I discovered many a comfort food during the six years I spent living in New York. There was just something about a snowstorm in the concrete jungle that made me gravitate toward my local Greek restaurant, Uncle Nick’s, for a big bowl of their famous avgolemono soup (a.k.a. lemon chicken soup).
The citrusy soup hits all the flavor high notes and is truly a meal-in-a-bowl. It took some experimenting, but I’ve tried and tasted countless versions to settle on this quick-fix variety that satisfies my Greek lemon chicken soup cravings now that I’ve moved back to southern California.
It all begins with plenty of fresh citrus, both lemon juice and lemon zest. (For true lemon flavor, it’s all about the zest!) And then it comes down to your choice of carbs. Which carb you choose will ultimately impact the thickness of the soup, so here are a few quick pointers so you can choose your preferred path:
- Rice: The most traditional option, making this recipe with rice will lead to the thickest, creamiest variation of the soup, as the starch soaks up excess liquid.
- Orzo: For pasta lovers, orzo is your best bet. The tiny pasta cooks quickly directly in the soup, so there are no extra pots required.
- Pearl couscous: The most eye-popping of the bunch, Israeli couscous also cooks quickly directly in the soup and adds a textural contrast to each bite.
Once you’ve chosen your starch, all that’s left to do is chop up a rotisserie chicken (go for a store-bought chicken for speed or roast your own for added flavor) then gather the whole gang together in a big pot and let it simmer away until the rice/orzo/couscous is cooked. All in, you’re at most 20 minutes way from a bowl of creamy, comforting Greek lemon chicken soup.
Dill is an optional garnish, but it lends color and fresh herb flavor to a 5-ingredient recipe that gives the traditional chicken noodle a real run for its money.
Pair the soup with a loaf of crusty French bread and a simple side salad (this is my favorite) and a fast, fresh and filling dinner is just minutes away. And if you’re ever in Manhattan, swing by Uncle Nick’s to sample the original inspiration behind this recipe!
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- 7 cups low sodium or unsalted chicken stock
- 2 (10.5-oz) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
- 3/4 cup uncooked orzo, pearl couscous or white rice
- 3 cups diced cooked chicken
- Dill, for garnishing
- In a large stock pot set over medium heat, whisk together the chicken stock, cream of chicken soup, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Stir in the orzo and chicken then bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and cook it until the orzo is tender and the soup is warmed through, about 8 minutes. (See Kelly’s Note.) Taste and season the soup with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup garnished with fresh dill and a sprinkle of freshly grated lemon zest (optional).
- If you’re using white rice instead of orzo, you will have to cook the soup (covered) for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
- You can use either the regular cream of chicken soup, the fat free version, or one can of each.
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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.
So quick and easy! The flavor is outstanding and the effort minimal. Thanks for a great recipe.
I’m not eating grains right now, so made the rice separately for my husband’s bowl and poured the soup over riced-cauliflower for me. I also threw in some frozen peas.
Awesome! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the recipe, Audrey!
Love love love this soup!!! Freezes well.
I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying the recipe, Kelly!
Love love love this soup and so quick and easy. I call it my “cheater” soup since we start with 2 cans of chicken soup!!!!
Thank you for such a great hug in a bowl soup recipe.
You are so welcome, Bobbi! I’m thrilled you’ve been enjoying the recipe!
Hello, I just tried this recipe and my whole family enjoyed the soup! Quick to make and tasted terrific . The best part was the short time it took to prepare. We have a large family and often our meals are last minute. Thank you for this recipe.
You are so welcome, Donna! I’m thrilled your family enjoyed it!
IDK??? This just isn’t even close to what my Yia Yia used to make…. To bad she passed away almost 20 years ago and never wrote anything down! Typical Greek! I love her and miss her and her cooking! Especially her avgolemono soup, her spanakopita, and then rice pudding every day after school BUT after I finished my “Homework”… I miss my Yia Yia (My Grandmother) it’s been about 20 years now And I miss her now just as I did 20 years ago…
I’m so sorry for your loss, Brian.
This is a really tasty short version of this soup! It was a big hit with family too!
Yay! I’m so thrilled your family enjoyed the recipe, Lisa!
Just made this now, it’s delicious for a quick version of one of my favorite soups! Thanks!
You are so welcome, Becky! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the recipe!
This sounds so yummy. I am going to make this tommorow.. thanks for sharing this…
You are so welcome, Chris! Enjoy!
What can you suggest to substitute cream of chicken soup to make it gluten free?
Hi Judy – I’m not a nutritionist so unfortunately I can’t offer any suggestions on how to make this gluten-free friendly. Sorry I can’t be of more help!
This is a quick, easy soup that has more interest than chicken noodle. My family has really enjoyed it, and I can make it with minimal effort. Thanks for sharing!!
This is what I love to hear, Melanie! I’m SO glad you and your family have been enjoying this recipe!
I have been making this since 1985. Working as a chef in
NYC and eating at Greek restaurants, one on the upper west side?,
name escapes me. The reason we omit the egg yolks is so when reheating
they don’t get scrambled, and also possibly the salmonella factor is
lessened. basically, a NYC chef adds fresh parley and basil and as Kelley did
with the dill adds a piquant flavor. For some reason many ethnic restauranteurs
make soups that don’t have the color factor. For that reason I add sometimes
colorful diced red or orange peppers. I also omit sometimes the carrot celery part and
buttress the whole with finely chopped garlic at the end. I never use zest as I’m
suspicious of citrus packers additives when shipping their products (insecticide/preservatives?)
Love all these ideas, Christopher!
To be fair this isn’t avgolemono, this is just chicken soup with lemon zest. For it to be avgolemono you need 2-3 egg yolks added to the zest of 1 big juicy lemon, beat them together and then add it directly to the finished soup. (Αυγολεμονο = egg lemon)
Hi there! Yes, I realize this isn’t authentic, but it’s just a quick version with a few less points in the cholesterol column :)
So glad someone said this… Not only missing egg but a lot of the ingredients used would make my grandmother and mother turn in their graves!! Shouldn’t be up as ”Greek” lemon and chicken soup, just lemon and chicken soup.