Melissa Elsmo

Quick cooking soups often present a conundrum for home cooks—big flavors develop over long, low, and slow cooking times, but few people have hours to spend on a weeknight dinner.

Chicken soups especially notorious for tasting better when they cook for extended periods of time. They benefit from a combination of rich homemade stock, meat pulled directly from the bones and a flavorful mirepoix made from carrots, celery and onion. So, when I make a chicken soup that delivers big bold flavors and cooks in well under an hour, I am always a happy home cook!

This super simple Greek-inspired lemon chicken soup offers a piquant lemon punch and a little bit of heat to make the most of store-bought chicken stock and boneless chicken breasts. I served the soup with a fresh green salad studded with Kalamata olives and a slice of fresh sourdough bread, but thanks to the addition of pearl couscous, this dish is a hearty meal all on its own.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.

Quick Lemony Chicken Soup with Greek Garnishes

I included an array of colorful Greek garnishes in my soup, but the base if quite flavorful on its own, too. Use all of them or just a few; its up to you!


For the soup:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
  • 10 Cups lower sodium chicken stock (I used Swanson)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Zest of 2 medium lemons
  • ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf (I used fresh)
  • ¾ Cup Israeli (pearl) couscous

For the garnishes:

  • Sliced or crumbled feta cheese
  • Chopped fresh dill
  • Sliced roasted red pepper (I used jarred peppers)
  • Additional lemon zest and chili flakes, if desired


Add the olive oil to a soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until softened, but not brown—about 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook stirring frequently until fragrant—about 30 seconds. Season onions and garlic with salt and pepper. Add the stock, raw chicken, lemon zest, oregano and chili flakes to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot. Shred the meat with two forks and return the meat to the pot. Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and allow to simmer for 6-8 minutes or until tender. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve the hot soup in bowls garnished with the feta, dill, roasted red pepper, lemon zest and chili flakes as desired.

Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.

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