This Avgolemono, a lemony Greek chicken pasta soup is healthy and hearty (lots of satisfying protein), creamy (no cream!) and so delicious!
If you're in the mood for a hearty, creamy, comforting soup that's also healthy and will keep you satiated for hours, make this delicious Avgolemono as soon as possible!
What is Avgolemono?
First of all, how do you say it? Avgolemono, with a silent G, is pronounced like this. According to Merriam-Webster, avgolemono is "a soup or sauce made with chicken stock, egg yolks, and lemon juice". If you do an online search for avgolemono, there are zillions of variations although most of them refer to a creamy soup that's made with chicken and either rice or pasta.
The creaminess of avgolemono, surprisingly, does not come from cream but rather from eggs or egg yolks that are combined with lemon juice and added to the soup during the final minutes of cooking. To me, it's quite magical to see the egg/lemon mixture transform the soup from brothy to silky and creamy.
Not quite as easy as it sounds!
Although the ingredient list is simple, to be honest, I haven't been successful with Avgolemono in the past. Adding eggs to hot broth can easily result in scrambled egg soup rather than the silky, creamy concoction described above. I know this is true because that's exactly what I ended up with the first few times I attempted making it.
But don't fear, it's really not difficult if you follow a few easy tips. And you'll feel quite fancy when you serve hot steaming bowls of this beautiful, delicious soup and let "Avgolemono" roll off your lips!
The simple secret to Avgolemono
A few years ago, I asked Scott why the carpets looked so good when he vacuumed but not so great when I used the very same vacuum cleaner. He gave me a one-sentence explanation, "It's because you vacuum like you do everything else in life, on two wheels!" When I thought about it, I realized he was totally correct!
And that was exactly my problem when I first tried to make Avgolemono. I was in a hurry and added the egg mixture too fast. The result was a lumpy inedible soup.
I learned that the simple secret to Avgolemono is "slow down" during that final step of combining the eggs with the hot broth. The process is called "tempering" in culinary language and it's a really useful little trick to know for lots of other recipes besides this Avgolemono. Tempering is also used when making soups, sauces, ice cream, cream fillings and custards.
Tempering, in this sense (not to be confused with tempering chocolate), is simply the process of combining eggs with hot liquids so that the eggs don't cause the mixture to curdle, seize up, lump or split.
So with this Avgolemono Soup, we s-l-o-w-l-y add a few cups of the hot broth to a mixture of fresh lemon juice and eggs then return the tempered eggs to the pot. Voila, the thin, clear broth is transformed to a creamy, silky-smooth consistency!
Rice or pasta?
In most chicken avgolemono soup recipes you'll find either rice or orzo, small, rice-shaped pasta. I experimented with rice and orzo when creating this recipe. While both were delicious, we preferred the heartiness and smooth texture of the pasta. If you're a big-time rice lover, go ahead and use that instead.
How to serve this Greek Chicken Pasta Soup
Typically, Avgolemono Soup is served with lots of fresh dill. If you're not a fan of dill, you could also use fresh oregano or thyme. Or just skip the fresh herbs and add some dried oregano when simmering the soup.
I like to serve this soup with freshly made pita bread (new recipe coming!), a delicious pairing in keeping with the Greek theme! You could also serve it with a loaf of warm crusty bread or these delicious artisan rolls. A simple green salad is also wonderful with this Avgolemono.
I love that this soup comes together quickly and makes a hearty, delicious meal. It also reheats really well so it's great for quick meals on the run. In fact, I'm going to go warm up a bowl for myself right now! I think you'll love this wonderful Greek-inspired soup! Give it a try soon!
Cafe Tips for making this Avgolemono Soup recipe
- This recipe calls for rotisserie or leftover chicken. I love having rotisserie chicken on hand for quick easy meals. I often buy two or three at a time and freeze them. They thaw easily overnight or sometimes I'll put a frozen chicken in a roasting pan, cover it tightly with foil and pop it in a low oven (175-200˚F.) for a few hours.
- Avgolemono Soup always calls for fresh lemon juice. We love the flavor of lemon, but don't like this soup really tart. I use three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice along with the zest of one medium lemon for a perfectly flavored soup. Feel free to use more if you prefer more lemon flavor.
- As mentioned above, if you don't like dill, feel free to substitute oregano, thyme or rosemary to taste.
- Use your favorite low sodium chicken broth for this Avgolemono soup recipe. This is not a sponsored post but I really like the organic chicken broth from Trader Joe's. It's got great flavor, beautiful color and it's reasonably priced.
- When you get to the end of the recipe and it's time to combine the eggs with the hot broth, it's helpful (but not necessary) to have an assistant. One person can whisk the eggs while the other drizzles in the hot broth.
- I like to dice the onions and carrots really small for this soup. I use the small, ¼-inch grate on my Vidalia Chopper to make quick work of the onions and carrots. I love this little kitchen workhorse so much that we made a video to show how it makes chopping SO easy:
Thought for the day:
You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
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- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 2 medium-size carrots peeled and diced small
- 4 medium cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 10 cups low sodium chicken broth maybe more
- 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup orzo pasta
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice remove the zest from lemon before juicing
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie or leftover chicken
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
- sprigs of dill for garnish
- finely grated zest from 1 medium lemon
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and butter. Swirl the pan until the butter is melted. Add the onion and carrots and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and rosemary and stir. Cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the chicken broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the orzo and cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the orzo is tender. Remove the pot from the heat.
While the broth mixture is cooking, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and fresh lemon juice in a medium-size heatproof container (I use a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup) until well combined.
When the orzo is tender, take a ladle of the hot soup and SLOWLY drizzle it into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Continue with several more ladles of broth until you’ve added about 2 cups.
Return the pot to the heat now and add the egg mixture. Cook over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly until soup is thickened a bit. Add the chicken, fresh dill and lemon zest. If you like a thinner soup, add more chicken broth. Taste and add more salt and/or lemon juice, if needed. Serve garnished with lemon slices, freshly ground black pepper and dill sprigs.
See Café Tips for more detailed instructions and tips.