The mixture of eggs, lemon, and hot broth is a classic combination in Greek cooking. And if there is a classic dish that highlights this combination, it is the chickeny avgolemono soup.
Avgo-wha? Ah-vo-LEMEN-o, or at least that's how I remember the Greeks at the local diner in New Jersey saying it. The "g" isn't always pronounced.
An Easy Avgolemono Recipe
Like gumbo, goulash or chili, there are untold versions of this soup. Some, like this one, have bits of chicken in them. Some start with a whole chicken and take hours. A few have nothing more than chicken broth and the egg-lemon sauce. Most, however, have a starch such as rice or orzo pasta.
The key to avgolemono is the egg-lemon sauce.
It is what makes this version of chicken soup special. What starts as a pretty ordinary mix of chicken, onions, pasta, and broth becomes silky, tangy, and unforgettable.
This is a weeknight version of avgolemono, one you can whip together in less than 30 minutes; some versions take all day.
Tempering Greek Egg Lemon Soup
The only tricky part of this whole recipe is when you add the egg-lemon mixture: You need to temper the eggs so they don't scramble when you add them to the hot broth.
But this is not rocket science, and if you can whisk with one hand and pour with the other you are good to go.
And if you can't? Find a helper. Kids love to help cook, so maybe ask your daughter or son to whisk while you pour. Or vice versa.
One thing about this soup: Never let it boil once you've added the egg-lemon mixture. The soup can break and you essentially get a Greek version of egg drop soup. Still edible, but ugly. Same goes for reheating leftovers: Do it gently, and don't let the soup boil.
Tricks for Getting the Eggs Just Right
If you don't temper the eggs, you may end up with scrambled egg soup. To avoid that, follow these tips.
- Temper the egg and lemon mixture. DO NOT skip this step. If you pour the egg and lemon mixture into the hot soup without tempering, the eggs will coagulate, creating scrambled eggs. See Step 6 for tempering instructions.
- Using a clean finger (or a food thermometer suitable for liquids), test the temperature of the tempered egg mixture and the broth. If they're roughly the same temperature, it's time to add the egg mixture into the broth.
- Whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the hot broth — with the pot off the heat — very slowly.
- There's a Greek trick mentioned in the comments by a few readers. Separate the whites from the yolks and beat them separately. Then mix them back together before adding the lemon juice. Some say it's a way to temper them better. Others mention it gives the soup a better texture.
5 Greek Recipes That Go Great with Avgolemono
- Easy Greek Salad
- Greek Chicken Skewers with Yogurt Sauce (Chicken Souvlaki)
- Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce
Either rice or orzo pasta is fine here, so use whichever you prefer. And be sure to dice the chicken breast pretty small — about 1/4 inch cubes — so the meat cooks through in just a few minutes.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup orzo or rice
1 pound skinless chicken breast, cut in 1/4 inch dice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
Fresh parsley for garnish
Sauté the onions:
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot and sauté the onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Cook the orzo or rice:
While the onions are cooking, bring another pot of salted water to a boil and add the orzo or rice. Cook according to package directions.
Add the chicken stock to the onions:
When the onions are ready, add the chicken stock and water and bring to a bare simmer.
Drain the orzo or rice and add to the stock and onions:
When the orzo or rice is nearly done — firm, but mostly cooked — drain the boiling water and add the pasta or rice to the chicken broth.
Add the diced chicken breast:
Let this cook 5 to 8 minutes, then taste the soup for salt.
Check to make sure the chicken is cooked through by pulling a piece out and making sure there is no pink left inside. If not, continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through.
Temper the eggs:
Beat the eggs in a bowl. Whisking constantly, add the lemon juice to the eggs. You will need to temper the eggs before you add the egg-lemon mixture to the soup. It takes both hands to do this.
With one hand, whisk the egg-lemon mixture vigorously. With the other, slowly pour in a ladle's worth of hot broth.
Do this at least twice, and you can add as many ladle's worth of broth as you want to the mixture.
Whisk the tempered eggs into soup and serve:
Turn the heat off the soup. Whisk the soup with one hand while you pour the hot egg-lemon mixture in with the other.
Serve at once, garnished with parsley.