chicken orzo soup
chicken orzo soup

Lemony Good Chicken Orzo Soup

Fresh lemon adds a bright fresh flavor to this chicken noodle soup made with orzo.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour
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Recipe Rundown

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.

lemon chicken orzo soup

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.

whole wheat orzo pasta

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.

lemon chicken orzo soup in a Dutch oven
Fresh parsley brightens a steaming pot of Chicken Orzo Soup

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

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have a soft spot for chicken thighs. Bony chicken wings are great for stock-making, but with a recipe like this, we need something meatier.

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.

Serving Suggestions

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

Fresh lemon adds a bright fresh flavor to this chicken noodle soup made with orzo.
4.67 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken, healthy, lemon, noodle, orzo, soup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 bowls
Calories: 293kcal
Author: Chef Sara Furcini


  • 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
  • Pepper
  • 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.



Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 895mg | Potassium: 500mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 8530IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 2mg

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1 year ago

I’ve made this numerous times. Made for parents and in-laws in quarantine. Most delicious soup ever… go to soup this winter! Absolutely delicious.

1 year ago

I’ve made this soup numerous times for ourselves, parents and in-laws in stay at home time. It’s absolutely delicious even with regular orzo (I couldn’t find whole wheat). My favorite go to soup. Extra squeeze of lemon before serving is great! Thank you

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