Avgolemono (Greek Chicken Soup with Lemon and Egg) is, for sure, without question, my favorite soup in the world. Not only does it remind me of my grandmother, who used to make it when I was a kid, but it’s everything you’d ever want out of a soup. It’s simple and light, yet hearty and satisfying. It has the illusion of being creamy, but that’s just very thoroughly emulsified and tempered eggs mixed with lemon juice and added to the soup. It’s 100% dairy (and gluten) free. It’s healthy and packed with nutrients, like protein and vitamin C. If you’ve never had it, I beg of you: drop everything you are doing and make it right now.
As a third generation half Greek-American, I know very few Greek words; those that I do know are related to food and church. Here is one word that I believe everyone should know: Avgolemono. Roughly translated, it means “The nectar of the gods.”
Just kidding. It means egg-lemon sauce (avgo=egg; lemono=lemon). Avgolemono is a staple in Greek food, and it is most commonly used as an addition to chicken and rice soup. It is a mixture of eggs and lemon juice tempered with hot broth and sometimes flour to thicken. You can use a thickened version to serve over baked chicken, lamb, or other main dishes (kind of like a citrusy, creamy gravy). When added to chicken soup, it makes the soup heartier and adds more protein and vitamin C (so it’s great to have when you are sick). It also gives the illusion of a cream-based soup without actually adding any actual milk or cream, which is perfect for people who stick to a dairy free diet.
Basically, this is a pretty typical chicken soup with rice instead of noodles, with avgolemono sauce is added to it. You can take really any easy chicken soup recipe and make the sauce to add to it in the end. Or, you can leave the meat out, and just cook vegetables and rice in vegetable broth and add the sauce for a very quick, vegetarian meal.
A couple of days ago, I made a roasted chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary. It was amazing. I saved the leftover meat and made chicken broth from the carcass, so I used those for this soup. You can use store-bought chicken broth and any cooked chicken meat (such as rotisserie) for this recipe. When you already have these ingredients ready go to, this is a fairly quick and easy recipe to make!
First, heat up two cups of chicken broth in a separate small pan, or set it aside in a measuring cup to microwave. You will need this to make the avgolemono sauce.
For the soup, melt one tablespoon of butter in a large pot and saute some finely chopped celery, onion, and carrots until they begin to soften. Add one cup of rice and stir to coat in butter. Then, add 6 cups of chicken broth, stir, and simmer until the rice is cooked. Add the cooked chicken.
Now, for the avgolemono sauce.
I use my food processor to make the sauce, but you can use a bowl and whisk (and a strong, vigorous hand to stir), blender, or hand mixer for this process. First, add 5 eggs and beat thoroughly. Then, add the juice of 4-5 lemons gradually while the food processor is still on (or while blending/whisking vigorously). Then, very slowly, add the two cups of reserved hot broth to the mixture. If you add it too quickly, the eggs will become stringy (think: egg drop soup). The goal is to make the sauce as smooth as possible. You will notice that it gets foamy, and if you look closely at these photos, you can see a layer of foam on top. This is normal and it means you did it right.
Now, just as slowly and gradually, add the sauce to the soup while stirring constantly. I recommend using something with a pour spout, such as a pyrex measuring cup, to do this, so it’s a bit easier to control.
Full disclosure: the technique of making this soup is a bit different than what you may be used to. To a new cook, tempering eggs with hot broth might sound a bit intimidating, but I promise: once you do it once, you won’t bat an eye at doing it again. And the first time I made this, it definitely did come out a bit “stringier” and less smooth than I would have liked, but it was still amazingly delicious. My suggestion: try this on a weekend or when you have some time to dig in (rather than a busy weeknight), and then reheat it/freeze it until you are ready to eat (it freezes wonderfully!).
To make a vegetarian version of Avgolemono, cook the rice and vegetables in vegetable stock, and omit chicken meat. Add other vegetables to make it more hearty, such as mushrooms and spinach.
Recipe for Avgolemono (Greek Chicken Soup with Lemon and Egg) below! Opa!Print
Avgolemono (Greek chicken soup with lemon and egg)
Avgolemono soup is Greek chicken and rice soup with lemon and egg- a hearty, cozy soup that’s great for a cold day or for when you’re feeling under the weather. Packed with protein and vitamin C, gluten free, and absolutely DELICIOUS.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Yield: 6-8
- In a small saucepan or microwavable measuring glass, heat up 2 cups of chicken broth.
- In a large pot, melt butter and saute vegetables until they begin to soften.
- Add rice and stir to coat.
- Add the remaining 6 cups chicken broth to the soup, stir, bring to a boil, and simmer until rice is cooked. Add chicken meat.
Meanwhile, to make the avgolemono sauce
- Beat 5 eggs in a food processor or blender, or in a bowl with an electric mixer or vigorously by hand with a whisk.
- Gradually add lemon juice while blending.
- Very slowly and gradually add the 2 cups of hot chicken broth. If you add it too quickly, the sauce will not be smooth.
- Very slowly and gradually add the sauce back into the soup.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Weekend Prep: To make this dish extra quick and easy for a busy weeknight, cook the chicken ahead of time on the weekend, shred or chop, and store in a container until you are ready to use.
Freezer directions: This soup can be frozen for up to 6 months in an airtight container.
Vegetarian version: Cook the rice and vegetables in vegetable stock, and omit chicken meat. Add other vegetables to make it more hearty, such as mushrooms and spinach.