slight amount of the zest and then adjust. DO NOT use the stuff in the squeeze bottle for this recipe if possible. It just won't be the same.
- orzo: I think the orzo makes for the best spoonful of soup. It's easy to scoop plenty of pasta with each bite. You can use another pasta shape if desired like ditalini or macaroni. You could also opt for gluten free or whole wheat orzo.
- parmesan: this is the other show stopper of this orzo soup recipe. It separates this soup from the rest and gives the broth a slight creaminess without actually adding cream. Don't skip this ingredient! Pro-tip: add a parmesan rind or two to the soup as it cooks for a soup that makes you say WOW.
- optional: In the original recipe I also added baby spinach to this soup, but my family preferred the soup without it. I have added fresh spinach to the ingredients as completely optional.
- Prep your ingredients and then heat butter over medium-high heat until melted in a large pot. Add the carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the onions start to become translucent.
- Add the broth (about 8-9 cups to start), seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, chicken, lemon zest (NOT the juice), salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, or gently bubbling.
- Cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches 175°F-180°F for chicken thighs and 165°F if using breasts.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove it and place on a separate plate to cool and then shred. Using two forks makes this very easy.
- While you wait for the chicken to cool so you can shred it, add the orzo to the simmering pot. Allow it to cook until al dente (it took about 11-12 minutes for mine but this can vary.)
- When the orzo is done, stir in the parmesan until melted and add the shredded chicken back into the soup. You can add the spinach at this time if using and allow to wilt. Add more broth if desired if a lot of the broth has cooked off.
- A few minutes before serving, stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add more lemon zest if desired. Remove from heat and cool for several minutes before serving. Top with fresh parsley and a lemon wedge when serving.
- Wait until a bit before serving to add the lemon juice. For best results, wait until the end of cooking to add the lemon juice to the soup. This way you don't risk overheating or boiling the juice which can cause it to add a very bitter flavor to the lemon orzo soup.
- You can make this in the slow cooker as well. If you want to make this recipe in the crockpot, it's so easy! Add all the ingredients to the crock pot except the orzo, spinach, parmesan, and lemon juice. Cook on low for 5-7 hours or high 3-4 hours. When chicken has reached the appropriate internal temperature, pull it out and shred. Either cook the orzo separately, or add it about 30 minutes before serving and allow it to cook until al dente. Add all the remaining ingredients as directed in the recipe.
- You can use rotisserie chicken for a time saver. No time to boil the chicken? Cut time and shred a rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken you may have in the fridge. Just make sure to simmer the ingredients so the carrots and celery soften enough before adding the orzo.
- You can cook the orzo separately if making the soup ahead of time. If you are worried about the orzo overcooking or becoming too soggy because you want the lemon soup to simmer longer for more flavor, boil your orzo separately and add just before serving.
To store this chicken lemon orzo soup, transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate for about 3-4 days. You can reheat the soup stove top or in the microwave.
To freeze leftover soup, make sure the soup is completely cooled first and place in freezer safe, air tight containers. You can freeze for up to 3 months. Make sure to cook the orzo al dente if planning to freeze for the best texture later. The orzo texture is a bit different after freezing, but still worked fine for me!
Other Soup Recipes:
Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup
- 1 T butter
- 4 carrots chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- ½ yellow onion small diced
- 8-10 c chicken broth
- 1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast
- 3-4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest* optional*
- ½ - 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked pepper
- 1 ¼ c orzo
- ¼ c grated parmesan
- Juice of two lemons just over ⅓ cup
- 1 large handful baby spinach optional
- Prep your ingredients and then heat butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add the carrots, onion and celery and sauté until the onions start to become translucent.
- Add about 8-9 cups broth, seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, chicken, lemon zest (NOT the juice), salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, or gently bubbling. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches 175°F-180°F for chicken thighs and 165°F if using breasts.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove it and place on a separate plate to cool and then shred using two forks.
- While the chicken is cooling, add the orzo to the simmering pot. Allow it to cook until al dente (it took about 11-12 minutes for mine but this can vary.) When the orzo is done, stir in the parmesan until melted and add the shredded chicken back into the soup. You can add the spinach at this time if using and allow to wilt.
- Add more broth if desired if a lot of the broth has cooked off.A few minutes before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Add more lemon zest if desired. Remove from heat and cool for several minutes before serving.