This lemon chicken orzo soup is inspired by Panera Bread's version. It is so flavorful with tender pieces of chicken in a lemony broth with orzo pasta, carrots, onions, celery, and baby spinach. This has quickly become one of my family's very favorite soup recipes.
- orzo pasta : 8 ounces
- olive oil : 1 tsp
- carrots, chopped, or more to taste : 3 medium
- celery, chopped : 3 ribs
- onion, chopped : 1 medium
- garlic, minced : 2 clove
- dried thyme : 0.5 tsp
- dried oregano : 0.5 tsp
- salt and ground black pepper to taste : 0 piece
- bay leaf : 1 piece
- (32 ounce) cartons fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth : 3 cartons
- fresh lemon juice : 0.5 cup
- lemon, zested : 1 piece
- cooked chicken breast, chopped : 8 ounces
- (8 ounce) package baby spinach leaves : 1 pack
- lemon, sliced for garnish (Optional) : 1 piece
- grated Parmesan cheese (Optional) : 0.25 cup
Stages of cooking
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in orzo and return to a boil. Cook pasta uncovered until partially cooked through but not yet soft, about 5 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water until cooled completely.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften and onion becomes translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season mixture with thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt, and black pepper; continue cooking another 30 seconds before pouring chicken broth into the pot.
Bring broth to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir orzo, lemon juice, and lemon zest into broth; add chicken. Cook until chicken and orzo are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add baby spinach; cook until spinach wilts into broth and orzo is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with lemon slices and Parmesan cheese.