This lemon chicken orzo soup with spinach has loads of lemon and fresh herbs! It makes for one comforting dinner when the weather has a little chill and will warm you right to your toes!
Hi everyone! How’s the weekend treating you? Splendidly, I hope! Have you been hibernating too? Being bundled up inside got me thinking …
What are some things that you have to have stocked in your fridge or pantry at all times? Like, if you can’t go through the door, can you still make something sensible to eat?
Onions, garlic, olive oil, dried and fresh chili peppers, canned tomatoes, canned fish (I’m looking at you sardines and tuna), broth, beans/lentils and lemons. Always.
Ok, there may be one more thing …
With those few things, you can make just about anything. Plus, they’re typically some sort of component in many of my recipes. Today, the shining ingredient is lemon in this lemon chicken orzo soup recipe!
This lemony soup is absolutely bursting with fresh flavours! There’s tons of herbs and baby spinach; both lemon zest and juice give you a punch to the taste buds. Definitely much needed during winter, don’t ya think?
What is Orzo and How to Cook It
Orzo is a type of short pasta that looks like rice. Yep, pasta.
Even when I picked up this orzo at my local bulk food store, the cashier said ‘is that a type of rice?’ as he was trying to find the code (because in a rush, I didn’t write it down; I know, bad Dawn).
‘No.’ I said. ‘It looks like rice, but it’s actually a pasta.’
Look at me being a little foodie nerd, LOL. Yep, that’s me. I picked this orzo up at a bulk food store, but you could easily find in your grocery store right where you would find spaghetti, linguine and the like.
You cook orzo like you would pasta (in a pot of boiling salted water). For this lemon chicken soup, I threw the orzo directly into the pot to cook in there. Easy! Plus, no additional dirty pots to clean!
Ingredients for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
- Cooked Chicken
- Herbs, like rosemary, thyme and parsley
- Lemon (I used both juice and zest because I love that lemon punch)
How to Make This Soup
Full details are in the recipe card below, but here are the basics:
- Cook onions and then garlic
- Add carrots, celery, herbs, salt and pepper
- Next goes broth and cook for a bit
- Orzo goes next and cook for
- Add cooked chicken and spinach
- Finish with parsley, lemon zest and juice
- Remove bay leaves, portion and enjoy!
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How to Zest Lemon
There are a few ways to zest lemons, but whatever you do, always zest before juicing! If you cut before zesting, it will be difficult to remove the zest because the lemon will be a floppy mess and ain’t nobody got time for that.
First, make sure your lemon is washed thoroughly (preferably organic) and dry. So, to zest a lemon, you could use:
- Microplane. Rub the lemon against the blades, turning as you go and only getting the yellow part, not the pith (white part) because it’s bitter.
- Pairing knife. Carefully cut just the yellow part from the lemon. Cut into thin strips and finely mince. I’m not a huge fan of this method.
- Vegetable peeler. Again, carefully cut just the yellow part from the lemon. Cut into thin strips and finely mince.
- Or my fave … a box grater on the finest grate that’s there.
Can I Use Lemon Juice Instead of Lemon Zest?
This lemon chicken soup uses both lemon juice and zest (because I’m a huge fan of lemon and I think it really adds something special to the recipe).
If you like things a little more subtle, just use lemon juice. Add a little and then taste.
If you want more zing, add a little more juice and taste again. The zest is more potent than the juice, in my opinion, so you can totally omit if you like.
More Recipe Tips
I used leftover store-bought rotisserie chicken (and a mixture of white and dark meat), but you can totally cook some chicken at home to make this soup.
Cut the carrots and celery about ¼ inch thick so they cook quickly.
Just ⅔ cup of orzo was used here (about 10 tablespoons), but if you want to add a little more you totally can. I would recommend no more than 1 cup. If you do, though, you may want to add a little more broth.
I used 1.5 lemons for this recipe (the juice of 1.5 lemons and 1 tablespoon of zest). You could use less or more lemon, whatever your preference. I enjoy the lemon flavour. After all, it is ‘lemon’ chicken soup. I would suggest starting with the juice of one lemon and then seeing if you want more juice and any zest. Again, it’s easier to add than take away.
Baby spinach was used, but you could totally omit or use kale or swiss chard (they will have to be cooked a tad longer, though, to break down).
I used a combination of fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme. However, you could use any one, two or all three of those herbs if you like. Oregano works lovely too!
Of course, orzo was used because lemon chicken orzo soup. However, if you don’t have orzo on hand, use another type of small pasta like acini di pepe, stars or letters (for the kiddos).
More Yummy Chicken Soup Recipes
Hope you love this easy lemon chicken orzo soup recipe as much as we do!
If you make this lemon chicken soup, be sure to leave a comment below. Love to know how you enjoyed!
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion , peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 carrots , peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
- 2 ribs celery , cut into ¼-inch slices
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (leaves only) (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
- ½ tablespoon minced fresh thyme (leaves only) (or about ¾ teaspoon dried thyme)
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ⅔ cups orzo
- 1 pound cooked chicken , shredded or chopped (use white or dark or combo))
- 4 to 5 cups baby spinach
- 4 to 5 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1.5 lemons (or to taste))
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest the lemon before juicing)
- small bunch fresh parsley , roughly chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Cook onion, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir in, and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add carrots, celery, salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Stir. Cook 2 minutes, stirring.
- Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes.
- Stir in orzo, lower to a simmer and cook 5 minutes.
- Add cooked chicken, stirring in, and cook 5 minutes or so. Add spinach and cook 1 to 2 minutes until wilted.
- Stir in lemon juice, zest, and parsley. Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve and enjoy!
- I used leftover rotisserie chicken (and a mixture of white and dark meat), but you can totally roast off some chicken to make this soup.
- Just ⅔ cup of orzo was used here (about 10 tablespoons), but if you want to add a little more you totally can. I would recommend no more than 1 cup. If you do, though, you may want to add a little more broth.
- I used 1.5 lemons for this recipe (the juice of 1.5 lemons and 1 tablespoon of zest). Always zest lemons before juicing because it will be easier to get that zest off. You could use less or more lemon, whatever your preference. I enjoy the lemon flavour. After all, it is ‘lemon’ chicken soup. I would suggest starting with the juice of one lemon and then seeing if you want more juice and any zest. Again, it’s easier to add than take away.
Nutrition (ESTIMATE ONLY)
Nutrition estimate (if provided) is based on 1 Serving.
Nutrition information (if provided) is provided as a courtesy and should be considered an estimate only. Ingredients can vary and Girl Heart Food makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are guidelines only.