January in Arkansas often means hunkering down indoors with a hearty meal. This chicken orzo soup is a great soup to add to a winter soup rotation.  With its flavorful broth, tender chicken and chewy orzo, this soup is simple to prepare. It is also a budget-friendly meal that is great for using up leftover chicken and veggies.

 

The necessary ingredients are quite straight-forward, while the recipe process is simple and quick. Armed with a stockpot and a handful of ingredients, this chicken orzo soup can be on the table in about 30 minutes.

 

Health Benefits of this Soup

A rather healthy soup to kick off the new year, this dish is absent of cream fillings and cheese, making for a light soup in comparison to many others. Additionally, carrots provide vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber and the celery brings a boost of vitamin K and various other antioxidants. Of course, the protein in this meal comes from the chicken.

 

How to Prepare the Chicken for Soup

 

As with most dishes, there is more than one way to  prepare the chicken. Boiling the chicken might seem like the easiest way to many, while sauteing the chicken adds an extra layer of flavor to the soup.

 

While the recipe here calls for boiled chicken, some might prefer to take time to saute the chicken in a bit of olive oil for added flavor.

 

When pinched for time, you can always use store-bought rotisserie chicken or pre-cooked chicken you may have stored in the freezer.

 

Substitutions to Try With Chicken Orzo Soup

The fantastic thing about soups is they can be altered to fit one’s needs and tastes. This soup is no exception. Here are some suggestions for changing things up.

 

• Using turkey instead of chicken is a great way to use up leftover holiday turkey that may be in the freezer.

 

• No celery? Add in green beans, spinach or green peas for color instead.

 

• Instead of carrots, try sweet potatoes, red peppers or yellow zucchini.

 

Variations of Seasonings  and Flavors

 

While this soup is perfectly satisfying with basic seasonings, cooks may wish to play up the flavors a bit with some favorite everyday seasonings and spices.

 

Lemon is a popular flavoring for chicken soup. The acidity of lemon juice is known to brighten flavors when added to dishes. When adding lemon to the soup, it is best to juice and zest one or two lemons to add at the end of the cooking process — right as the pot is removed from the heat.

 

As for seasonings, extra oregano, a spicy garlic pepper blend, turmeric, Cajun spices, or simple red pepper flakes can add a flavor twist to this dish.

 

Prepping in Advance

 

This particular soup lends itself well to advance prep. Cooks can prepare it on the weekend for an easy lunch or dinner to have during the week. Because the orzo tends to absorb the broth, cooks might prefer to add in the orzo when reheating on the stove top during the week. This will prevent the broth from disappearing into the pasta.

 

Those who choose to prepare the soup with the orzo included from the beginning will likely need to add a bit more broth or water when reheating because much of the broth will have been absorbed.

 

What to Serve with Chicken Orzo Soup

 

As with many soups, this chicken orzo soup pairs wonderfully with a side salad, crackers or slices of crusty bread.

 

Best Breads for Soup

• Artisan sourdough breads

• Baguettes

• French bread loaves

 

As January brings the chilly air, settle in with a steaming pot of this simple-yet-satisfying chicken soup with orzo and vegetables.

Chicken Orzo Soup

Ingredients:

• 1 pound chicken breast, chopped

• 6 cups chicken broth

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped

• 2 stalks celery, chopped

• ½ yellow onion, chopped

• 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

• 1/4 cup chopped parsley

• Salt and pepper to taste

Steps for Making Chicken Orzo Soup

 

• In a large dutch oven or stockpot, heat chicken and chicken broth to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

 

• Remove chicken and transfer to a cutting board. Chop chicken into small chunks.

 

• While the chicken and broth are simmering, chop the carrots, celery and onion. Then heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender.

 

• Add vegetables, pasta and seasonings to the dutch oven or pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until pasta is tender.

 

• Add chicken and chopped parsley to the soup, then simmer for 15 minutes.

 

• Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 

Servings: 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

 

TIPS:

• Cooks can simmer the soup for longer to increase the flavor. Just cover it after adding the vegetables and seasonings and simmer for an additional hour or two. Then wait to add the pasta near the end of the simmer time.

 

• Those who like more chicken flavor can also add a few chicken bouillon cubes to the soup mixture after all veggies and seasonings have been added.

 

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