Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines of all time and Avgolemeno soup is one of my favorite dishes served in most Greek restaurants. Bonus points that it is healthy and delicious.
From the time that I first started hunting out every Greek recipe within a fifty mile radius, Avgolemeno soup became a favorite dish that I just had to try. When I started attempting to make my own at home, several attempts fell flat. If you’ve ever had Avgolemeno, then you know that flat is the last word you want to describe it. When well made, it should be zesty and vibrant and yet still smooth and comforting. What I discovered is that most of the recipes I was finding online were focusing all on the lemon egg sauce (an important component of the soup, for sure) and ignoring pretty much everything else. I started experimenting on my own and this version has a solid mirepoix base for the broth and a hint of herbs and spices that enhance the Mediterranean flavors of the dish.
I know that this goes against everything they teach you about cooking white fluffy rice, but in this case, I prefer not to rinse my rice. It is cooked in a broth so is not going to really clump together the way rice with the liquid cooked out does. And I find the starch from the rice (or the starch from the pasta if you’re using Orzo) helps make the broth a little thicker and velvetier (is that a word?) It’s just better with the starch.
Don’t rush the process when tempering the eggs sauce. The eggs will scramble and you will end up with a broth more like egg drop soup than a cream soup if you rush it. Drizzle a little hot broth into your egg & lemon mixture, whisk till it is fully mixed, then drizzle a little more and repeat.
All the recipes I’ve read say to drizzle two ladles full of broth into the egg mixture. I usually do a third for good measure.
Finally, remove the soup from the heat as soon as the sauce is stirred into the soup pot. Don’t risk cooking the eggs through or you will have a soup that separates.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup carrots diced
- 1/2 cup celery diced
- 1/2 cup green onions diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 8 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup rice or orzo pasta
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh dill
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 2 cups cooked chicken I used a store bought rotisserie chicken - skin removed and shredded
- 1/2 cup lemon juice preferably fresh
- 2 large eggs
- Heat dutch oven or soup pot to medium-high and add olive oil.
- Add carrots, celery, and green onions and saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds.
- Stir in chicken broth and add rice and raise heat to high.
- Add bay leaves, white pepper, dill and oregano.
- When soup starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes until rice is tender (if using orzo, it will be tender closer to 12 minutes).
- While soup is simmering, whisk together lemon juice and eggs. Set aside.
- Once the rice (or orzo) is tender, add chicken to your soup pot.
- Slowly whisk 2-3 ladles full of broth into the egg/lemon mixture. Be sure to add the broth very slowly so that you temper your eggs and they don't cook and your sauce doesn't split.
- Once your egg/lemon sauce is tempered with the broth, add it into your soup and stir to combine. Remove soup from heat immediately.
Make It a Meal
Avgolemeno's Jewish Origins
The only place that I have ever seen Avgolemeno soup is on Greek restaurant menus and in Greek food cookbooks. If you were to ask me, I would say confidently that this is a food that originated in Greece.
And I would be wrong.
While it was cooking, I decided to look into the history of this delicious soup and was surprised to discover that it’s origins actually Jewish. It turns out that the egg and lemon sauce that is used to thicken the soup was created out of necessity. Kosher dietary laws prohibited using dairy in sauces that accompanied meat dishes and so Sephardic cooks in Spain started relying on tempered eggs as a thickening agent. The Sephardic version of this soup is traditionally how Yom Kippur fast is broken for Jews in Turkey.
Find out more at myjewishlearning.com.