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Cozy and comforting, this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is a healthy and easy dinner that your entire family will love. The combination of juicy, tender roasted chicken breast with fresh herbs, hearty vegetables, satisfying orzo pasta, and just a subtle touch of lemon makes this a delicious meal that everyone at the table can agree on. Serve each warm bowl with a side of buttermilk biscuits3-ingredient sour cream muffins, or a loaf of crusty bread!

Close overhead image of lemon chicken orzo soup in a white bowl on a table.

Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup

Classic comfort food at its finest! Simmer a pot of easy homemade lemon chicken orzo soup for a simple meal that everyone loves. With lemon-infused meat, orzo pasta, and plenty of fresh veggies, this chicken soup recipe is a nourishing one-pot meal to ward off the chilly winter weather. It’s delicious alongside sweet honey cornbread, homemade blueberry muffins, 3-ingredient biscuits, or a simple green salad.

Roasted chicken on a plate.

What is Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo?

It might sound a bit odd, but this is really just a classic chicken noodle soup recipe — kicked up a notch! With its bright citrus flavor (which is very subtle) and plenty of fresh herbs, the easy lemon chicken soup is a nice transitional dish from winter to spring.

A classic Greek Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup often includes egg for a creamy consistency; however, I opted for a more familiar soup base in this recipe — and therefore omitted the egg. While I did use orzo pasta in keeping with the Mediterranean tradition, you can certainly substitute with another small pasta shape like ditalini, acini de pepe, or orecchiette. Just remember, orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like rice — it is not actually rice. Orzo is made with durham wheat flour (semolina), and is therefore not an equal substitute for rice in recipes.

Pouring broth into a Dutch oven.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of lemon chicken orzo soup. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Chicken: start with raw boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs, which you’ll roast for delicious flavor. If you prefer, you can skip the step of roasting your own chicken and start with cooked, shredded chicken (such as the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken). I’ve included those instructions in my notes below.
  • Lemons: flavor the chicken as it roasts, and also add bright, acidic flavor to the soup itself.
  • Onions, carrots, celery, and garlic: fresh aromatic vegetables that add savory flavor to the dish.
  • Chicken broth and water: the liquid base of the soup. Start with low-sodium chicken broth if you’re sensitive to salt, or use homemade chicken broth when available.
  • Orzo: a type of pasta that is shaped like rice. Do not substitute with rice in this recipe. Other small pasta shapes will work as a substitute for the orzo, such as ditalini, acini de pepe, or orecchiette.
  • Bay leaf, fresh thyme, and fresh dill: give the soup even more flavor!
Adding orzo to a pot.

How to make Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

I borrowed Martha Stewart’s idea for roasting lemon chicken, and then combined that juicy, flavorful meat with a classic chicken orzo soup recipe. The end result is cozy, comforting, easy, and — most importantly — delicious!

  1. Roast the Lemon Chicken. Rub bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with olive oil, season liberally with kosher salt and ground black pepper, and then place on a baking sheet on top of lemon slices and onion slices. Bake the chicken in a 425°F oven for about 45 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  2. Shred the Chicken. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken with a fork.
  3. Sauté the Vegetables. To prepare the soup, start by cooking the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil until starting to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Simmer the Soup. Add the chicken broth, water, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes (or until the veggies are tender).
  5. Add the Chicken and Orzo. Stir in the cooked, shredded chicken, the uncooked orzo, and the lemon juice. Simmer the soup for about 10-12 more minutes, or until the orzo is tender. Then just add the fresh dill, and serve!
Square side shot of lemon chicken orzo soup on a dinner table.

What to Serve with Easy Lemon Chicken Soup

With the carbs, protein, and veggies, this soup is a one pot meal! That said, here are a few easy sides that go well with chicken soup:

The best lemon chicken orzo soup recipe served with a side of bread for dipping.

Storage

If you’d like to prepare a batch of the soup in advance, I recommend making the soup up until the step where you add the orzo (do not stir in the pasta). Cool the broth and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer, add the orzo, and follow the rest of the recipe.

Leftover soup will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month; however, cooked pasta may be mushy when frozen and reheated.

How to Reheat

Warm leftovers in a covered saucepan over low heat, just until heated through. Do not overcook or the pasta will become mushy. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Overhead shot of two bowls of lemon chicken and orzo soup with a side of crusty bread.

Health Benefits

This nourishing soup is full of healthy ingredients! It has plenty of lean protein (thanks to the chicken breast), and it’s full of vegetables and all of their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cup of the Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo Pasta has about 136 calories, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein. Chicken soup is said to help build a healthy immune system to fight off viruses, while also helping your body recover from illness more quickly. While it’s a low-calorie option, this recipe is not gluten-free and it’s not low-carb or Keto-friendly.

Recipe Variations

  • Rotisserie Chicken Orzo Soup: If you’re short on time, you can skip the step of roasting your own chicken. Instead, prepare the soup with about 2 cups of shredded or diced rotisserie chicken or other pre-cooked chicken.
  • This soup doesn’t have a strong lemony taste at all. It’s not a “lemon soup” — just a classic chicken soup with a hint of fresh lemon. For a stronger lemon taste, add the juice from two lemons, as well as the lemon zest from one lemon.
  • Swap out the orzo pasta and use a similar small shaped pasta like ditalini, acini de pepe, or orecchiette.
  • If you don’t care for the flavor of fresh dill, substitute with chopped fresh parsley, additional thyme, or just about any other herbs that you like. Fresh rosemary, oregano, or basil would also be tasty!
  • Add baby spinach to your soup at the very end. The spinach will wilt almost instantly, and will add even more of a nutritional boost.
Side shot of lemon chicken soup with orzo in white bowls on a dinner table.

Tips for the Best Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup Recipe

  • The roasted lemon chicken is worth the extra step! It’s so good, in fact, that you might just want to eat the chicken on its own for dinner! Roasting the chicken breast over lemon and onion just adds another layer of flavor to the soup. That said, if you’re in a time crunch and looking for a shortcut, you can use cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken (see my notes above for those instructions).
  • Use bone-in, skin-on chicken because it has so much more flavor and moisture than boneless, skinless chicken. You can substitute with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
  • Add extra chicken broth or water, as necessary, to thin the soup to reach your desired consistency. As written, this recipe yields a pretty thick soup.
  • The total amount of salt that you need for the soup will depend on personal preference, as well as on the saltiness of your broth. I highly recommend using plenty of seasoning. There’s nothing worse than a bland soup, so don’t be too cautious with the salt and pepper. Taste and season as you go!
  • Garnish each bowl with additional fresh herbs or grated Parmesan cheese.
Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of easy lemon chicken soup.

More Chicken Soup Recipes to Try

Close overhead image of lemon chicken orzo soup in a white bowl on a table.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 25 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 9 cups
Calories 136.6 kcal
Cozy and comforting, this lemon chicken orzo soup is a healthy and easy dinner that your entire family will love!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken breast (or about 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 lemons, divided
  • 2 onions, divided
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth, plus extra to thin the soup at the end
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • ¾ cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed)
  • Optional garnish: additional fresh herbs; grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

ROAST THE CHICKEN:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Thinly slice 2 of the lemons and 1 onion.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and spray with cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Arrange lemon slices and onion slices on the baking sheet.
  • Rub chicken with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place chicken (skin-side up) on top of the sliced lemons and onions.
  • Roast chicken for 45 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Allow chicken to cool enough so that you can handle it, and then remove the meat from the skin and bones. Chop or shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

PREPARE THE SOUP:

  • In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 diced onion, the carrots, celery, and the minced garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Add chicken broth, water, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes). Stir in cooked chicken, orzo, and the juice from the remaining lemon. Simmer, uncovered, until the orzo is tender (about 10-12 minutes). Stir occasionally so that the orzo doesn’t stick.
  • Remove bay leaf. Season soup with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in fresh dill and add extra chicken broth to thin, as necessary.
  • Serve immediately, or allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (or in the freezer for up to 3 months).

Notes

  • The roasted lemon chicken is worth the extra step! It’s so good, in fact, that you might just want to eat the chicken on its own for dinner! Roasting the chicken breast over lemon and onion just adds another layer of flavor to the soup. That said, if you’re in a time crunch and looking for a shortcut, you can use cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken (see my notes above for those instructions).
  • Use bone-in, skin-on chicken because it has so much more flavor and moisture than boneless, skinless chicken. You can substitute with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
  • Add extra chicken broth or water, as necessary, to thin the soup to reach your desired consistency. As written, this recipe yields a pretty thick soup.
  • The total amount of salt that you need for the soup will depend on personal preference, as well as on the saltiness of your broth. I highly recommend using plenty of seasoning. There’s nothing worse than a bland soup, so don’t be too cautious with the salt and pepper. Taste and season as you go!
  • Rotisserie Chicken Orzo Soup: If you’re short on time, you can skip the step of roasting your own chicken. Instead, prepare the soup with about 2 cups of shredded or diced rotisserie chicken or other pre-cooked chicken.
  • This soup doesn’t have a strong lemony taste at all. It’s not a “lemon soup” — just a classic chicken soup with a hint of fresh lemon. For a stronger lemon taste, add the juice from two lemons, as well as the zest from one lemon.
  • Swap out the orzo pasta and use a similar small shaped pasta like ditalini, acini de pepe, or orecchiette.
  • If you don’t care for the flavor of fresh dill, substitute with chopped fresh parsley, additional thyme, or just about any other herbs that you like. Rosemary, oregano, or basil would also be tasty!
  • Add baby spinach to your soup at the very end. The spinach will wilt almost instantly, and will add even more of a nutritional boost.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 136.6kcalCarbohydrates: 15.3gProtein: 9.7gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.9gCholesterol: 19.6mgSodium: 480.8mgPotassium: 425.6mgFiber: 1.8gSugar: 2.9g
Keyword: lemon chicken orzo soup, lemon chicken soup, lemon chicken soup with orzo
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in March, 2020. The photos were updated in March, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Hi Blair. Looks delicious! Just wondering if rice could be substituted for the orzo to make it gluten free? If so, how much would you suggest?

    1. Hi, Jill! Yes, I think that would be fine. The rice will need longer to cook, so I would keep that in mind. I would also add a little bit more broth or water with rice, since the rice will probably absorb more. Maybe use 2/3 cup – 3/4 cup of rice and an extra 1-2 cups of broth/water. Enjoy!! 🙂