Get ready for comfort food with a “twist.” Bright, fragrant, and perfect for springtime, Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is chock full of surprises – from the zesty hit of citrus on your tongue to spring peas and greens to pasta-licious spoonfuls of tender baby orzo. But don’t worry – it’s still loaded with all the chicken and veggies you crave from the classic.
To everything, there is a season. I’m not here to pooh-pooh the efficacy or comfort of chicken soup, but just as we trade our boots for flip flops and pull off the patio furniture covers, so too must we leave behind the cozy, nap-inducing foods of winter. Or at least adjust them.
Now is the time to literally – and figuratively – put some spring in our steps. If you’re anything like me, then your springs are usually spent preparing for your summers -fixing, planning, cleaning, seeding. (And I haven’t even gotten to my much-needed pedicure yet.) We’re so busy getting ready that we’re not stopping to appreciate the season we’ve got now.
Coming out of “hibernation” can be hard. The weather and temperatures are unpredictable so you never know what to prepare for. It takes forever to adjust to having more daylight hours. You feel like you’ve got all the time in the world to get things done, only to realize it’s 7 p.m. and nothing’s gotten done. You spend every spare minute browsing home & garden sites or at home & garden stores. No wonder we’re hot messes until Memorial Day!
I find it makes the changeover easier if I (1) make a list of everything I need – and need to do – and break it down into individual tasks, and (2) start with simple, manageable adjustments.
So (to circle back to my original point), my first spring step is always a transition in the kitchen. Changing up your menu takes the least amount of effort, you get an immediate reward in the form of delicious food, and you guarantee you get to appreciate at least a little of what spring has to offer.
How to Make Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Give chicken soup the perfect spring makeover with bright citrus and fragrant herbs. Loaded with chicken, veggies, and pasta, this quick and easy Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is brimming with flavor and definitely “eats like a meal.” Use leftover or rotisserie chicken for fast prep.
- Saute the mirepoix. Cook onions, carrots, and celery in butter and olive oil until soft.
- Add the aromatics. Add fresh garlic and dried thyme and oregano. Saute with the vegetables until very fragrant.
- Add the pasta and chicken. Add the orzo and broth, along with the roasted chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook until orzo is just about cooked through.
- Add the lemon juice, frozen peas, baby spinach, and chopped parsley. Simmer until the peas are warmed through and the spinach is barely wilted (just a few minutes).
- Season and serve. Taste the broth and adjust with salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavor sings. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Adjust the Lemon
As written, the lemon is intentionally “middle of the road” – not to subtle, but not too puckery. Adjust to your liking as follows:
- Want more lemon? Stir in finely grated lemon zest; start with 1 tsp and adjust to preference.
- Want less lemon? Skip it and simply enjoy Chicken Orzo soup. There’s plenty of flavor in the broth if you’re not all that into lemon.
- A rotisserie chicken, or leftover roasted chicken, makes for a very quick and simple weeknight meal.
- No leftovers? No problem. Instant Pot Shredded Chicken is quick and easy.
- Fresh lemon juice makes a world of difference! Grate the peel using a microplane for extra lemon flavor.
Storing and Freezing
- FRIDGE: store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You may want to add an extra ½ c broth per serving, as the orzo will absorb more liquid and puff up.
- FREEZER: pasta never holds up perfectly after freezing in liquid (hello, mush), but as long as you know what you’re getting into, you can absolutely freeze this soup. Seal cooled soup in an airtight container or ziploc bag to keep for 4-6 months. If you know you’re going to freeze in advance, simply skip the orzo when cooking, freeze, and add it when you reheat the soup.
More Recipes for Spring Chickens
- Lemon Garlic Chicken and Asparagus Skillet
- Avocado Salsa over Grilled Chicken
- Crab Omelet with Avocado
- Easy Asparagus Fritatta
- Grilled Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Marinade
- Avocado Strawberry Chicken Salad
Did you make this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced to ½”
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced to ½”
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 6 c chicken broth
- 1 c dry orzo
- 2 c shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, more or less to taste
- 1 c frozen peas
- 2 c baby spinach
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley, more or less to taste
- kosher salt, to taste
- ground pepper, to taste
- 1 lemon thinly sliced, optional, for garnish
- Heat a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat; add the oil and butter and heat until the butter melts then foams. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, toss to coat in the fat, and saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, 7-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, thyme and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour in the chicken stock, add the bay leaf, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the orzo and rotisserie chicken and give everything a good stir. Cook 7 minutes or until the orzo is al dente (or time according to package directions).
- Stir in the lemon juice, peas, and baby spinach. Simmer 2-3 minutes, or until the peas are tender and the spinach is barely wilted. Stir in the fresh parsley.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and/or lemon juice. Ladle into bowls, garnish with a lemon wheel if desired, and serve immediately.