Instant Pot Lemon Chicken Soup

This Instant Pot lemon chicken soup is so simple and SO delicious. Loaded with fresh lemon, tender chicken, veggies, and orzo pasta, this healthy, easy, Greek-inspired chicken soup will become a favorite!

Friends, grab your fuzziest sweatshirt, your ugliest slippers, and your Instant Pot because today we’re making my very favorite lemon chicken soup.

Everyone needs a solid chicken soup recipe in their repertoire, and this Instant Pot chicken soup recipe is ours. It’s the best comfort food, especially if you’ve got a bunch of sick kids, which explains why it’s one of our most-cooked winter meals of. all. time. 

It’s loaded with lemon and packed with fresh vegetables, chicken, and pasta, leaving you feeling fully alive and wholly satisfied. The base is smooth and velvety but brothy enough to slurp. Just ask my daughter who likes to slurp every drop of broth from the bowl first, and eat the rest like a pasta dish.

My favorite thing about this soup might be that it cooks in a fraction of the time in the Instant Pot. For a long time, I made this soup on the stove, but it turns out the electric pressure cooker requires even less of my attention and is actually way better at cooking perfectly tender, shreddable chicken.

Before we dive into the recipe, let’s address the true reason why we’re all here: the lemon! It’s just life-giving, isn’t it? I make this soup all year long, but it’s also the first thing I make the second anyone in our family has even the slightest sniffle.

Here, fresh lemon adds brightness and balances the salty flavor of this chicken soup while also tenderizing the meat during cooking. The result is a soup brimming with juicy, tender chicken that’s not the slightest bit tough or dried out. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no lemon flavor, and 10 being sucking on a lemon, this soup comes in around a 7. Plenty lemony but with plenty more pucker potential if that’s how you roll. 

Now, who’s ready for a bowl? 

Ingredients for Instant Pot Lemon Chicken Soup 

  • Olive oil
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried herbs)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chicken broth
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Chicken thighs or breast (raw or cooked)
  • Pasta (I love it with orzo but any kind of noodle will work)
  • Baby spinach

How to make this easy Instant Pot chicken soup

Using your Instant Pot’s saute setting, heat the olive oil. Add your carrots, celery, onion, garlic, dried herbs, and raw chicken. Yes, raw! No pre-cooking is needed. We’re going for efficiency here. Season everything with some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and saute for 7-10 minutes – just until the veggies have softened a bit and the exterior of the chicken is mostly opaque. 

Next, add your chicken broth, lemon juice, and pasta. Cook at high pressure for 4 minutes followed by a 15-20 minute natural release to allow the orzo to plump up. 

Here’s where it all comes together! Take off the lid and use a pair of tongs to remove the chicken. For chunkier chicken soup, let the chicken cool for a few minutes and pull it apart with your fingers. For finer chicken, shred it using two forks. Add the chicken pieces back to the pot and stir in the spinach. Portion into bowls (top with a lemon slice if you’re feeling fancy), and serve with crusty bread or a salad.  

Serving suggestions

This soup is hearty enough to be a standalone meal (one of the many reasons why I love it) but it is also great served with: 

  • A big slice of crusty bread for dipping, melted cheese on top optional
  • Crumbled saltines or oyster crackers 
  • A side salad with sliced apples and goat cheese to balance the acidity of the soup, and walnuts for crunch
  • Grilled vegetable panini or veggie Croque monsieur 

How to store leftovers

This easy recipe makes a large pot of soup, so you will likely have leftovers! 

To store, transfer cooled lemon chicken soup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. 

Keep in mind the soup will continue to thicken over time as the pasta absorbs more liquid. To thin it out, just add a little water or chicken broth when reheating.

How to freeze lemon chicken soup with orzo

Cooked pasta has a tendency to get mushy after freezing. For that reason, it’s best to refrigerate leftovers.

That said, I have frozen small amounts of this soup (1-2 cups) as backup meals for my kids. Yes, freezing makes it a bit mushy, but the flavor is still great and my kids still eat it without complaint, so it’s definitely worth trying rather than letting it go to waste. 

To freeze, transfer cooled soup to an airtight container or freezer bag (I personally love these little mason jars for freezing small amounts of soup), and freeze for up to 2-3 months.

beautiful overhead photo of a pot of instant pot lemon chicken soup with orzo on a light background

Is lemon chicken soup healthy?

This lemon chicken soup is packed with fresh veggies and lean protein that will keep both fueled and satisfied, not to mention lots of essential vitamins and minerals. It’s a great, healthy dinner, and leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day.

 Here are a few nutritional highlights:

  1. Lean protein from chicken
  2. Vitamin C from lemon juice & baby spinach 
  3. Vitamins K and A from spinach 
  4. Iron from both spinach and chicken, with enhanced absorption from Vitamin C
  5. Fiber and potassium from the veggies (plus more potassium from the chicken!)

For a bit more fiber and protein, you could use whole wheat pasta instead of traditional white pasta. DeLallo makes a whole wheat orzo I’ve been wanting to try! 

Frequently asked questions

Why lemon in chicken soup?

Lemon adds brightness and balances the rich, salty flavor of chicken soup. When added before cooking, the acidity also helps tenderize the chicken as it cooks, resulting in juicier and more tender meat.

How much lemon juice do I need for lemon chicken soup?

If you want just a hint of lemon, start with 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice and add more to taste, if desired. 

For a more pronounced lemon flavor (how this recipe is written), add a ⅓-½ cup of fresh lemon juice.

I don’t have fresh lemons. Can I use bottled lemon juice?

Fresh lemon juice will yield the best taste. However, bottled lemon juice can be substituted for fresh if not available. If using bottled lemon juice, it’s best to start with 1-2 tablespoons and add 1 additional tablespoon at a time until desired taste is achieved.

Can I use a different type of pasta instead of orzo?

Yes! Substitute any small pasta you like for the orzo. For best results, substitute pasta by weight, not volume. Some good kinds of pasta to substitute include Elbow macaroni (small), Ditalini, and Stelline. Egg noodles also work well.

How do I make this recipe gluten-free?

To make gluten-free lemon chicken soup, substitute your favorite small, gluten-free pasta for the orzo (by weight, not volume).

Substitution suggestions

  • Chicken: If you prefer to use cooked chicken instead, add 2-3 cups of finely chopped or shredded chicken when adding the spinach. Stir well and use the Instant Pot’s Saute function to warm until heated through, if necessary. 
  • Pasta: For best results, substitute pasta by weight, not volume. Some good kinds of pasta to substitute include small Elbow macaroni, Ditalini, and Stelline. If you’re craving a bowl of chicken noodle soup, use egg noodles instead.

Slow cooker instructions

Here’s how to make this Instant Pot lemon chicken soup in the slow cooker:

  1. Add the olive oil, raw chicken thighs, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, dried herbs, salt and pepper to the slow cooker, followed by the broth and lemon juice. Give everything a good stir and cover.
  2. Slow cook on LOW heat for 6-8 hours.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the slow cooker. Set the slow cooker to HIGH and the orzo. Stir well, cover, and cook the orzo for 30-40 minutes, or until very plump.
  4. While the orzo cooks, shred the chicken. For chunkier chicken soup, let the chicken cool for a few minutes and pull it apart with your fingers. For finer chicken, shred it using two forks.
  5. When the orzo has cooked to your liking, add the chicken meat back to the soup and stir in the spinach. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Once the spinach has wilted, portion it into bowls and garnish with lemon slices if desired.

Other Instant Pot recipes you might like:  

You can also find all of my Instant Pot recipes here.

overhead photo of a pot of instant pot lemon chicken soup with orzo on a light background
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Recipe

Instant Pot Lemon Chicken Soup

Soup loaded with lemon, vegetables, chicken, and pasta. What’s more to love?

  • Prep Time:
    20 minutes
  • Total Time:
    45 minutes
  • Makes:
    11 cups 1x
  • Prep Time:
    20 minutes
  • Total Time:
    45 minutes
  • Makes:
    11 cups 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
    • 3 large carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
    • 4 large celery stalks, sliced (about 1 cup)
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley)
    • ½1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
    • ¾ cup (5 ounces) uncooked orzo
    • 3 packed cups (about 3 ounces) fresh baby spinach
    • Sliced lemon for garnish (optional) 

    Instructions

    1. Saute your aromatics and chicken thighs. Using your Instant Pot’s sauté function, set it to SAUTE — NORMAL. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the raw thicken thighs, chopped onion, carrots, celery, garlic, dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Sauté, occasionally stirring, for 7-10 minutes or until veggies have softened and the exterior of the chicken is mostly opaque. Press CANCEL to turn off the Instant Pot.
    2. Add liquids and pasta and pressure cook. Add broth, lemon juice, and orzo and stir to combine. Lock the lid on the Instant Pot, ensuring the steam release valve is set to the SEALING position. Set Instant Pot to PRESSURE COOK — HIGH for 4 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for 15-20 minutes to let orzo plump up. Manually release any remaining pressure. 
    3. Shred chicken, stir in spinach & serve. Remove chicken from the pot. For chunkier chicken soup, let the chicken cool for a few minutes and pull it apart with your fingers. For finer chicken, shred it using two forks. Add the chicken meat back to the soup and stir in the spinach. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Once the spinach has wilted, portion into bowls and garnish with lemon slices if desired.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Prep

    • Chop the carrots, celery, and onion up to 5 days in advance. 
    • Juice lemons and store juice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Wash veggies, help peel carrots and juice lemon; help measure & add ingredients to the pot
    • Little Kids: All of the above plus help with chopping the vegetables (closely supervised)  
    • Big Kids: Give them the recipe and see how they do! 

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information calculated using boneless skinless chicken thighs and with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. 

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Calories: 152
    • Sugar: 3 g
    • Sodium: 580 mg
    • Fat: 7 g
    • Saturated Fat: 2 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 5 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 14 g
    • Fiber: 2 g
    • Protein: 9 g
    • Cholesterol: 27 mg

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    beautiful overhead photo of a bowl of instant pot lemon chicken soup with orzo on a light background with title text overlay

    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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      • Hi there,
        I’ve never made this recipe with chicken breasts so I can’t say for sure, however, I recommend pounding the chicken breasts first to an even thickness (about 1-inch). Cooking time should be about the same if they’re pounded, but double-check with a meat thermometer or by cutting into them after pressure cooking. I’d love to know how it turns out if you try it!