My dad's classic Greek soup is perfect for a sick day — and way better than chicken noodle. Here's how to make it.
My dad always makes avgolemono soup when someone in the family is sick.
The classic Greek soup traditionally features chicken, rice, eggs, and lemon.
My dad's recipe is super simple — and I think it's even more comforting than chicken noodle soup.
I grew up with avgolemono soup, a classic Greek dish that traditionally combines chicken and rice with the special avgolemono sauce.
Avgolemono — pronounced Ahv-go-lem-oh-no — literally translates to egg (avgo) and lemon (lemoni) in Greek. It's a simple sauce made with egg and lemon juice that's been mixed and heated with broth.
While avgolemono is sometimes poured on top of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) or lahanodolmades (stuffed cabbage rolls) for extra flavor, the dish where it really shines is the soup that shares it name — and holds a special place in the hearts of Greeks everywhere.
My dad — an excellent home cook who grew up with a pastry-chef father — has taught me how to make some of his classic Greek recipes. With temperatures still chilly, avgolemono soup had to be next.
My dad (who also makes a delicious Greek pasta and a baklava you'll never forget) always whips up avgolemono soup for dinner when someone in our family isn't feeling well. While there are many variations of the recipe, my dad keeps it classic — just like his parents did — and only adds chicken and rice to the dish.
"You don't want to make it very heavy," he told me. "Because if someone's sick, you need something light."
Chicken noodle may be many Americans' favorite soup for a sick day, but my dad thinks avgolemono soup is far superior (and I definitely agree).
And while it'll never be as easy as just opening a can of Campbell's, my dad's recipe is still super simple. Here's how to make it.
My dad's avgolemono soup only needs a few ingredients, and you probably already have most of them in your kitchen.
To make my dad's classic avgolemono soup for four, you'll need:
2 chicken half-breasts (with bones)
2 cups chicken broth (or 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
⅔ cup medium-grain white rice
Feel free to mix things up with the chicken. You could throw in chicken legs if you prefer, or even the whole bird! And if you'd rather go meat-free, this soup is still plenty comforting when it's vegetarian-friendly.
My dad's family recipe always kept things simple, but he said the soup also works with some carrots and celery added in as well. The star of the show, though, is always the avgolemono.
Our first step is some very minimal prep, which is just chopping up the onion …
Just roughly chop half an onion — you still want chunky pieces.
… and seasoning the chicken.
My dad recommends sprinkling some salt and pepper on both sides of your chicken pieces.
Then add a tablespoon of olive oil to your pressure cooker or pot and let it warm up.
My dad now makes avgolemono soup in his pressure cooker, which allows him to finish the dish in around 20 minutes. But if you don't have one at home, you can always use this recipe with a regular pot over the stove (which should take around 30-35 minutes instead).
Once the olive oil is hot, add the onions and then the chicken.
Cook the onions over medium heat (if you're using a pressure cooker, turn it to the browning setting).
Before the onions have fully browned, toss in the chicken pieces and let them brown for around one to two minutes on each side.
Then add water and either the chicken broth or chicken bouillon cubes.
If you're using chicken bouillon cubes, my dad recommends adding 5 cups of water and 2 cubes to your pressure cooker or pot. If you're opting for chicken broth, add 3 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken broth.
Then add some salt to taste, but bear in mind that some bouillon cubes and chicken broth can already be quite salty.
Now, throw in your rice.
Cover the pot and let your chicken and rice cook. If you're using a pressure cooker, this should take around 11 minutes on the high pressure setting (the time will vary depending on your model).
While your soup is cooking, it's time to prepare the avgolemono.
First, break your eggs gently, separating the whites from the yolks over a small saucepan.
Carefully set your yolks aside.
You'll need those in just a second.
With a whisk or fork, beat the egg whites in the saucepan until they're fluffy.
You're already almost done with your sauce!
Then add the egg yolks to the mixture and whisk everything together.
"You can mix the egg whites and yolk together, but mixing the whites first makes the avgolemono fluffier," my dad told me.
Juice one lemon and add it to your beaten eggs.
Whisk everything together and voila! You've just made your very own avgolemono sauce.
Once your chicken and rice have cooked, remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside.
Let your soup cool for a few minutes, which will help when mixing the avgolemono into the broth.
Scoop some of the hot broth with a ladle and slowly pour it into the avgolemono while continuously mixing them together with a whisk or fork.
Because the avgolemono is cold and the soup is hot, you can't just dump the whole sauce into the broth. The eggs in the avgolemono would cook with the heat and curdle, ruining the soup. This tempering technique helps combine everything together, creating a soup that's silky and creamy.
Repeat the tempering step three to four times.
By this point, the avgolemono sauce should be hot enough.
Then take your avgolemono-broth mixture and pour it back into the big pot.
You're almost ready to serve!
Add your chicken meat to serving bowls along with the broth, season with some pepper, and enjoy!
What I love about avgolemono soup is that it manages to be both rich and light. The broth has the comforting thickness of, say, a chicken tortilla soup, but the lemon gives it that lightness you'd find in a classic bowl of chicken noodle.
It's such a simple recipe, but still so satisfying. I think the best word to describe the taste would be gentle — perfect for an upset stomach, a sore throat, or just a soul that needs to be soothed.
My dad's avgolemono soup has gotten me through many colds, and many cold nights. I hope his recipe can soothe you, too.
Whenever I was sick as a kid, avgolemono soup ended up on the dinner table. I actually had a sore throat when my dad taught me how to make this recipe over the holidays, and smelling that lemony broth again immediately made me feel better. This recipe isn't just a reminder of home, it's medicine.
So as we get through the January blues, a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and chilly temperatures, I hope my dad's easy avgolemono soup will help you feel a little better.
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