Greek Chicken Soup Made Easy

December 1, 2011

This recipe was originally published as part of my food column on Prince of Petworth here.

It’s that time of year in DC. Fall is creeping up on us, making it difficult (for us ladies) to completely put away summer clothes and fully transition into our Fall/Winter wear. It’s also the time of year that my mind and stomach turn to thoughts of soups and stews. One of my favorites is chicken soup. I mean who doesn’t love chicken soup? It’s like a big hug or a cozy blanket.

Growing up Greek, I only knew one kind of chicken soup – Avgolemono soup. The word “Avgolemono” is a combination of the Greek words for egg and lemon. As far as my brother and I are concerned, it’s the best kind of chicken soup. Don’t try to convince us otherwise.

Avgolemono soup starts with the same ingredients one normally associates with a traditional chicken soup — carrots, celery, onions, rice, and chicken. However, its key distinguishing feature is the finishing “sauce,” which is made of . . . you guessed it, eggs and lemon juice.

Now, I know this may sound like a strange way to finish off a soup. And I know that it may be too early in our relationship for you to trust me. But you should. Make this soup once and you’ll never want to go back to regular chicken soup. It’s addictively good. It’s lemony and hearty. It’s a big hug and a cozy blanket on a comfy couch all wrapped up in one bowl. (You won’t taste the eggs.)

My mom and grandmother make this soup the hard way. They start with a whole chicken, which they submerge in cold water and simmer with carrots, celery, and onions. Two hours later they end up with poached chicken and homemade stock. That’s just the first step!

I don’t have the time or patience to do that — to my mother’s great disappointment. So, I’ve tweaked the recipe in order to streamline the process. Those who know me know that I don’t sacrifice flavor for anything. This is gonna be good and so easy!


(6-8 servings)

2-3 pounds of white and/or dark meat chicken, skin on & bone in
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1/2 medium onion, cut into large chunks
2 quarts chicken stock (or chicken broth)
2 cups water
1 cup raw converted rice (picture below)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Place chicken on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake for 40 minutes. Remember that a chicken breast, for example, is cooked through when its internal temperature (at its thickest part) is 165° F. Cool slightly and remove the skin and bones. Tear the chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

You have some options here, by the way. You can use white meat, dark meat, or a combination of the two. I usually buy a whole chicken that’s already been broken down into breasts, thighs, legs, and wings. I can then use a combination of white and dark meat in the soup and then use any leftover chicken in other recipes. For those that don’t have time to roast, there’s always the rotisserie chicken. It’ll work just fine. (Don’t tell my mom.)


Heat the chicken stock (or broth) and water in a large pot. Add the carrot, celery stalk, and onion. Simmer until the veggies soften a bit. Remove the veggies and set aside. Add rice. Season to taste the broth with salt and pepper about 10 minutes into cooking the rice. Reduce heat to low. Stir periodically until cooked to the desired tenderness (about 15-20 minutes).

Ladle out about two cups of strained broth into a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs and slowly whisk in lemon juice.

Now here is the tricky part. It’s the only tricky part. (I promise!) Slowly pour the broth that you set aside earlier into the egg-lemon mixture. Whisk vigorously as you do this. The idea is to incorporate enough air into the mixture to cool down the broth as you add it to the cooler egg-lemon mixture. This process is called tempering and its purpose is to avoid making scrambled eggs (unintentionally). This step is not hard, but it does require patience. Remember: pour slowly, whisk vigorously. By the way, this is a great workout for your arms. You’re on your way to looking diesel!

If you’ve done it right, the mixture should look like the above. Otherwise, if you messed up, it will look a little curdled. Don’t cry if you see signs of curdling. It’s not the end of the world and you can probably still continue through the next steps unless your mixture is in a state of extreme curdle. In that case, you can try to start over, if you have extra stock/broth, eggs, and lemon juice.

Slowly whisk the tempered mixture into the main pot of soup. At this point, you don’t have to worry as much about curdling. However, you should continue to whisk for a minute or two until the soup thickens.

To serve: You may choose to chop up those veggies you fished out earlier and add them to the soup. Otherwise, simply ladle soup into a bowl and add pieces of roasted chicken – as little or as much as you want. Enjoy!

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