This hearty and nourishing Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup is my take on a Greek favourite. With a broth thickened with eggs and enlivened by lemon juice, it’s a comfort food classic.
If you’re looking for a healthful and nourishing chicken soup with a twist, this is the recipe for you. The twist? Or should I say, twists? A broth thickened with both rice and eggs, and enlivened with lemon juice.
Chicken, Rice and Lemon … Soup or Stew?
I played with this recipe for a long time before sharing it here. The first few times I made it I kept tweaking the recipe. The first time it was too thin. The second time it was so thick it blew past the territorial limits of chowder and into the realm of stew (also delicious, and included in the options in the recipe). After that I landed somewhere in the middle in terms of heartiness. I’ve now made it several times with the creamy and oh-so-satisfying thickness (but not too much!) you can see in the photo above. It’s definitely the kind of soup that can serve as a main dish.
And below, you can see the much thicker, stew-like version of this Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup. Oh yeah, as my dear Uncle Emiel used to say, this one’ll put hair on your chest. Wow, that’s not a very appealing image, but it’s definitely a forceful way of getting the point across: it’s hearty. As in, hearty.
White Meat or Dark?
I’ve tried the recipe with half and half chicken breasts and thighs, and also with all dark meat. Hands-down, the thigh-meat-only version is my preference. It’s simply more flavourful, and doesn’t get that dry texture that breast meat can achieve even in a soup. (That’s a bit of a mystery, no?) Not to mention, thigh meat is more economical, which is a fancier way of saying cheaper.
I’ve also used skinless, bone-in thighs, and removed the bones at the chopping stage. But the last few times I made this soup I treated myself and bought skinless and boneless thighs. Wow, living the high life here. I tend to flip-flop on these matters, so no doubt I’ll be deboning the meat myself sometimes in future.
That Lemony Kick
For me, the really big twist in this recipe is the addition of the lemon juice. It adds such brightness, and is a great counterfoil to the heavier meals we tend to eat in the winter months. This soup is definitely in the comfort-food category, but the lemon makes it sing, somehow.
Now, I don’t tend to fuss too much with fresh juice measurements. After all, take any two lemons and you’re going to get different amounts of juice each time. For my taste, I’d say squeeze until you have at least a half cup, and don’t go beyond three-quarters of a cup. Much as I like tartness, I don’t want my soup to make my mouth pucker.
Oh, Another Little Economy
I use a good quality, organic bouillon powder for my broths. And I often don’t make them as strong as the directions on the package call for. For this soup especially, where the chicken is simmered in the broth for a long time, thus imparting much flavour, I adjust the amount used. In this case, I used about two-thirds of what the package called for to make the 12 cups of broth used in the recipe. Is it lacking in flavour as a result? No way, no how.
Let’s Make Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup
When I get out the soup pot, I don’t fool around. This recipe makes at least four litres of Chicken, Rice and Lemon soup, and sometimes I stretch it pretty close to five, depending on how much chicken I use and if I decide to make it a bit thinner. That’s a lot of soup! (The stew-like version is definitely in the five-litre range.)
I decant mine into canning jars, and leave adequate head space for expansion in the freezer. One litre jars are handy for feeding a crowd, but I usually use the 500 ml jars, which constitute a substantial serving for me.
Whether you serve up the entire pot at a big gathering, enjoy the soup from the fridge in the first few days, or freeze it to savour in the weeks ahead, I’m pretty confident this is a recipe you’ll be returning to.
This rich and comforting soup offers up a creamy broth with a lemony tang. (See the Note about the larger amount of ingredients listed.)
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 8 to 12 chicken thighs, boneless skinless (approximately 675 to 1,000 g)
- 2 pinches each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 large carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 large onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 (OPTIONAL) red chili pepper
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 12 cups chicken broth
- 1 to 1.5 cups rice
- 2 lemons, juiced (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
- 2 eggs
- handful (OPTIONAL) fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium high heat, then add the chicken thighs, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and sauté for about 15 minutes until well caramelized on both sides. You may need to turn the heat down.
While the chicken is browning, prep the vegetables. Dice the carrots, celery and onion. Mince the garlic and seed and mince the red chili pepper if using. If you're using bouillon powder to make the stock, do so now. (Note: because the chicken will be cooking in the broth, I make it less concentrated than called for in the directions.)
Remove the browned chicken to a plate. Add the prepared carrot, celery, onion, garlic, red chili pepper (if using), and dried herbs and salt and pepper. Stir with a spatula, then allow to sweat in the pot for a few minutes, then stir more and scape the chicken bits from the bottom of the pot.
Return the chicken to the pot, pour in the broth, and cover and bring to a boil. Turn to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.
After this simmering period, remove the chicken to a chopping board. Rinse and add the rice to the pot and cover while you coarsely chop the chicken. Return the chicken to the pot and continue to cook, covered, for another 15 minutes.
While the soup continues to cook, juice two lemons and remove any seeds. I like to use the pulp, too. Add two eggs and whisk well. Slowly add one or two ladles of the cooking broth, whisking. This allows the eggs to temper, to avoid scrambing. (But if you end up with some solid bits of egg white in your soup, that's not the worst thing that could happen — ask me how I know!)
Pour the lemon mixture into the soup, and add chopped parsley if using. Stir well and serve after about 5 minutes. Enjoy!
The larger amounts indicated for the chicken and rice are if you want to make an almost stew-like soup, as shown in some of the photos. If you wish to go with the smaller amounts, the soup will still be hearty and satisfying.
Looking to Keep Your Soup Pot Busy?
Soup is one of the most versatile foods and it’s fitting on the table all year round. Here are a few of my heartier favourites that you might enjoy too: Vegetable and Bean Soup (with a tutorial for making odds and ends soup); Turkey, Cabbage & Squash Soup with Fennel Seeds; and, Curried Pumpkin, Coconut, Chickpea Soup.
First Published 2020 02 11