Lemon Chicken Soup with Rice

This spin on traditional chicken soup hits all the right notes with tender chicken and vegetables, hearty and comforting rice, and a finish of bright fresh lemon juice for an unexpected, yet delicious twist.  Lemon Chicken Soup with Rice is the comfort in a bowl! Try it with a grilled cheese sandwich, or a slice of crusty bread for dipping. I also have an easy tip for a creamy version of this soup, shared below!

Ingredients and Equipment Notes

  • Carrots, Onions, and Celery – this is a classic mirepoix, and you need all three for the best flavor combination as the base for this soup.
  • Chicken – This recipe can be made with pre-cooked chicken (like rotisserie) or raw chicken. Check the instructions for the different instructions for each!
  • Lemon – A fresh lemon is best for this dish, it will give you the brightest, freshest, flavor and I like to use both the zest and the juice. If you’re in a pinch- avoid bottled lemon juice, as it generally adds a bitter flavor, but crystallized True Lemon would work.
  • Kale – Kale is my favorite green to use in soups. It’s heartier than spinach, so it doesn’t get slimy like spinach can, and when chopped really fine, it blends in so nicely adding both nutrients, texture, and visual interest. Don’t be nervous if you have young kids or picky eaters, I’ve never had a single person make a fuss about the addition of kale! If you’d like to, you could certainly sub spinach. You’d want to add spinach at the very end, off the heat, and just stir until wilted.
  • Rice – I use whatever rice I have on hand, which is generally medium grain white rice. You can use jasmine, basmati, or even brown rice- you’d just need to give brown rice a little more cooking time.

Instructions

This is a very simple soup with minimal ingredients. If you have time earlier in your day, one time-saver would be to chop your carrots, onion and celery ahead of time. The mixture can be kept in the fridge for up to a few days and makes the prep time super quick when it comes time to make your soup!

  1. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil or a couple pats of butter to a hot stock pot. Like most chicken soups, a quick sauté of onions, carrots, and celery provide a great flavor base.  We’ll add in a few cloves of minced garlic here as well.
  2. Add in chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add rice and herbs, if using dry dill. If using fresh dill, you’ll add it at the end! The rice takes about 20 minutes of simmering to be finished.
  4. Towards the end of cooking I toss in some already cooked chicken. I like using shredded rotisserie chicken.  If you have our Freezer Meal Guide, there’s a whole section devoted to storing cooked proteins for quick meals and this is a perfect example of a fast and easy meal when you’ve got cooked chicken already prepped and waiting. You can also use raw chicken in this recipe, I include instructions about that in the recipe card.
  5. Then I toss in some freshly chopped kale. After washing fresh kale leaves, use a sharp knife to cut leaves away and discard stems. Then I grab the bunch of leaves and hold tightly in a ball as I mince the greens.  I chop it very small, like just as I would if I was chopping fresh herbs.
  6. The very last step is the lemon! It should be added after the heat is off, to preserve that fresh flavor. After turning off the heat, add in a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  It’s the perfect compliment to the flavor profile.  I also like adding the zest from the lemon.
  7. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread for dipping, or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Creamy Chicken Soup with Lemon

Here’s one optional step, if you’d like a creamy element to this soup. I often add a can of evaporated milk at the very end. It doesn’t make the soup thick and rich- it keeps it brothy and nourishing, but it simply adds a little flavor dimension and a slight creamy element that my family loves, similar to my really popular Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this soup good as leftovers? YES. In all caps. I actually think it’s almost better the next day. If using lemon zest, I think the zest continues to release oils so the lemon flavor is almost more pronounced on day 2. It also freezes well.

Serving Suggestions

This would be amazing with a chunk of this Overnight Artisan Bread.

This Lemon Garlic Chicken would be amazing in this soup and add extra layers of flavor. If you happen to have leftovers of the grilled chicken, making the soup would be a great rollover recipe idea.

Lemon Chicken Soup with Rice

5 from 3 votes
A comforting twist on traditional chicken soup with hearty rice, tender chicken and vegetables, and a bright hit of lemon.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings8 cups soup

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 ribs celery diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 medium-large yellow onion diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill or at least 1 tablespoon fresh I just use a handful to taste if I'm doing fresh!
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry/uncooked rice
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken* (rotisserie works great)
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale leaves a couple of large leaves, trimmed and chopped- see instructions in recipe details
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 can evaporated milk optional- if you'd like a creamy version

Instructions

  • Heat large stock pot to medium heat.  Add oil or butter.  Add chopped celery, carrot, and onion.  Saute 3-4 minutes until tender.  Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds more. Stir in salt, pepper and dill.  Add broth, stirring to scrape any bits off the bottom of pot.
  • Bring soup to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Add rice and stir occasionally until cooked through (about 20 minutes.)
  • While soup is simmering, wash kale leaves and use a sharp knife to remove leaves from stems. Holding leaves tightly together, finely chop into very small pieces.
  • After rice is cooked through, add chicken and kale and stir for 1-2 minutes until chicken is heated through and kale is wilted.  Remove soup from heat and stir in zest and lemon juice to taste. Also add dill if using fresh dill.
  • Makes about 8 cups of soup, and even though it's broth-based, with the rice absorbing liquid, it can become quite thick the longer it cooks.  If you'd like to thin it out a bit, or extend serving sizes, feel free to add more broth to your liking.
  • If you'd like your soup with a little creamy element, it's fantastic with one can of evaporated milk added at the end!

Notes

If you have raw chicken to use instead of fully cooked (as is called for in the recipe), follow the recipe as written, but after you add your broth, add in 1-2 chicken breasts into the pot. If your chicken pieces are more than 1/2 inch thick, consider butterflying them first.
Continue with recipe as written, adding broth and letting chicken breasts poach in soup liquid. Cook until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees. After soup is done cooking, remove chicken, shred, and place back into pot.
Course: Comort
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken soup
Author: Sara Wells
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In the mood for soup??  Check out our entire soup section, here!

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    This is the perfect chicken soup for rainy weather and runny noses. So so tasty! The lemon and dill are genius!

  2. 5 stars
    5 stars! Already a family favorite, I made this at Girls Camp last week and it was a hit!! I chopped and froze the rotisserie chicken ahead of time so it pulled together super quick. The bright lemon flavor really elevates this soup. I love that it’s so easy to throw together with minimal prep and that it’s really good for you. Not to mention it’s gluten-free and dairy-free for those with allergies–big bonus when you’re cooking for a crowd.

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is now one of our favorites. The lemon and dill add a great flavor. Easy to make.