This orzo soup with pesto and chicken is hearty, comforting, and super easy to make! It’s perfect for busy weeknights and ready in just 30 minutes.
When cold weather hits, there's nothing better than a big bowl of warm, hearty soup.
And this lemony chicken noodle soup might just be our favorite dinner shortcut: All you need are five main ingredients and a quick simmer on the stovetop. You'd never guess it takes just 30 minutes to throw together!
We're putting a twist on traditional chicken noodle soup by adding a bright punch of flavor with a scoop of pesto and a splash of lemon juice.
How to make this chicken orzo soup
This chicken orzo soup recipe comes together in one pot with just a few ingredients.
- Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large pot.
- Add some cooked shredded chicken, orzo, pesto, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Simmer it all until the orzo is al dente, then serve!
We love using a store-bought rotisserie chicken or some meal prepped shredded chicken in this recipe to keep things quick and simple.
If you don't have cooked chicken on hand
No pre-cooked chicken? No problem!
You can cook two chicken breasts (or 4-6 chicken thighs) in the stock once it's simmering, then shred or dice them up and proceed with the rest of the recipe. You can also bake or grill your chicken before adding it to the soup if you don't want to bother boiling it.
Additions and Substitutions
This soup is super forgiving. Some of our favorite riffs:
- Use any pasta you like. We love orzo pasta in this soup since it cooks quickly. But it's good with any shape! Swap in farfalle (bowties), shells, macaroni, cavatelli, or tortellini!
- Add extra veggies. This is a great blank canvas soup - add whatever you have on hand! We like adding diced carrots or celery, chick peas or butter beans, tomatoes, peas, red peppers, broccoli, or corn. Stir in some kale or spinach for extra greens, or add a handful of herbs (basil, dill, rosemary, and thyme are all good) for more flavor.
- Mix up the protein. Use leftover turkey instead of chicken (perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers!) or add some spicy Italian sausage.
- Add some aromatics. For even more flavor, sauté some chopped onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil before you add the chicken stock.
- To make this soup creamy, reduce the chicken stock by 1 cup and make soup normally. When the orzo is not quite done, add 1 cup of heavy cream and simmer until the soup thickens slightly.
What to serve with this soup
Our favorite thing about soup? It goes with everything. Some of our favorite sides to serve with this chicken pesto soup:
- Easy Crusty French Bread
- Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Bread
- Spinach Prosciutto Salad
- 5 Minute Lemon Arugula Salad
A few FAQs
We don't recommend freezing this soup as it can mess with the texture of the orzo (it gets super mushy!)
Yes! Add your chicken stock, chicken (raw or cooked), salt and pepper to a slow cooker and cook for 2-6 hours on low (if using raw chicken, be sure to cook until chicken is cooked through). Add pesto, lemon juice, and orzo in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Yes! Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, omit the chicken, and make sure you're using a vegan or vegetarian pesto. If you're making a vegan version of this soup, we recommend adding some extra veggies to make it a little heartier!
You might also like:
- Apple Tomato Soup
- Smoked Salmon Chowder
- Broccoli White Cheddar Soup
- Creamy Chicken Spinach Pasta
- Brothy Weeknight Butter Beans
Love this recipe? Try our spinach orzo alfredo →Print
Pesto Chicken Orzo Soup
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: American
This orzo soup with pesto and chicken is hearty, comforting, and super easy to make!
- 6 cups chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable stock
- 2 cups cooked chicken (chopped or shredded chicken are both good)
- 1 ½ cups uncooked orzo pasta
- ¼ cup fresh basil pesto
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- shredded parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- Add chicken stock to a large pot. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add cooked chicken, orzo, pesto, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Cook, uncovered, until orzo is al dente (about 8 minutes).
- Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese (optional) and serve immediately.
Additions & Substitutions. Use any pasta shape you like (ditalini, cavatelli, elbows, and shells all work well here). Add extra veggies (carrots, celery, kale, spinach, chick peas, butter beans) to make this soup a bit heartier. Swap turkey or Italian sausage for the chicken if you like. For a creamier soup, reduce the chicken stock by 1 cup and add a cup of heavy cream just before the orzo is done cooking.
What kind of chicken should I use? We like using a rotisserie chicken or some meal prepped shredded chicken to keep things easy. Leftover grilled or baked chicken or leftover turkey also work well. If you don't have any cooked chicken ready to go, bring the chicken stock to a boil and cook chicken breasts or thighs in the stock until cooked through, then shred and complete the soup as directed.
Serve this soup with our Easy Crusty Bread or a lemon arugula side salad for a complete meal.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 470
- Sugar: 7 g
- Sodium: 701.2 mg
- Fat: 17.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 39.5 g
- Protein: 35.4 g
- Cholesterol: 69.6 mg
Keywords: winter, stew, soup
Made this for a friend feeling under the weather and they loved it!! so easy to make especially with some pre made pesto!
Team Life As A Strawberry
Such a wonderful meal to share!
I love it! I added more lemon juice along with celery,green peppers and onions. I also put a little Parmesan and crushed red pepper when cooking. A smidge of garlic powder. Phenomenal. Thank you!
Jackie @ Life As A Strawberry
Hi Brianna, those additions sound wonderful! Thanks!
Why can’t you cook the chicken in the stock?
You certainly can! Sometimes people just have the ingredients prepared separately (from meal prep earlier in the week, a rotisserie chicken, leftovers, etc.) but feel free to adapt however you like!
I'm excited to try this! Did you make the pesto, or do you recommend a certain brand to buy?
I make my own pesto, but some delis or grocery stores have house-made pesto available that often tastes pretty good!
Just finished making this recipe for the first time and had half a bowl (trying to patiently wait for my family). This is by far my new favorite soup and it's so easy. Thanks so much for sharing!!
I'm so happy you like it!! Thanks for letting me know how it turned out!
I've made this twice now and it is delicious!! Thank you for sharing, this one is definitely going into my regular soup recipes =D
I'm so happy you liked it, Laura! Thanks for letting me know how it turned out!
Fabulous! So easy to make. I sometimes add rice of differing varieties to make it more like chicken and rice.
Thanks, Brenda! I love the idea of adding some wild rice to this soup 🙂 It's one of my favorites!
If you hold off topping the soup with parmesan do you think this refrigerates well until a little later? But I forget..this soup is never around that long 😉
If you'd like to save it, I'd definitely hold off on topping with parmesan. I generally don't like to save this soup, though, because when you reheat it the orzo tends to get overcooked. You could always put the broth/chicken/pesto/etc. together in advance and then bring it to a simmer, add orzo, & cook when you're ready to eat it - hope that helps!
I was sick yesterday and made this soup. It is the BEST chicken soup I have ever ate!!! I used couscous and store bought pesto. I would like to try making it the crockpot. Thank you SO much.
I'm so happy to hear that! I think I've made this soup at least once a week all winter - I can't stop eating it! It works fine in the crockpot as well - the only thing is the orzo can tend to get a little overcooked, which for me is a little annoying. But still, super easy and tasty! Thanks for letting me know how it turned out (and I hope you're feeling better!)
Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps
I agree, the ONLY good thing about winter is soup, especially when it includes soup like this! Looks delish!