Greek Avgolemono Soup
Greek Avgolemono Soup is the Greek version of chicken noodle soup, with the freshness of lemon juice and the creaminess of egg. It’s the soup of the gods!
I heard that. You just said, “av-go-what?” It’s actually “ah-vo”, which means “egg”, and “lemon-o”, which means “lemon”. The “g” is silent, just like in “gyro” (which most people pronounce “gy-ro”, when it’s really pronounced “year-o”). Ok — I think today’s Greek lesson is over, even though it’s probably all still Greek to you. 😉 When I was about 20 years old, there was a Greek restaurant called the Poseidon in my hometown. It was only in business for a few years at the most, but it left a lasting impression with me. One of my favorite dishes was their avgolemono soup, which is the traditional Greek version of chicken soup. The exception is the egg, which gives the soup a light creaminess, and the fresh lemon juice, which adds a nice citrus pop of flavor. This soup is the soup of the gods, because it’s downright heavenly.
Avgolemono soup is typically served as an appetizer, a meal with fresh baked bread, or as a cure-all. If you’re Greek and you’re feeling under the weather, your mother or grandmother (Yia-Yia), would make you this soup, and you’d be all better. Simple as that. Avgolemono is also served as a sauce, hot or cold, over meat and rice stuffed grape leaves (dolmades), or chicken.
Avgolemono soup is typically made with chicken and rice or orzo pasta. I chose to use orzo because I wanted to change things up a bit. It’s got a bit more Mediterranean flair, too.
I adapted this recipe for Greek Avgolemono Soup from an Avgolemono Soup on the website Simply Recipes. I’ve made the soup before, but it was years ago, so I’d lost track of my old recipe. I used fewer eggs in my soup — I don’t think more than one egg is necessary.
Being that there is egg in a hot soup, tempering is involved here. You don’t want the egg to scramble. The yolk and lemon juice are whisked together, than the white is beaten until it’s light and foamy. The egg white is then folded into the yolk-lemon juice mixture, then the tempering begins. I ladled two ladle-fuls of hot broth from the soup into a measuring cup. While whisking the egg-lemon juice mixture vigorously, the hot broth is added just a bit at a time until it’s all incorporated. From there, the broth-egg-lemon mixture is poured slowly into the soup, while whisking constantly. It sounds like a lot of work, but we’re only talking about 10 extra minutes that really make a tremendous difference!
Next time you’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned chicken noodle soup, think about trying this. It’s very kid-friendly, too. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t like the flavors of chicken and lemon, with the creaminess of egg. After reading this post, you can dazzle the staff with your on-spot pronunciations of Greek food during your next trip to your local Greek restaurant or festival. I think you’ve learned a lot! Class dismissed.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium stalks of celery, halved lengthwise, chopped
- 5 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ⅓ cup dried orzo pasta
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Juice from 1½ lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
- 1 egg, separated
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- Fill a large skillet about an inch high with water. Add one tablespoon of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and reduce the heat slightly. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, but keep the skillet covered for 12-15 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook in the covered skillet. When the chicken is done, remove from the skillet. Once cool, cut into small dice and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, and saute until translucent and soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the orzo, reduce heat slightly and stir. Boil lightly for 9 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer. Add salt to taste.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice and egg yolk. In another small bowl, beat the egg white until light and foamy. Fold the egg white in the lemon-egg yolk mixture.
- Ladle two ladle-fuls of the soup broth into a measuring cup. Whisking the egg-lemon mixture vigorously, slowly add the hot broth by the droplets at first, then in a slow, steady stream until all the broth has been added. Add the broth-egg-lemon mixture to the pot of soup, whisking constantly.
- Serve the soup with fresh baked bread and garnish with the chopped parsley.
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipe's Avgolemono Soup.