This healthy lemon chickpea orzo soup is quick and easy to make with a delicate lemon flavour and a creamy consistency.
Why this is the best lemon chickpea orzo soup recipe
Lemon chicken orzo soup is a popular soup! I think it’s popularity comes from Panera Bread’s version, which they don’t sell anymore.
Luckily, lemon orzo soup is super easy to make at home, and, when you swap the chicken for chickpeas, it’s much healthier and vegan-friendly!
I first made this recipe when I was sick and didn’t want to spend a lot of time chopping and cooking.
To make this recipe as simple as possible, I used the same technique as in my pasta e fagioli soup recipe and used my food processor to finely chop the carrots, celery, onion and garlic into a mirepoix.
Not only is it super quick to do it that way, the mirepoix also adds a ton of flavour to the soup stock.
Something that baffled me about the other vegan lemon chickpea orzo soup recipes I’ve seen is that they don’t make use of the lemon zest.
The lemon skin adds a really nice bright fruity flavour to the soup that’s more lemony that just adding the sour juice alone.
The last thing that makes this recipe different (and superior) to the others is that I use almond butter to add thickness and creaminess to this vegan soup.
Other recipes use tahini for this, which is great and I have a very popular creamy vegan ramen recipe that’s made with tahini, but tahini tends to be a bit bitter, especially if you only have toasted tahini in your pantry.
Almond butter is a more neutral flavour and we often use almonds in Spain to make creamy soups like this ajo blanco soup.
Almond butter is expensive but you only need a couple tablespoons in this recipe to give it a nice, rich creamy consistency!
What is orzo?
Because of it’s shape, some people wonder is orzo is rice or pasta?
Orzo is a type of small pasta and, just like other shapes of pasta, it is made from semolina, which is a type of durum wheat.
Orzo is typically used in soups like this lemon chickpea orzo soup, but it can also be used in salads, pasta dishes, or bowls.
One of my favourite ways to cook orzo is risotto-style like for these vegan stuffed tomatoes with pesto orzo recipe.
Because of it’s similarity to rice, orzo can often be substituted for rice in some recipes like avgolemono soup, which is a Greek lemon chicken soup.
Is orzo vegan?
Yes, orzo is vegan because the only ingredient is durum wheat semolina.
Unlike other types of pasta, orzo is not usually made with eggs.
The ingredients for this lemon chickpea orzo soup are easy to find in most supermarkets. You can also add your favourite veggies and herbs if you like.
Onion and garlic: These aromatics form the base of the soup.
Carrots and celery: Finely diced carrot, celery and onion together is a classic mirepoix which is the base of a lot of soup recipes. In this recipe, the are so finely chopped to be undetectable while eating the soup but they add tons of flavour.
Vegetable broth: Choose your favourite, high quality vegetable stock.
Orzo: Orzo should be relatively easy to find in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. It’s not as popular as spaghetti so smaller stores might not have it and you may need to check in a larger supermarket.
Chickpeas: This is our “protein” (all plants have protein) that replaces the usual chicken in lemon chicken orzo soup. You could also use white beans or a vegan chicken substitute if you prefer.
Thyme: I like the combination of lemon and chickpeas with thyme. You can use rosemary, tarragon, sage or dill if you prefer.
Almond butter: This helps to thicken the soup and add creaminess. The flavour is neutral so it doesn’t have an overpowering nutty taste.
Lemon zest and juice: I add more zest than juice because it gives a bright, fruity flavour. Lemon juice can quickly sour and overpower a dish if you add too much so I recommend adding to taste.
Olive oil and salt: To fry the mirepoix and season the soup.
How to make lemon chickpea orzo soup
Making this delicious vegan soup is very easy because it doesn’t require a lot of chopping and orzo is a very quick-cooking pasta.
Prep the veggies: Prepping the veggies is really easy when you use a food processor.
Start by peeling the carrots, then roughly chop them, the celery, onion and garlic.
Transfer the roughly-chopped veggies to a food processor and pulse until they are finely minced.
In this recipe the veggies are there to add flavour not texture, so mincing them really finely helps them to meld into the soup and become undetectable while adding tons of flavour.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop them by hand. Just try to chop them as finely as you can.
Fry the veggies: Next add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a pot over medium-low heat.
Add the minced veggies and allow them to fry, stirring often, until the are very tender.
I like to do this over medium-low heat because even though it takes more time, it brings out more flavour.
If you’re short on time, you can raise the heat to medium to cook it a little faster.
Add the stock: When the veggies are almost ready, add the thyme and give it a couple minutes to bring out the flavour.
Then pour in the vegetable stock, raise the heat to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Cook the pasta: Add chickpeas and the orzo and cook until tender.
Orzo cooks quickly, in just a couple of minutes. Be sure to check the instructions on your bag for timing.
Add the remaining ingredients: While the orzo is cooking you can place the almond butter in a bowl and pour in a ladle of the hot soup stock.
Stir it well with a spoon to dissolve the almond butter.
Once the orzo is cooked, pour in the almond butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.
Stir everything well and give it a taste. Since lemon juice can quickly overpower a dish, I recommend starting with a little and adding more to taste.
Substitutions and variations
This soup recipe as written is super simple. That makes it easy to adapt to your preferences or whatever you have available in your pantry.
Veggies: A popular addition to lemon chickpea orzo soup are leafy greens such as spinach or kale. Feel free to toss in a couple handfuls at the end of cooking.
Protein: What I’m calling “protein” here are the chickpeas. You can sub another bean like white beans or kidney beans. You could also replace them with a vegan chicken product or some diced tofu.
Rice: If you’re going for a kind of vegan avgolemono soup, you can use rice instead of orzo.
Pasta: If you don’t have orzo, you can use another small soup pasta shape like ditalini.
Almond butter: Cashew butter or tahini will work in place of almond butter. Be sure to use white tahini and not toasted tahini, which has a strong nutty flavour.
Herbs: I like thyme in this recipe but you can use rosemary, tarragon or sage.
Nutritional yeast: A lot of non-vegan lemon chicken orzo soup recipes call for Parmesan or Parmesan rind. If you want a cheesy flavour, add a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Alternatively, add a tablespoon of white miso paste to the almond butter when you dissolve it in the stock. White miso paste adds a very umami, almost cheesy flavour.
To make lemon chickpea orzo soup in the Instant Pot, first saute the vegetables and thyme on saute mode. Add the stock, chickpeas and orzo and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, followed by a 5-minute natural release. Dissolve the almond butter with a ladle of the hot soup stock before adding it to the pot along with the lemon zest, juice and salt.
No, orzo is usually not gluten free. You can make this recipe gluten free by replacing the orzo with rice.
Yes, you can use any small pasta such as ditalini or alphabet pasta.
How to store and freeze lemon chickpea orzo soup
Lemon chickpea orzo soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days.
Because this soup is made with pasta, it will continue to absorb the stock as it cools and become a pasta dish rather than a soup.
If you know that you will have leftovers, you can prevent this by cooking the orzo in a separate smaller pot and storing it separately from the soup stock.
If you have cooked the pasta in the soup and find that the pasta has absorbed all the stock, you can add a few more splashes of stock or water before reheating to loosen it up again.
Similarly, if you freeze the soup with the pasta in it, you may find that the pasta is goes mushy after thawing and reheating.
If you’re making this to freeze, I recommend leaving the pasta out and just freezing the lemon chickpea soup base.
Thaw the soup in the fridge overnight then transfer it to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until tender.
What to serve with it
Like any kind of soup, this lemon chickpea orzo soup goes will with crusty bread or vegan garlic bread, rolls or breadsticks.
Make it a soup and sandwich with a veggie-packed hummus sandwich or a grilled Mediterranean vegetable sandwich.
Lemon Chickpea Orzo Soup
- 2 medium carrots peeled
- 1 large celery rib
- ½ medium onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock
- ¾ cup (145 grams) orzo
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Roughly chop the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Place them in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. If you don't have a food processor, just try to chop them up as finely as you can.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the minced vegetables and thyme. Gently fry, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables are very soft - about 15 minutes. The idea is for the vegetables to flavour the soup and be almost undetectable.
- Add the chickpeas and vegetable stock and raise to heat to bring it to a boil. Add the orzo and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the orzo is al dente, as indicated on the package instructions (usually just a couple minutes).
- Meanwhile, place the almond butter in a bowl and add a ladle of the hot soup broth. Stir to dissolve the almond butter.
- When the pasta is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and add the almond butter, lemon zest, salt and lemon juice. Lemon juice can quickly overpower the soup so I recommend starting with 1 tablespoon then adding more if you want to.