Lemon Chicken Soup is a quick and easy dinner idea that's each member of the family can customize with their choice of carbs and veggies. It's one of our 20 minute meal ideas, made from scratch, that you can serve family style!
What's a better meal for dark and chilly winter evenings than a warm broth-based soup like this easy Lemon Chicken Soup? Whether you're watching your carbs or you want to up your greens, this build-your-own soup bar fits the bill perfectly for every family member.
The Idea Behind A Build Your Own Soup Bar
Whenever we visit my Italian mother-in-law and she makes her perfectly simple chicken noodle soup, she always adorns the bowls first with noodles and chicken and then gracefully ladles the steaming broth into the bowl. The process yields the perfect temperature of comforting goodness and allows for the big and little folks at the table to lovingly interject "more noodles for me please" or "extra chicken over here." I thought the same concept would work so well for a quick weeknight meal.
Tips For Making Lemon Chicken Soup in 20 Minutes
The key to getting this board together in a short period of time lies in the first two steps.
Get the kettle boiling and the three pans heating up.
I've chopped enough onions in my day now that I'm pretty quick at getting a good mince efficiently but a rough chop and throwing the onions into your food processor is another shortcut that works.
Strategic Hand Washing With Raw Chicken
I also find being strategic with hand washing is key. Raw chicken obviously carries a high risk of contamination so I try to only touch it once, so I only have to wash my hands once after coming into contact with it. That said, you could also use tongs, but make certain the tongs with raw chicken on them don't touch the cooked chicken.
Fast Cooking Carbs and Quick Cooking Veggies
Israeli (or long grain) couscous is a fun pearl to add to soups. It cooks faster than orzo and has a texture that holds up well in liquid. And not having to pre-cook green vegetables like escarole, spinach and frozen peas saves you a step as the hot broth wilts them to an al dente texture.
Customizing Your Soup Bowls
This type of build-your-own soup board works well for a family with different tastes. There's no way the spinach or escarole are making it into my five-year-old's bowl, but we compromise with peas. (Carrots or corn would also be great substitutions/additions to this board.) I tend to load up on the greens and go easy on the couscous.
Like all of the meals in the On Board in 20 series, the objective is to not only make meal prep time shorter by serving more dishes family style, but also to give more control and choice to family members, encouraging lively and healthy conversations around the dinner table. Enjoy!
- ½ white or yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1½ tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup dried long grain (Israeli) couscous
- 1.5 litres of unsalted chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5 cups of escarole, torn into bite-sized pieces, lightly packed
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped and lightly packed
- 1 lemon, cut into six segments
- small handful of fresh dill
- ⅔ cup of frozen peas
- Fill kettle and heat to a boil. Place a heavy cast iron griddle pan over medium-high heat. Place a large pot/Dutch oven over medium heat. Place a medium pot over medium heat.
- Finely chop the onion. (This can be done in a food processor as well.) To the large pot add the olive oil and chopped onion. Saute until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Lay a down a piece of parchment paper the same size as your cutting board. Lay out the two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and season generously with oregano, salt and pepper. Lay another piece of parchment over the chicken. Pound the chicken out until it is about ½-inch thick. Place the chicken in the preheated cast iron pan. Cook about 5 minutes per side. When cooked, remove from pan, let rest about 3 minutes and then slice.
- While the chicken is cooking, add the couscous to the medium pan and pour the kettle water over until the couscous is generously covered. Boil the couscous for about 8 minutes, then drain and rinse.
- Add the stock and the bay leaf to the onions. Place a lid on the pot, turn to high and bring to a boil.
- While chicken, couscous and broth are cooking, wash and dry fresh dill.
- Rinse peas under warm warm in sieve and place in a small bowl.
- To assemble: Place boiling broth on a wooden serving board (on a trivet if necessary) and remove bay leaf. Drain couscous and put in small serving bowl with a spoon. Add spinach, escarole, dill and lemons to serving board. Add peas to board.
- To serve: Have people add couscous, chicken and greens to their liking to their individual bowls. Ladle hot broth over and garnish with fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon.
Looking for More 20-Minute Meal Ideas?
- Vegetarian Potato & Cauliflower Curry
- Coconut & Bean Soup with Crostini Bar
- The Big Banh Mi Sandwich
- Or check out our entire 20-Minute Meal gallery for more ideas!
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Lisa Dawn Bolton is a food stylist, recipe developer and creator of beautiful grazing boards. You can find her work at lisadawnbolton.com. She lives in the Lower Mainland of BC. Her first cookbook, On Boards, (affiliate link), released by Appetite by Penguin Random House in October 2018 is now available. You can reach her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.