Enjoy a cozy bowl of Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup on a cold winter day. It is bright, comforting and made with everyday ingredients.
Lemon chicken orzo soup is lemon-y version of chicken noodle soup which will instantly become a family favorite. Just like its cousin, chicken stew. And if you add a few tablespoons of cream at the end, it becomes creamy yet light comfort food!
Orzo is small shaped pasta reminiscent of rice. In a perfect world, I would like to buy it whole grain but here we are. I love that orzo cooks fast, everyone adores pasta and lemon chicken pasta combo, and all other ingredients are wholesome and healthy in this chicken soup.
Ingredients and Notes
Lemon chicken orzo soup recipe contains just a few simple ingredients.
As long as you have a few chicken breasts, chicken broth and orzo on hand, you can make this delicious soup. You can even omit the lemon if out or not a fan of it.
- Chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts but you can also use chicken thighs. The chicken cooks right in the soup.
- Orzo: Small rice-shaped pasta. Cooks right in the soup as well.
- Chicken broth: Use store-bought low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock is always a great idea. I like to use chicken base and then add less salt.
- Fresh vegetables: The usual mirepoix ingredients like yellow onion, carrots and celery plus garlic. They add flavor. But use what you have on hand.
- Oil and butter: Saute veggies in a combination of both which will add extra layer of flavor to the chicken orzo soup.
- Seasonings: I like to always have my homemade Italian seasoning on hand because it’s dried herbs blend all in one. Plus salt and pepper.
- Lemon: Always use fresh lemon juice for best flavor.
- Fresh herbs: I like to add a handful of fresh parsley but fresh basil or fresh dill would be great as well.
How to Make Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Here is a quick overview in photos how to make lemon chicken orzo soup. There is also full recipe card below.
All you need to know is that it’s a one pot meal where tender chicken and pasta cook in same pot but not at same time.
- Saute the vegetables: In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, saute the onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a mix of olive oil and butter until softened. Then add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and saute a bit more to allow spices become fragrant.
- Cook with chicken and broth: Lay chicken breasts on top, pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. I keep the pot covered with a lid.
- Add pasta: Now add orzo pasta, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. I like to stir a few times with a wooden spoon because orzo tends to stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Shred cooked chicken: Remove cooked chicken breasts on a large plate or cutting board, shred with two forks and then add back into the pot.
- Add lemon and parsley: Now squeeze lemon juice and don’t be shy to add more to taste. Add in a generous amount of fresh parsley as it flavors the lemon chicken orzo soup even further.
- Stir and season: Stir the soup and adjust any seasonings to taste. I like to add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream for color and more rich taste but it’s totally optional. You can also add a splash of whole milk.
Tips and Variations
Here are a few tips and variations from the best lemon chicken soup with orzo from my kitchen to yours.
- Use chicken thighs: You can use boneless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts if you like dark meat more.
- Use rotisserie chicken: Cooking time stays the same but you might have to use less salt, so I recommend to season soup at the end.
- Cook orzo separately: Cook pasta al dente separately if you are planning to freeze the soup or having leftovers fore more than 1 day. Add pasta to the bowls and ladle soup on top.
- Add white wine: You can add 1/2 cup dry white wine like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to further enhance the flavor of chicken and orzo soup. The alcohol cooks off.
- Add fresh spinach: Throw in a few handfuls of baby spinach at the end for a pop of color and extra nutrients.
- Add more lemon juice: If you like more zing, squeeze more fresh lemon juice and grate some lemon zest at the end. I always taste any soup a few times and adjust taste to my feelings that day.
Make it a meal with a soup and salad combination, and don’t forget some crusty bread or garlic bread. Salad is quick and easy to throw together while your soup is simmering on the stove.
This lemon chicken orzo soup is packed with veggies, protein and pasta for carbs but if feeding a crowd or just to enjoy a variety, it would be nice to pair it with one of these salads:
- Lemon kale salad for a simple salad with lots of garlic and lemon flavor.
- Cucumber avocado tomato salad for a taste of summer in a bowl year round.
Can I Make It Ahead?
Yes. This lemon chicken orzo soup is perfect to make ahead and store in the fridge or freezer.
However, if you know that’s what you are after and would like to avoid mushy pasta past day one, I recommend to cook orzo pasta separately and add right before serving.
Otherwise, pasta will absorb a lot of the broth, which honestly we do not mind in our family. If you cook orzo separately, make sure to drain it well and toss with olive oil immediately to prevent sticking while being refrigerated for a few days.
How to Store
Store: Refrigerate soup leftovers for up to 4 days. Pasta will keep absorbing the broth as it sits in it, so more likely you will have to add more chicken broth when reheating. Do not add water as it will dilute the flavor of orzo lemon chicken soup.
Freeze: Freeze leftover soup in an airtight container, leaving some room for expansion. Again I recommend to freeze soup without pasta if possible as pasta does not freeze well.
Reheat: To reheat, simply simmer desired amount of lemon chicken orzo soup in a small pot on the stove while covered, for about 5 minutes.
Yes. Saute vegetables with spices in a skillet. Then transfer them to a large 6-8 quart slow cooker, add chicken breasts and broth, cover with a lid and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours. After shred chicken, add orzo pasta, put the lid back on and cook for another 15-20 minutes until pasta is al dente. Add lemon juice, parsley and stir.
Yes. Saute vegetables with spices on Saute function. Then add chicken, broth and pressure cook on High pressure for 15 minutes. Release the pressure, add pasta, close the lid and let soup sit for 15 minutes with Instant Pot on Keep Warm mode. Add lemon juice, parsley, stir and enjoy.
To add more flavor, you can add some dry white wine, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or Parmesan cheese. Also using dark meat like chicken thighs makes this hearty soup more flavorful.
More Chicken Soup Recipes to Try
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup Recipe
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 large carrots finely chopped
- 2 large celery finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 10 cups chicken broth low sodium
- 1 cup orzo pasta dry
- 1/2 lemon juice of
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream optional
- Preheat large pot on medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and saute for another 30 seconds, stirring few times.
- Add chicken breasts and chicken broth, cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add orzo pasta, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent pasta from sticking.
- After remove chicken breasts on a plate and shred with 2 forks. Return shredded chicken to the pot along with lemon juice, parsley and cream, if desired. Stir and adjust any seasonings to taste.
- Serve soup hot with a slice of crusty bread.