Greek Lemon Chicken Soup is a fresh bright healthy soup!
Every country has its version of soul-soothing chicken soup. We fell hard for the Greek version while in Athens on a food and wine excursion a few years ago.
Maybe it was the breathtaking views of the Acropolis that made us swoon, but I think this soup had something to do with it!
Our sommelier, Jayne, challenged me to come up with a version of the one we ate in Athens because we just can’t stop thinking about it! After a bit of trial and error, I think this one comes close.
This soup is really simple. I made it in the Instant Pot, but it’s easy to cook on the stovetop too, and I have included instructions for both.
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What is Greek Lemon Chicken Soup and Avgolemono?
The Greeks have two versions of this soup – with or without eggs. Avgolemono is a traditional Greek sauce with lemons, eggs, and warm broth and it’s used in many dishes, including adding it to their lemon soup.
We prefer the lighter version which doesn’t include the eggs, and Avgolemono, but still has a warm bright lemon flavor. This soup only takes 30 minutes to prepare. It’s hearty enough to serve as your main course because it has both shredded chicken and Israeli Couscous in it.
Ingredients for Greek Lemon Soup
- Olive oil
- Sweet yellow onion
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Israeli couscous, the large pearl size – we like the multi-colored
- Fresh rosemary
- Chicken broth
- Red pepper flakes
- Feta and chives, for garnish
- Salt and pepper
How to make Greek Lemon Chicken Soup:
In the Instant Pot:
- Prep all ingredients ahead of time
- Set Instant Pot to the sauté setting, add oil and heat to shimmering
- Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until soft, add garlic and sauté for another minute
- Add chicken pieces and lemon zest. Cook until chicken is lightly cooked on all sides
- Add couscous, chicken broth, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the pot and stir to combine
- Turn off the Sauté setting. Place the lid on the pot and make sure the steam release knob is set to the sealing position
- Press the Pressure Cook or Manual Button then the +/- button to select 3 minutes
- When the cooking time is complete, do a controlled quick release of the pressure. To do this, release the steam in short bursts, then longer bursts to make sure none of the sauce spews out of the steam vent.
- Then, fully open the vent, and let the rest of the steam and pressure release completely. Once the pin drop on the lid carefully open the lid.
On the stovetop:
- To make on the stovetop follow the same directions for sautéeing onions, garlic, chicken
- Add the zest, broth, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the pot and stir to combine
- Raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, cover then simmer for 5 minutes
- Uncover, add couscous and simmer for 5 more minutes
Finishing the Soup – both Instant Pot and Stovetop:
- Once the soup is done cooking remove the chicken pieces and shred
- Add shredded chicken back into the pot
- Stir in the lemon juice, and taste to see if the soup needs more salt and pepper
- Serve in bowls and top with the crumbled feta cheese and chopped chives.
The ingredients we used are fairly traditional but there are a lot of variations. Here are some fun substitutions to try:
- Orzo is an easy substitution for the Israeli couscous
- Quick-cooking Fideo noodles will work in place of the couscous because they cook in about 5 minutes
- If you are trying to keep the soup super lean just skip the feta cheese
- Sprinkle with more lemon zest as a garnish to really amp up the lemon flavor
- If you want more lemon flavor you can add more lemon juice to suit your tastes
- Substitute oregano for the rosemary
- Want more vegetables? Add some diced celery and carrot along with the sauteed onion
Tips for easy Lemon Chicken Soup:
- Use large pearl or Israeli couscous, not regular couscous, which is too small. We like to use the multi-colored couscous for a fun pop of flavor!
- You can cool and refrigerate or freeze the soup (before adding the feta)
- Refrigerate for up to 3 days and freeze for up to 3 months
What to serve with this Greek Lemon Chicken Soup recipe:
- A nice crisp salad is perfect to make a complete meal. If you just can’t get enough lemon try a simple salad of arugula tossed with our Classic Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing. If you want something more filling toss together our Arugula Beet Salad with Goat Cheese.
- A nice loaf of fresh bread is perfect with this soup. We like it with our easy 4-ingredient Beer Bread or no yeast needed Irish Soda Bread.
Still looking for an Instant Pot?
We have tried a few versions and our favorite is the Instant Pot DUO Plus 8 quart 9-in-1 Multi Use (which is available on Amazon) because it does so many different things! If the 8-quart seems too big for you then consider the same model in a 6-quart size.
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup
- Instant Pot, optional
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup sweet yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
- ¾ cup Israeli couscous (large, pearl type), uncooked
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup feta, crumbled
- 2 teaspoons chives, chopped
Prep and Sauté Instructions for Instant Pot and Stovetop method:
- Measure and prep all ingredients before starting to cook: Chop onions, garlic, chicken, rosemary, and chives. Zest and juice the lemon.
- Heat an instant pot to the Sauté setting, or a large stockpot on the stove over medium heat, and add olive oil. Once hot add onions and saute for about 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and saute another 1 minute.
- Add chicken breast pieces and lemon zest and sauté until chicken is lightly cooked, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add Israeli couscous, rosemary, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine.
Instant Pot Instructions:
- Turn off the Sauté mode. Place the lid on the pot and make sure the steam release knob is set to the sealing position.
- Press the Pressure Cook or Manual button then the +/- button to select 3 minutes.
- When the cooking time is complete, do a controlled quick release of the pressure. To do this, release the steam in short bursts, then longer bursts to make sure none of the sauce spits out of the steam vent. Then, fully open the vent, and let the rest of the steam and pressure release completely.
- Once the pin on the pot lid drops open the lid carefully.
- After sautéeing and adding the broth, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, cover then simmer for 5 minutes
- Uncover, add couscous, and simmer for 5 more minutes
Finishing the Soup – both Instant Pot and Stovetop
- Remove the chicken pieces, place in a bowl, and shred with 2 forks. Return the chicken and its juices to the pot, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve in soup bowls and top with crumbled feta and chopped chives. Add a little more lemon zest if desired.