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Avgolemono (Egg & Lemon) Soup

February 6, 2014

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon SoupPin it!

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of this soup for ages.

I love all things eggy and all things lemony. Put together, the rich mixture of tempered eggs and lemon juice gives this soup a decadent, creamy feel, and without any milk or cream.

I used to think of it as a rare restaurant treat—a complicated and mysterious miracle of science. How else could you add eggs to a simmering stock and end up with a smooth, velvety lemony broth, without separating the eggs into the messy striations of egg drop soup?

Making Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup

Once again Santa Barbara’s shortage of decent restaurants—of Greek restaurants, in this case—led me to take the miracle-working into my own hands. As with learning any new recipe, this started with demystifying it: it turns out there’s a very simple step to making such a luxurious broth.

Making Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and Kale

By whisking a bit of the simmering soup stock into the egg-lemon juice (avgolemono) mixture, you can temper the eggs (as you would do for a custard) so you can gently pour them back into the soup without scrambling them.

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

It’s a comforting soup, especially when you toss in a handful of orzo or rice. I have a strange nostalgia for rice in soups, considering I don’t think I ever ate any as a kid. It was always either noodles—or just as often, matzah balls—for us. Maybe it comes from something that was definitely a childhood favorite: the “Chicken Soup with Rice” book-ette by Maurice Sendak, and the accompanying cassette tape, sung by Carole King. (Both still so good!)

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

I’ve actually only made this with orzo, though; it might not hold up to extra simmering as well as rice would, but it absorbs all of the flavors so well, as only tiny rice-grain-shaped pasta can. (And, unlike rice, orzo doesn’t continue absorbing liquid if you store your leftover soup in the fridge!)

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

Avgolemono is usually made with chicken stock and shredded cooked chicken. This makes it the perfect home for leftover roasted chicken, or storebought rotisserie chicken: a leftover chicken solution that rivals only enchiladas.

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

In the absence of shredded chicken, I’ve found that this soup remains its lovely self with chickpeas—especially already flavorful homemade dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked with olive oil, salt, and garlic—and is made even lovelier by the addition of kale.

(Canned chickpeas will still add protein, but they won’t add much in the way of flavor. The soup’s just not simmered for long enough; it’s done in less than 10 minutes!)

Ingredients for Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and Kale

Chopped dill adds an extra sprinkle of greenery and a little boost of lemony freshness. But don’t let a lack of fresh herbs stop you from trying this out; it’s all optional, really, other than the stock, the lemon, and the eggs.

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

This is another recipe that Paula and I immediately filed away as a new weeknight dinner favorite. If you love lemons even half as much as we do, I’m guessing you’ll enjoy it, too.

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Avgolemono (Egg & Lemon) Soup

(Serves 4-6)

Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes.

~ 3-4 eggs
~ 4-5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
~ 6 cups chicken stock
~ ¾-1 cup orzo (or rice, but increase cooking time in step #2 to 25 min.)
~ salt, to taste
~ white pepper, to taste
~ ½ bunch kale, either Tuscan or curly kale, de-stemmed and evenly chopped
~ 1½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
~ shredded cooked chicken
~ fresh dill, torn or chopped, to garnish

Special equipment needed:
~ heatproof glass measuring cup and bowl
~ whisk

How to make it:

1. Whisk together the eggs and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl until frothy, and set aside. (4 eggs will make a more decadently creamy soup, but it will work fine with 3 eggs, too.)

2. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and add the orzo, kale, and chickpeas. Cook for 7 minutes, then turn the heat all the way down to a very low simmer (the orzo will finish cooking during the next steps).

3. Scoop out 1-1½ cups of broth with a glass measuring cup, or ladle some broth into the cup (avoiding the orzo, kale, and chickpeas, and returning any to the saucepan). Slowly pour the cup of broth into the egg-lemon mixture, while whisking the eggs constantly, until the mixture becomes pale yellow and frothy. (Repeat, whisking in another ladle-ful of broth, if you scooped up less than a cup the first time.)

4. Then turn off the heat on the soup pot, and gradually pour the egg-lemon-broth mixture back into the soup, stirring constantly as you add it, and for another minute or two. Season with salt and white pepper. Optionally add warmed cooked shredded chicken.

5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh dill. Serve warm. (To re-heat, microwave in short increments, or gradually heat in a pan on the stove, but do not bring to a boil.)

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Avgolemono - Greek Egg Lemon Soup with Chickpeas and KalePin it!

Related recipe posts:

Lemony Lentil Spinach Soup Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes Tom Kha Gai Soup with Chicken and Lemongrass Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)
Lemony Lentil and Spinach Soup Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes Tom Kha Gai Soup with Chicken and Lemongrass Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)
48 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2014 9:22 am

    Very nice. This soup has been on the back burner for many, many months now as Baby Lady simply loves lemons. Given it’s actually snowing in DFW today, I need to make it very soon. I love your spin on this Greek classic with the chick peas and kale. Great post and lovely photos. :) Thanks for sharing.

    • February 6, 2014 9:40 am

      Thanks for commenting! :) You will definitely both love this soup if you love lemons, whether you add kale and chickpeas or give it your own spin!

  2. February 6, 2014 9:27 am

    Nice combo of flavors!

  3. Donna Silver permalink
    February 6, 2014 9:38 am

    Yum, maybe I’ll make this tonight!

  4. February 6, 2014 9:46 am

    Wow! I have never heard of it, but looks and sounds heavenly. I must give it a try as I have a bunch of kale in my fridge right now.
    Thanks for the recipe! Pinning!!

  5. Victoria permalink
    February 6, 2014 11:08 am

    This looks delicious!

  6. February 6, 2014 11:14 am

    This is one of my favorite soups!! Love this recipe!

  7. February 6, 2014 11:30 am

    That is a gorgeous looking soup Allison and I love your foolproof instructions for a creamy soup. As it happens I made up a big batch of lemon curd yesterday to use up some leftover egg yolks. As much as I adore lemon curd I wish I had seen this post. We actually had chicken soup for dinner last night. Ah maybe next time…

    • February 7, 2014 2:23 pm

      Thanks! Oh man, I adore lemon curd, too. I’ve only started making lemon bars/tarts/curd in the last two years, since I started this blog really, but now I’m sooo glad I tackled that particular intimidating kitchen task, because citrusy treats like that are my favorite type of dessert.

      It’s too bad you didn’t see this post earlier, but you might still have everything you need to make it, since you really only need one lemon and a few eggs (if you’re not sick of chicken soup, that is).

  8. February 6, 2014 11:52 am

    I am really intrigued by this soup. As I read the name egg & lemon soup I thought I wouldn’t like it (I am a bit weird about eggs). However after reading the whole post I am really into the idea.

    It sounds lovely and your photos look gorgeous. I will definitely be giving it a try.

    • February 7, 2014 2:26 pm

      Yay! I’m glad you’re into the idea… you’ll have to let me know how you like it / if someone who’s weird about eggs could still like this soup. I’d venture to guess that you don’t have to like eggs to like the broth—certainly it doesn’t involve anything like the typical texture of eggs, but maybe some aspect of the flavor is still there.

  9. February 6, 2014 12:49 pm

    Wow! You’ve taken me back to the 80s. This mom and pop Greek restaurant was located a few floors from where I worked. Every Wednesday, I would march down and have half a chicken, rice and the soup. It was my only escape from the viper pit AKA The Pool, and I looked forward to eating at this Greek restaurant every week. I absolutely love the way you tweaked the recipe to include garbanzo beans and KALE. I can’t get enough of KALE. Thank you!!!

    • February 7, 2014 2:28 pm

      Aw, I’m glad I could bring back some good food-memories for you! You were lucky to live so close to a good Greek restaurant!

      I can’t get enough of kale, either… thank goodness no one’s gotten sick of all my kale recipes yet (or if they have, they aren’t telling me). I hope you get a chance to try making this and that it brings back even more memories. :)

  10. February 6, 2014 2:09 pm

    I love how the colours and flavours blend so well together :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    • February 7, 2014 2:29 pm

      Thanks, CCU! I love that about this soup, too! It’s magical how the broth has so few ingredients but can still turn opaque and flavorful in an instant.

  11. February 6, 2014 3:05 pm

    What a great soup! This is beautiful. I am definitely going to make this. Such great flavor combos. Perfect for a weeknight meal.

    • February 7, 2014 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! I’m so glad to hear you plan on making it! :)

      It’s been a wonderful addition to our mental list of easy weeknight meals, since we ALWAYS have chicken broth, lemons, and eggs in the house, and we nearly always have kale and/or cooked chickpeas and/or chicken leftovers, too, even if we don’t have all three at once.

  12. February 6, 2014 6:41 pm

    Love this soup – I’m printing it out and putting it on my chalkboard menu this week. Thank you!!!

    • February 7, 2014 2:34 pm

      Yay! That means I’ve hit the big time—getting published on your chalkboard menu! :) I’m honored. (We have a whiteboard attached to the fridge, but I am SO bad at remembering to erase/update it, so when we write down weekly menu plans—almost every week—it’s usually on a little scrap of paper that gets lost somewhere by Friday…)

      Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

  13. February 6, 2014 8:18 pm

    I tried to make this soup a few months ago and it just now occurs to me (reading your recipe) that I didn’t temper the egg! THAT’s why it was a disaster. I’m going to try it again, using your instructions.

    • February 7, 2014 2:37 pm

      Oh no! That’s so sad. But I’m glad that now you know the secret to a non-disastrous avgolemono.

      (I was going to write “to a perfect/good avgolemono” but then I thought that might sound too braggy, so I settled for claiming that my recipe will at least be “non-disastrous.” :)

      By the way, was yours really a disaster or did you just end up with an accidentally-Mediterranean version of Chinese egg drop soup?

  14. February 6, 2014 9:50 pm

    interessante!!!! :) Like it!

  15. gastronomiette permalink
    February 6, 2014 10:01 pm

    I made this soup for the first time EVER like a month ago… I need to make it again now because I’m drooling over my keyboard. Agh it’s so good, I can’t believe I’d forgotten about it! And so delicious looking with the addition of kale, chickpeas, and fresh dill. Why can’t every soup be thickened with eggs? :)

    • February 7, 2014 2:42 pm

      Oh man, I can’t believe you made it and then (almost) forgot about it! I love it so much too; the first time I made it, I told Paula, “We are making this again. Often.” Thank goodness she really liked it too.

      And you’re right, it really would be nicer if more soups were thickened with eggs! Especially because I still get really nervous about not letting things curdle when making soups that call for milk or cream (even though I know that’s a common thing, but not among the soups I choose to cook I guess).

  16. February 7, 2014 4:17 am

    oooo, eggy and lemony is THE BEST! I love avgolemono, especially when i’m feeling super chilly (so, right now) or under the weather, or both. :) Just the smell alone is enough to cheer me up; this looks lovely. Like the idea of throwing chickpeas in here, too (because we don’t always have leftover chicken hanging out here, but we usually have some chickpeas laying about.)

    • February 7, 2014 2:51 pm

      Yes—eggy and lemony is the best!

      I’m sorry you (and most of the country) are so cold right now. It seems like the worst winter in forever and I am (spoiled to feel) so out of touch with that in southern CA, but at least we still have weather that’s just chilly enough for blankets and soups.

      I love sour, lemony soups when under the weather, too (although I also crave spicy/sour soups when I just have a cold, and I’m not sure that avgolemono would go that well with hot sauce added… although then again maybe it would?!).

  17. February 7, 2014 10:22 am

    Ok so there used to be a restaurant in Berkeley that served this soup and I absolutely LOVED it! But then a few months ago I tried to make it on my own, and it just tasted eggy and not good (as in I couldn’t eat it). I’m going to try again with your recipe, because I remember loving this soup and desperately want that deliciousness again.

    • February 7, 2014 2:54 pm

      Hm, that’s too bad your first try at this soup turned out too eggy tasting… I wonder why that was. Way more eggs than this recipe calls for? Or a not-flavorful-enough chicken stock to begin with?

      Anyway, I’m glad you’re going to try it again (and I’m glad you already know what it’s supposed to taste like!). Let me know how you like this version if you get a chance. :)

  18. February 7, 2014 11:29 am

    this looks interesting, and i like that it doesn’t take long to whip up. my thing is, i enjoy a sour soup (like tom yum or vietnamese sweet & sour soup) but i’m not sure if i like a lemon sour soup, if that makes any sense at all. like, i feel that the two soups i mentioned before get their sourness via other means, but an straight LEMON sour is foreign to me. is this a very lemon-y sour soup?

    • February 7, 2014 3:02 pm

      I also love tom yum (and tom kha gai), and sweet & sour soups, and hot & sour soups… Basically I love ALL sour soups, including very lemon-y sour ones (like my lentil spinach soup recipe).

      I’d say this one is definitely not as lemony as that one (the lentil spinach soup), but it is a little lemony, and it’s definitely only getting its sourness from the lemon juice, not from something like lemongrass, lime juice, or vinegar (although, depending on the type of vinegar, I think it can be more harshly sour than lemon juice).

      If you want to try it but you’re hesitant about it being too lemony, I’d say just use less lemon juice than the recipe calls for (but still at least like 3 Tbsp.), and that should still work for tempering the eggs, etc. I actually upped the lemon juice amount a little from when I first made this, since it wasn’t lemony enough for me!

  19. February 7, 2014 11:40 am

    Now this is comfort food. Wow xx L

  20. February 7, 2014 2:41 pm

    Could sure use a bowl of soup right now. Thanks for such a delish recipe.

  21. afracooking permalink
    February 8, 2014 5:40 am

    What a unique combination of ingredients – so creative!

    • February 9, 2014 1:07 pm

      Thanks! As I said in response to another comment above, it’s a traditional Greek recipe so it’s not that creative or original on my part—other than adding the chickpeas and kale—but it’s definitely a unique soup!

  22. danguole permalink
    February 10, 2014 12:46 pm

    I’ve been obsessed with this ever since you mentioned it! WANT WANT WANT NOW. Pinned immediately, trying very soon–thanks friend!

    • February 14, 2014 5:15 pm

      Yay! Have you made it yet?? (Like the second I posted it, the weather in Santa Barbara got too unseasonably hot for soup eating, but I’m going to make it again as soon as it cools off a little around here.) Hope you enjoy it!

  23. April 2, 2014 11:47 am

    I just finished my second bowl of this soup – it is really yummy. Comforting & indulgent yet fresh with lemon, I love it.

    Great recipe


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