Silky and sensuous, big bold flavors. Juicy shredded chicken nestled among bouncy, flavor-saturated orzo. Pops of brightness from fresh herbs, lemon, and creamy yogurt. A bowl of this one-pot chicken and orzo tomato soup is at once rich and vibrant, a perfect transition into warmer days that are just around the corner.
A quick noodle around the internet will yield many different spins on a Turkish tomato-orzo soup. Some incorporate a red pepper paste and eggs (like this one), while others are simpler (like this one). Most have a base of tomato (fresh if in season), dried mint, and orzo.
Most are also brothy, true soups, but I really like leaning into the thickening powers of starches like pasta or grains. Reducing the liquid amount means that when the orzo is cooked directly in the soup pot the starches transform the broth into a silky, luxurious texture. I jokingly called it “orzotto” at one point, and now I can’t think of it any other way.
Recipe Hero: Orzo
Orzo is one of the best carb options for soup, in my opinion. Tender and toothsome like other pastas, while also being small and scoopable like rice or barley. It swells significantly, so a little goes a long way. It also releases plenty of starch into the soup, creating that silky, almost risotto-like texture you see in the photos.
Tomato Paste and Dried Mint
Fresh tomatoes are often the base for this type of soup, but I generally find myself craving it outside of tomato season. Rather than get frustrated with mealy, watery winter tomatoes, just skip straight to tomato paste. Its super-concentrated flavor is the easiest way to create a delicious broth. You probably have a can or tube on hand anyway!
Dried mint, which is earthier and more savory than its fresh counterpart, adds a subtle but important character. Where basil or oregano might accidentally tip the soup into pizza-land, the mint adds herbaceousness that is incredibly satisfying with the fruitiness of paprika and a finishing lemon drizzle.
Bright Garnishes for Balance
Yes, I am a broken record. Complementary Contrasts! The rich savoriness of this chicken and orzo tomato soup really pops when paired with some contrasting freshness. A squeeze of lemon is classic, as is a creamy dollop of yogurt. The acidity of both lifts everything and makes each flavor taste more like itself.
Fresh herbs, mint in particular, add a sparkling final pop of aroma. Dill is another delicious option, as is parsley. All of these herbs enhance the herby character of the dried mint in the broth, while still providing a fresh contrast that balances each bowlful.
On the Method: Starches from Orzo for a Silky Texture
As you can see in the photos, this silky soup is more akin to a creamy risotto than to a brothy soup. The starches from the orzo thicken the broth to give it this sensuous, almost creamy texture. Higher quality pastas, orzo included, often have more surface starches than cheaper brands. You can adjust the final texture to fit your mood by adding more water or stock.
Chicken and Orzo Tomato Soup: Helpful Tips
“Help! My soup is way too thick!”
Orzo loves to slurp up liquid. If left in the pot while you set the table it may continue absorbing the broth, leaving you with a sticky, thick situation. If this happens, just loosen with more water or broth, double check the seasoning, and serve right away. You’ll also probably need to add liquid when reheating leftovers.
“This doesn’t seem like enough chicken for two people…”
You can always add more, but this recipe reflects my preference for de-centering meat in everyday meals. With approximately one chicken thigh per person, you’ll be getting shredded chicken with every spoonful. This soup is packed with big, super-satisfying flavors, so you don’t need more meat to feel fed. Eating less meat is better for our planet, better for most people’s health, and gentler on the wallet!!
“Can I make this orzo tomato soup Vegan?”
Yes! Use water or a vegetable stock, omit the chicken, and skip the dairy garnishes. If you’d like a bit of protein, try a can of white beans or a classic meat alternative like vegan meatballs. Shredded mushrooms are also a great addition, and do a wonderful job mimicking the texture of shredded chicken. Oyster and lion’s mane in particular are my go-to here.
Looking for more soul-warming cozy bowl recipes?
Tomato-Braised Green Beans and Potatoes (Patate e Fagiolini in Umido)
Creamy Toasted Couscous with Greens and Fried Egg
White Beans with Sage, Spinach, and Fennel
Pisto Manchego (Spanish-Style Simmered Vegetables)
Sardinian Sausage Ragù (Pasta alla Campidanese)
Portuguese Greens and Rice (Arroz de Grelos)
Pearl Couscous with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas
Turkish-Inspired Chicken and Orzo Tomato “Orzotto” Soup
- Extra virgin olive oil, for the pan
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 cups water or stock, plus more to adjust texture
- 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved if large (About 2 average-sized thighs)
- ⅔ cup orzo
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Greek yogurt, or other thick yogurt
- Lemon wedges
- Aleppo/Silk chili flakes or Urfa chili flakes
- Torn fresh mint
- Crumbled feta
- Step 1In a large sauce pot or medium Dutch oven, combine a glug of oil, the tomato paste, and garlic over medium heat. Once sizzling, stir until the tomato paste has darkened by several shades, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the paprika, dried mint, and a generous pinch of salt. Stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Step 2Add the stock or water. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck on bits, then nestle in the chicken. Cover and simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl, then stir the orzo into the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the orzo is al dente, about 10 minutes depending on the brand. Stir occasionally to prevent the orzo from sticking.
- Step 3While the orzo boils, shred the chicken. Once the orzo is cooked, add the chicken back to the pot. Add more water or broth to adjust the texture to your preference. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Serving SuggestionsServe with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a dollop of yogurt, and/or a squeeze of lemon. Sprinkle with torn fresh mint and Aleppo/silk chili flakes or Urfa chili flakes.
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