Ah, the way homemade chicken broth melds with freshly squeezed lemon. And, oh, how it’s got me tilting my bowl in the privacy of my office for one last slurp.
This is not your average chicken noodle soup. No-sirree. It’s more… uplifting. Perhaps because it’s loaded with whole wheat orzo and baby spinach?
Or maybe it’s just the simple pleasure of a good soup finished with citrus.
If you’re new to orzo, I encourage you to seek it out next time you’re in the pasta aisle. It’s cute and rice-shaped and fits on a soup spoon. You can also find it online.
Homemade Chicken Stock is Better
I probably grew up on boxed chicken stock and was none the wiser. Until I met Myra. Cookbook author, Myra Kornfeld, convinced me years ago that no self-respecting chef opts for boxed stock.
I acknowledge, boxed stock is a time-saver. But, let’s face it. It doesn’t hold a flame to freshly simmered chicken and vegetables seasoned generously with salt.
This is exactly why, when a soup relies solely on its broth, it’s worth it to simmer some raw chicken with celery, carrot, and onion rather than save time on boxed stock and a rotisseries bird.
Chicken Thighs Strike Again
You want to buy bone-in thighs to score those extra flavor points.
How to Make Chicken Orzo Soup with Lemon – Step by Step
Start by making the stock. I like to fill a pot 3/4 full with water and add thyme, chicken thighs, onion, and some of the celery and carrot. After about 50 minutes, let the chicken thighs cool and strain the vegetables.
A spider strainer is great for this because you don’t even have to lift the pot.
Technique Tip: Remove any skin from the chicken thighs before simmering so you don’t have to skim excess fat from the broth later.
At this point, all the vegetable flavor went into the water, so I just discard them. You can boil the orzo in the chicken stock now and layer back in the shredded chicken and fresh carrot and celery.
Within a few minutes, the vegetables will be tender and that’s when it’s best to add the greens (parsley and spinach) and season to taste with lemon juice.
If your soup tastes bland at this point, you need to add more salt. Taste again, and if it’s still too bland, consider adding fresh thyme or a dash of cayenne.
I think a light soup like this is great for lunch with some warm and crusty garlic bread on the side. I might also serve it with a side of finely chopped kale with Parmesan and the essential lemon sauce.
More Soups and Stews
So, tell me. Are you new to orzo or homemade chicken stock? What do you think?
Lemony Good Chicken Orzo Soup
- 1.5 pounds bone-in chicken thighs skin removed
- 1 medium white onion quartered
- 4 medium carrots peeled and chopped, divided
- 4 large celery ribs chopped, divided
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 ounces whole wheat orzo
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 lemon juiced
- 3 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- Stock: Fill a Dutch oven or large pot ¾ full with water. Place the pot over medium heat. Drop the thighs into the water with the onion, 1 handful of the carrot and 2 handfuls of the celery. Add the peppercorns and thyme sprigs and bring to a low simmer for 50-minutes. Note: Once bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low.
- Shred: Use a pair of tongs to pluck the chicken out of the pot. Allow to cool on a cutting board then shred or cut into small pieces. Use a strainer or skimmer to remove the vegetables, thyme, and peppercorns. Discard these and return the chicken to the stock.
- Cook Orzo: Raise the heat to high and when the stock is boiling, add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the remaining carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are tender, turn off the heat and layer in the lemon juice, to taste, with the spinach and parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.
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