two white bowls of lemon chicken orzo soup with spoons in them and crusty bread on the side

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup (For Crockpot or Instant Pot!)

By Rachel Tiemeyer
March 31, 2021

Featured in People Magazine! This colorful, healthy lemon chicken orzo soup can be made in the either the slow cooker or Instant Pot.

two white bowls of lemon chicken orzo soup with spoons in them and crusty bread on the side

You guys! This recipe comes from our second cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker (2020), and was THE featured recipe in People Magazine in March 2020. We were so surprised and excited!!

Spring comes to mind when we make this soup, because it’s light, fresh, and has pops of green. The fresh lemon juice brings a citrusy dimension that takes the flavor beyond your typical Chicken Noodle Soup. But if lemon isn’t your thing, just leave it out.

two white bowls of lemon chicken orzo soup with spoons in them and crusty bread on the side

Orzo is a fun little pasta shaped like rice that pairs well with the chicken and veggies. Once the orzo is added, eat immediately, as the pasta will suck up the liquid quickly. If rewarming the next day, add more broth as needed.

Ingredients for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

The ingredients are simple, fresh, and nutritious! Here’s what you’ll need on hand…

ingredients for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup on a cutting board
  • Diced onions
  • Diced carrots 
  • Garlic cloves
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried Italian seasoning 
  • Chicken broth or stock
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • Orzo pasta (sub: Great Northern beans or instant rice)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Optional: Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish

How to Make It in the Crockpot

Like we mentioned, you can make this either in the slow cooker or in the Instant Pot. Check out how EASY it is in this 1 minute video…

Or, follow along with these step-by-step directions for the Crockpot version…

Step 1: Saute the Veggies

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning during the last 30-60 seconds. 

sauteed onions, carrots, and garlic in a pan

Step 2: Cook the Chicken in the Slow Cooker

Transfer veggie mixture to the slow cooker. Place the chicken on top and season on all sides with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Then, stir in the broth. Cover and cook on low for 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours or until chicken is cooked through. (Chicken is done when it has no more pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and set aside. Note: Yes, that’s seriously how long you should cook chicken breasts in the slow cooker without drying them out!

chicken broth, chicken breasts, seasoning, veggies, and bay leaves in a slow cooker

Step 3: Cook the Orzo and Shred the Chicken

Turn the heat setting to high. Stir in the orzo, cover quickly, and cook for another 20-30 minutes, just until al dente. (Do not overcook.)

chicken broth, seasoning, onions, and carrots in the crockpot

Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

shredded chicken on a wooden cutting board

Step 4: Add in the Spinach and Lemon

When orzo is done, remove the bay leaves and stir in the chicken, spinach, and fresh lemon juice (squeeze over a strainer or your hand to avoid getting seeds in soup). Taste and season with more salt and pepper, as needed. Serve immediately and top with (optional) shredded Parmesan, if desired.

chicken soup being ladled out of the crockpot

How to Make It in the Instant Pot

The Instant Pot version is even faster, since you can saute the veggies in the same pot that you cook the soup in. This method only take 7 minutes of actual cook time! Watch this video to see how fast it comes together…

Here’s how to make it in the pressure cooker step-by-step…

Step 1: Saute the Veggies

Turn on Saute function and heat the oil. Saute the onion and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning during the last 30- 60 seconds.

sauted carrots and onions in the Instant Pot

Step 2: Cook the Chicken

Stir in the broth. Season the chicken on both sides with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and add to the pot. Lock and seal the lid. Cook for 6 minutes at high pressure and quick release the pressure when done. (Check to make sure the chicken is done, which means no more pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Remove the chicken to a wooden cutting board.

two chicken breasts and some broth and bay leaves in the Instant Pot

Step 3: Cook the Orzo and Shred the Chicken

Turn on the Saute function. Stir in the orzo and cook it a few minutes less than the package directions call for, just until al dente. (Do not overcook or the pasta and the veggies will get mushy.) Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

chicken broth and sauted onions and carrots in the instant pot

Step 4: Add in the Spinach and Lemon

When orzo is done, press Cancel. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chicken, spinach, and fresh lemon juice (squeeze over a strainer or your hand to avoid getting seeds in soup). Taste and season with salt and pepper, according to preference. Serve immediately and top with (optional) shredded Parmesan, if desired.

lemon chicken soup being ladled out of the Instant Pot

Want to Double & Freeze a Batch for Later?

This soup works so well in the freezer, if you follow our instructions. In fact, we teach you how to double and freeze your dinner each month in our Double Your Dinner Challenge. One of those challenges featured Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup!

We’ll give you everything you need to make one batch for dinner and freeze one for later at the time time. Downloadable our free PDF that will give you a shopping list, step-by-step instructions, and pre-filled in freezer labels. Then, cook along with us using our video here!

What to Serve with Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Serve the soup warm with some shredded or grated fresh Parmesan on top, if you’d like. You may want to try one of these side dishes, as well.

Cheesy Pesto Bread

Strawberry Fields Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

spinach salad on table and dressing

Other Soups You May Enjoy

We have a large soup recipe collection. You may want to try a few of our readers’ favorites like:

two white bowls of lemon chicken orzo soup with spoons in them and crusty bread on the side

Whether you’re under the weather or longing for spring weather, you’ll enjoy a bowl of this healthy Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup. 

Print
two white bowls of lemon chicken orzo soup with spoons in them and crusty bread on the side

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup (For Crockpot or Instant Pot!)

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: Varies
  • Total Time: 48 minute
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Low Fat

Description

Spring comes to mind when we make this soup, because it’s light, fresh, and has pops of green. The fresh lemon juice brings a citrusy dimension that takes the flavor beyond your typical Chicken Noodle Soup. We’ll show you how to make it in either the crockpot or Instant Pot.


Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups diced carrots 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning 
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pound medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 packed cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta (Gluten-free option: sub Great Northern beans or instant cooking rice)
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Optional: Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish (Note: This is not dairy-free.)

Instructions

Crockpot Version

Make It Now:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning during the last 30-60 seconds. (Freezing instructions begin here.
  2. Transfer veggie mixture to the slow cooker. Place the chicken on top and season on all sides with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Then, stir in the broth. 
  3. Cover and cook on low for 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours or until chicken is cooked through. (Chicken is done when it has no more pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and set aside. 
  4. Turn the heat setting to high. Stir in the orzo, cover quickly, and cook for another 20-30 minutes, just until al dente. (Do not overcook.) Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  5. When orzo is done, remove the bay leaves and stir in the chicken, spinach, and fresh lemon juice (squeeze over a strainer or your hand to avoid getting seeds in soup). Taste and season with salt and pepper, according to preference.
  6. Serve immediately and top with (optional) shredded Parmesan, if desired.

Freeze It For Later: Follow Step 1. Season the chicken on all sides with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the cooked and cooled veggie mixture, seasoned chicken, and broth to a gallon-sized freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. 

Prepare From Frozen: Note: You will need the orzo, spinach, lemon juice, and (optional) Parmesan cheese on hand to prepare this meal. Thaw. Pour the soup into the slow cooker and follow Steps 3-6.

Instant Pot Version

Make It Now: 

  1. Turn on Saute function and heat the oil. Saute the onion and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning during the last 30- 60 seconds. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  2. Stir in the broth. Season the chicken on both sides with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and add to the pot. 
  3. Lock and seal the lid. Cook for 6 minutes at high pressure and quick release the pressure when done. (Check to make sure the chicken is done, which means no more pink inside and/or registers 165°F internally.) Remove the chicken to a wooden cutting board and set aside.
  4. Turn on the Saute function. Stir in the orzo and cook it a few minutes less than the package directions call for, just until al dente. (Do not overcook or the pasta and the veggies will get mushy.) Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  5. When orzo is done, press Cancel. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chicken, spinach, and fresh lemon juice (squeeze over a strainer or your hand to avoid getting seeds in soup). Taste and season with salt and pepper, according to preference.
  6. Serve immediately and top with shredded Parmesan, if desired.

Freeze For Later: Follow Step 1. Season the chicken on all sides with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the cooked and cooled veggie mixture, seasoned chicken, and broth to a gallon-sized freezer bag or container. Arrange the chicken breasts side-by-side instead of stacked, if possible. Seal and freeze. Tip: Set the freezer bag in a bowl in the freezer for a few hours to help it freeze in the shape of the pressure cooker.

 

Prepare From Frozen: Note: You will need the orzo, spinach, lemon juice, and (optional) Parmesan cheese on hand to prepare this meal. Turn on the Saute function. Saute the frozen meal for 5 minutes to release some liquid. Follow Steps 2-5, except cook for 17-22 minutes at high pressure with a quick release.

Don’t Forget to Double & Freeze a Batch!

This soup works so well in the freezer, if you follow our instructions. In fact, we teach you how to double and freeze your dinner each month in our Double Your Dinner Challenge. One of those challenges featured Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup!

We’ll give you everything you need to make one batch for dinner and freeze one for later at the time time. Downloadable our free PDF that will give you a shopping list, step-by-step instructions, and pre-filled in freezer labels. Then, cook along with us using our video here!

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13 replies
  1. Michele says:

    This soup is simple to make but the end product taste like you were in the kitchen all day! It is so so yummy!!! Thanks Thriving Home for another awesome recipe!

    Reply
  2. Stephanie says:

    This is one of my very favorite soups! It is flavorful and is low points for those on Weight Watchers! It is a great way to get veggies to my kiddos and we love the lemony taste! I have shared this recipe with so many friends! Perfect with a crusty warm bread too! Super easy, super tasty, super healthy! What more could you want!

    Reply
  3. Docia Hogan says:

    Delicious and so easy to make! Light and refreshing change from heavy cream soups! Definately a keeper!

    Reply
  4. Katelyn Morris says:

    I love this recipe! It’s a definite go-to at my house! I’ve served it on Mother’s Day, given it to a new mom for meal trains, and when company is over. It’s hearty, delicious, and healthy! Plus, I typically have all of the needed ingredients at home, so it’s really practical.

    Reply