Lemony Chicken & Orzo Soup

Lemony Chicken & Orzo Soup

The secret to this soup is actually quite simple.

This secret ingredient adds richness because of it's fat content, but manages to keep the soup light and refreshing. Any guesses? Well, if coconut milk came to your mind, you're right my friend! If it didn't, don't worry. It's not exactly obvious. But I do want you to give it a try. I find the addition of the coconut milk to be the balancing factor between the fresh lemon and herbs and the chicken and pasta. This soup is perfect for winter because it's so satisfying and nourishing but not at all heavy. It's the kind of soup you want to eat when you still have a full day of work ahead of you. So give it a shot my friend! 

A few tips before you get started:

  • I like to butterfly my chicken breasts to cook them, and I suggest you do the same. It'll speed up the cooking time, and you won't be guessing about the doneness. See the technique below.
  • Don't worry about pounding the chicken for this recipe (as you'll see it suggested below). Just cut it in half and cook it up. Be sure to add it to hot oil or butter so that you get a good sear (browning) and lock in all those yummy flavors. 
  • If chicken isn't your thing and you want to make this veg., be sure to add something umami. The coconut milk will do it a little, but maybe add some Tamari instead of salt for an extra kick of umami. Or mushrooms. I bet seared and marinated tempeh would be great in this, too. Don't be afraid to play with whatever's in your fridge or inspiring you in the moment. 
  • Only add half the box of orzo and no more, even if it seems to be sparse at first. Orzo will plum right up and continue absorbing the liquid. You may even need to add more broth as the orzo cooks.
  • Be slow to add the lemon at the end. Lemon is a hard flavor to fix. Start with half a lemon as the recipe calls for and then add more as you taste. Also note that lemon brings out a bit of saltiness so it's best to proceed slowly with both flavors. 


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Lemony Chicken & Orzo Soup
The secret to this soup is the coconut milk! Be mindful of the orzo, it will soak up most of your liquid if you add too much. Simply add more stock after orzo is fully cooked to get back to a brothy consistency.
  • 2 chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1.5 qt chicken stalk, plus 2 cups for finishing
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 package orzo
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Instructions
    1. Butterfly the chicken breasts. Pat dry with a paper towel and then salt both sides. Place in pan on high heat with 1 tbsp of butter and sear both sides - about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
    2. Melt remaining tbsp of butter and add the vegetables, cook for 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Next add the garlic and spices, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
    3. Add 1.5 qt stock and can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Add orzo and boil for cooking time (approx. 6-8 minutes).
    4. While soup is simmering, shred chicken using your hands or cut into chunks. With 10 minutes remaining add the shredded chicken.
    5. Once soup has simmered fully, turn off heat and add 1/2 lemon to taste, you may need more depending on the lemon. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs. If the orzo continues to absorb water and there is not enough broth, add additional stock until desired consistency is reached. Heat through and Enjoy! Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40-50 minutes Total time: 1 hour