I have wanted to make this soup forever, and have no idea what’s been stopping me. Avgolemono is the lemony chicken soup of Greece, and as we know, pretty much every country has their version of comfort chicken soup – this is the Greek one.
Avgolemono Chicken Soup with Orzo
Sometimes avgolemono is made with rice, and sometimes it is made with orzo.. I picked orzo for this recipe, but you can use cooked rice instead. Don’t overcook the rice, so the grains stay distinct and not mushy.
This one is fairly well populated with both chicken and orzo (a rice-shaped noodle) – our family likes a lot of bang for their buck in a chunky soup. My kids were way into this soup.
If you have the time and energy to make homemade broth, this is one of those instances where you will taste the difference. Any time the broth is the star of the soup, rather than a supporting player to a lot of other ingredients, homemade broth can really made a difference.
I’m telling you this, but very eager to add that you should not make this a deal-breaker if making homemade broth is not your thing. My first shot at this was with half homemade broth (I only had 4 cups) and half canned. And while I know I’m going to make it next time I have a pot of homemade stock simmering on the stove, I also know that I’ll make it again before then with some good canned or boxed broth. I also used half uncooked chicken, and half leftover Greek Roasted Chicken Thighs for my batch and it was great.
Ingredients in Avgolemono Soup
- Onion – adds flavor! You could use any color onion, or try shallots in the same amount instead
- Chicken broth – I prefer to use less-sodium chicken broth to control the salt content in the soup. If you can use homemade broth or stock, you will have a wonderfully rich and deeply flavored soup.
- Diced chicken – for this soup I like to use chicken breasts, but you can use thighs instead. You can use leftover cooked chicken, but if you use raw chicken it will enrich the flavor of the broth more.
- Cooked orzo – orzo is a rice shaped pasta, and if you would rather use rice as a substitute you can! I like to cook the orzo first, otherwise it will absorb too much of the broth, release its starch into the soup, and the result will be a too-thick soup.
- Lemon juice – please use fresh instead of jarred, which makes the soup wonderfully bright and lemon!
- Eggs – these thicken the soup (see above) and need to be added slowly so they make the soup creamy and don’t separate.
- Minced fresh dill or parsley – this is optional, but I love the way a bit of fresh herbs adds so much freshness to the soup when added the end.
How to Thicken Avgolemono Soup:
What you are doing in this recipe to create a thick and silky texture is tempering the egg mixture. If you were to add the egg mixture to the pot all at once, even if you whisked very fast, you would still end up with cooked strands of eggs punctuating the soup (in some soups, this is desirable – think about egg drop soup at a Chinese restaurant).
Adding the hot liquid in slow steady amount to the eggs, while whisking all the while, thickens the eggs but keeps them from scrambling, and then once that mixture has become thick and smooth, and warm, you can whisk it back into the soup and it will simply thicken the whole pot of avgolemono.
The key: just keep whisking as you add broth to the eggs, and then once the mixture has thicken and emulsified, whisk the egg mixture back to the soup. Do not allow the soup to boil!
Avoglemono is creamy without the addition of dairy, and that’s thanks to the thickening the eggs provide. The consistency is nicely lush, and then you have all of the chunks of chicken and tender orzo to make it feel very substantial.
Reheating Avgolemono Soup
To reheat avgolemono soup, simply gently warm in in a pot over low heat stirring often until it is hot. Do not bring the soup to a boil, which could affect the texture by making it grainy and causing it to separate a bit.
The fresh herbs are up to you. When I was researching avgolemono soup I found recipes that called for herbs, no herbs, and herbs as a garnish. If you just have dried dill, add a tablespoon instead of the 1/4 cup fresh. I’m not the biggest fan of dried parsley, so if you don’t have fresh herbs or dried dill, I might just skip it.
I also found recipes that didn’t have chicken in them, that had tons of lemon, only a little lemon, that used rice, that used lots of eggs, and hardly any eggs. Like any classic national recipe, there will be variations and strong opinions.
Bring it, I say, bring it.
Other Chicken Soup Recipes:
- Chicken, Bacon and Corn Chowder
- Fragrant Chicken Tomato Soup
- Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
- The Easiest Shortcut Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts diced (about 2 pounds)
- 2 ½ cups cooked orzo
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ cup minced fresh dill or parsley (optional)
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until slightly golden. Add the broth, and turn the heat to high. Bring the broth to a simmer.
- Lower the heat to medium, and keeping the broth at a simmer, add the diced chicken breasts. Cook for 5 minutes until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Add the cooked orzo.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, and then beat in the lemon juice. Working quickly, whisk the egg mixture while you drizzle in a ladleful of the hot broth from the pot (see Cooking Tip). Drizzle in another ladleful, whisking all the while, then transfer the hot egg-lemon mixture back to the pot, whisking constantly as you add it. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Simmer gently for a couple of a minutes (no not allow to come to a boil), then stir in the dill or parsley if using. Serve the avgolemono soup hot.
Cooking Tip: Egg in the BrothWhat you are doing here is tempering the egg mixture. If you were to add the egg mixture to the pot all at once, even if you whisked very fast, you would still end up with cooked strands of eggs punctuating the soup (in some soups, this is desirable – think about egg drop soup at a Chinese restaurant). Add the hot liquid in slow steady amount to the eggs, while whisking all the while, thickens the eggs but the whisking keeps them from cooking in a clump, and then once that mixture has become thick and smooth, and warm, you can whisk it back into the soup and it will simply thicken the whole pot of avgolemono.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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