Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

published Jan 9, 2024
Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup Recipe

Thinly sliced lemon gives this comforting soup extra depth of flavor.

Serves6 to 8

Makes12 cups

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 50 minutes

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Overhead shot of chicken lemon orzo soup in a light blue pot.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

There are so many different types of delicious chicken noodle soup out there, but for me there’s something especially delightful about a version that adds in bright and bold lemony flavors. This lemon orzo chicken soup fits the bill. It’s hearty, flavorful, and makes a big batch with enough leftovers that are perfect for freezing.

This comforting soup lies somewhere between a brothy pasta dish and a soup, combining the best of both worlds in a single pot. With this, there’s no need for sides. All you need is a bowl of this lemony chicken soup to stay cozy during the cold season. Its zingy, bright lemon flavor will instantly make you smile. 

Key Ingredients in Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

  • Aromatics: You can’t make good soup without a mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrots, which provide a base of earthy flavors. 
  • Lemon: Instead of just using freshly squeezed juice or zest, I recommend thinly slicing the lemons. Once cooked and tender, the skins are completely edible.
  • Chicken: You can use either chicken breast, thighs, or even drumsticks. Whichever you use, be sure to sear all over until the outside develops a nice golden color.
  • Chicken broth: While you can just use water, as cooking with chicken is often enough, a store-bought or homemade chicken broth will give the soup a richer flavor. 
  • Dried orzo pasta: The starch that’s released from cooking the dried pasta directly in the soup thickens it. 
  • Dill: Adding chopped fresh dill toward the end instantly changes the soup’s aroma. It brightens the soup while adding a delightful, herbaceous taste.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe ; Food Stylist: Ben Weiner

How to Make Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

  1. Cook the chicken thighs. Sear the chicken first until browned.
  2. Cook the aromatics. Once the chicken is seared, add the mirepoix and herbs like thyme, and cook until the vegetables are tender.  
  3. Return the seared chicken to the pot. Put the chicken pieces back in, along with the chicken broth, to finish cooking them until they are shreddable.  
  4. Add the orzo pasta. Cooking orzo in the soup will bring out more flavor than cooking it separately. 
  5. Serve with garnishes. I recommend freshly chopped dill and scallions.  

If You’re Making Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup, a Few Tips

  • Thinly slice the lemons for cooking. Unlike many lemon soup recipes, my recipe doesn’t just rely on lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon for flavors — it also utilizes thinly sliced lemon. It’s essential to slice the lemon thinly so that it cooks through, making the peel tender. 
  • Sear the chicken well. Taking your time with this step maximizes the flavor.
  • Have fun with garnishes. While I only use two herbs (scallions and dill), you can get creative with the toppings. Give fried shallots, fried garlic, chili crisp, or even more lemon wedges a try. 

Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup Recipe

Thinly sliced lemon gives this comforting soup extra depth of flavor.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 50 minutes

Makes 12 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 3 medium stalks


  • 2

    medium carrots

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 2

    medium lemons, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1 pound

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves


  • 3

    medium scallions, plus more for garnish

  • 4 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 2 (32-ounce) cartons

    low-sodium chicken broth (about 8 cups)

  • 1 cup

    dried orzo pasta

  • 4 sprigs

    fresh dill, plus more for garnish


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl as you complete it: Thinly slice 3 medium celery stalks crosswise (about 1 1/4 cups). Peel and thinly slice 2 large carrots crosswise (about 1 1/2 cups). Dice 1 large yellow onion (about 2 cups). Quarter 1 of the medium lemons, thinly slice each lemon wedge, removing and discarding any seeds and the pithy ends of the lemon.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, pat 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season all over with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Add the chicken to the pot in a single layer. Sear until browned, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Meanwhile, mince 2 garlic cloves. Thinly slice 3 medium scallions crosswise (about 1 cup). Pick the leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs (about 1 teaspoon).

  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate (it will not be cooked through). Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot and heat until shimmering. Add the scallions and cook until tender, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the carrot mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  5. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate to the pot. Add 2 (32-ounce) cartons low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 2 to 10 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate or clean cutting board and shred with 2 forks into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pot.

  6. Add 1 cup dried orzo pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is tender, 9 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest from the remaining lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) and juice the lemon (about 1/4 cup). Finely chop the fronds and tender stems of 4 fresh dill sprigs (about 1/4 cup).

  7. Add the lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and dill to the soup, and stir to combine. Taste and season with more lemon juice as needed. Serve garnished with more chopped dill and scallions if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month. Thin out with a little water or broth as needed when reheating.