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Lemony Chicken Stew With Orzo

This simple chicken stew comes together in just one pot, swaps rice for orzo, and is brightened up with lemon juice for a lemony twist on the classic chicken and rice soup. 

Lemony Chicken Stew with Orzo in dutch oven

There’s something so comforting about a bowl of chicken stew or soup simmering away as the savory aromas permeate your home and please the senses. While my homemade chicken noodle soup and creamy chicken and wild rice soup are favorite winter slurpers, the magic of this brightened-up chicken stew with orzo is how it shifts easily from a winter comfort classic to light and springy spoonfuls of stewed delight.

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie, and one I come back to every year. A lot of you readers do too. Chunky chicken breast or skinless chicken thighs (your choice) are dredged in flour and then browned to add more flavor to the chicken-based broth. Lemon juice brings the zing, and compliments the earthiness of sautéed leek, carrots, and celery. Finally, dimples of orzo pasta share their starchy powers, thickening the stock with sprigs of tarragon adding an herbal anise accent.  

Orzo Lemon Chicken Stew chicken in bowl and ingredients

What’s in This Lemon Chicken Stew?

In addition to making this lemon chicken recipe simple to prep, I keep the ingredients list as short as possible. Fewer ingredients mean less prep work, which is always a good idea in my book.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy chicken stew:

  • Canola oil
  • All-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, your choice
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Leek
  • Garlic
  • Chicken stock (I prefer homemade, but storebought low-sodium chicken stock is fine)
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Orzo pasta (delightful pasta bites that when cooked in the broth help thicken the stew)
  • Fresh tarragon—or try dill or parsley
Browned chicken breast cubes

How to Make Lemony Orzo Chicken Stew

This simple chicken stew comes together in one pot and in no time (unlike other stews that require long simmer times).

Here’s how to make it:

Brown the chicken. Dredge the cubed chicken in a simply seasoned flour mixture. Then, brown the chicken on all sides in a large stockpot and transfer it to a bowl or plate.

Sauté the veggies. You’ll do this in the same pot and the veggies will take on all of that delicious, flavorful fond from cooking the chicken. Cook the carrots, celery, and onion for a few minutes before adding the leek and garlic. This way the garlic doesn’t brown too much and become bitter.

Add the chicken back into the pot, along with the orzo, stock, water, and tarragon. Over the years I’ve condensed the cooking time of this recipe by adding all of the ingredients back to the pot with the stock and water. The orzo will absorb the broth’s flavor and thicken it as it cooks. If you prefer a soupier stew, add more chicken broth or cook the orzo separately, then stir it into the soup near the end.

Season the stew. Stir in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with more fresh tarragon before serving.

Leek carrots and onion in dutch oven

Can I Use Chicken Thighs Instead of Breasts?

Yes, you can use diced boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts. Chicken thighs have less tendency to overcook, but since this is a pretty quick recipe, I’ve found chicken breasts work just as fine.

Is There an Orzo Substitute I Can Use?

If you’re having a hard time finding orzo, try a small-shaped pasta such as orecchiette, acini de pepe, ditalini, or elbow pasta. Readers have reported success using different types of rice in place of the orzo. Depending on the style (long, short, or medium grain), rice will likely need more time to cook and possibly more broth, so keep that in mind if using it.

Stock poured over chicken with orzo, leek, carrots and onion in dutch oven

Tips for Making Lemon Chicken Stew

  • For the best flavor, I prefer using my homemade chicken stock in this lemon chicken stew. If you do go the store-bought route, buy a good quality chicken broth or stock (the stock will be more robust, whereas the broth less so.)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a must for this recipe. The bottled stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal. I like using Meyer lemons for their slightly sweeter flavor. Adjust the amount to taste.
  • This stew makes great leftovers but the orzo will absorb most of the broth as it sits. Add more chicken broth with a squeeze of lemon if it becomes too thick for you.
  • You can reheat this stew on the stove or in the microwave, whichever is easiest for you.
Lemony Chicken Stew with Orzo in dutch oven

More One-Pot Meals for When You’re Short on Time

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.

Lemony Chicken Stew with Orzo in dutch oven