Kitchn Love Letters

The Lemony Chicken Soup Recipe I Know by Heart

published Sep 6, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Volo

For me, the most comforting, cozy dishes are warm and served in a bowl with a spoon. Sure, that could mean polenta, stew, or chili, but I’m talking soup. A good soup recipe makes for the ultimate comfort food for a few reasons: It’s often an easy, one-pot affair, and eating it is as easy as picking up your spoon and digging in.

When it comes to the best soup recipes out there, it’s easy for me to think about the classics. Chicken noodle, creamy tomato, beef and barley, and loaded baked potato are all varieties I’ve made and/or enjoyed at a restaurant at some point. But none of these soups match the ease, flavor, texture, and versatility of traditional avgolemono soup. The soup, which has roots in Sephardic Jewish, Greek, and Southern European cuisine, is known for its super-smooth texture and distinctly bright lemon flavor (avgolemono translates to egg-lemon sauce).

The creamy soup gets its texture from eggs, which are whisked together with the hot broth (more about that later). Tender shredded chicken and orzo pasta or short-grain rice is mixed into the broth and then the whole thing is topped with a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped dill. 

When it comes to making small changes to the recipe, I typically only incorporate them based on what I can find at my local grocery store or what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes, instead of orzo I add brown rice, which has a little bit more bite to it. And if I don’t have time to make the chicken broth from scratch, I use store-bought, low-sodium chicken broth, which works well, too.

I usually prefer to make this dish with boneless, skinless chicken thighs that get boiled in the pot. I thoroughly skim the fat that rises to the top because I believe that’s the best way to get a pure chicken flavor that doesn’t interfere with the lemon flavor the dish is known for. No time to cook chicken? I’ve also made a very good version of this dish using rotisserie chicken that I shredded by hand. If you go the rotisserie chicken route, be sure to choose one with a more neutral flavor. With all of these tips in mind, you should be on your way to making this soup without fail. Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll make it enough times that you’ll know how to make it by heart. 

If You Make This Avgolemono Soup, a Few Tips

  • Do not, under any circumstances, skip the tempering. Tempering the eggs means cooking them slowly by drizzling the hot stock into the egg and lemon mixture while whisking constantly. This process will ensure a smooth, creamy soup. When you’re ready to temper the eggs, make sure the broth is hot but not boiling or rapidly simmering. If the broth is very hot it will scramble the eggs.
  • If you like a very creamy avgolemono, consider using a mix of yolks and whole eggs. I often use a ratio of two large egg yolks with two large whole eggs. I’ve found that this helps create a creamier texture.
  • Using orzo? You might need more broth. If you’re using pasta, such as orzo, be sure to account for the fact that it will absorb some of the broth. You might need to add a bit more to thin out the soup to your preferred texture.