Creamy chicken orzo soup (tavuk çorbası) is a staple of lokantas (cafeteria-style restaurants) and a firm favorite among Turkish home cooks. Tavuk çorbası has a silky consistency, is super savory and must be one of the most comforting soups of all time! A creamy soup with tender pasta and juicy chicken is just what you need for a perfect cozy night in.
A TAKEAWAY FAVORITE
When my husband and I were living in Turkey, whenever he wanted to order in pide or lahmacun late at night, I would always order this creamy chicken orzo soup. Partly because it’s one of my favorite Turkish soups, partly because it’s probably one of the easiest soups to digest before bed. Tripe soup is delicious (and supposedly a great hangover cure), but it’s definitely on the heavy side. I also always thought that pide and lahmacun, like pizza, are much better eaten hot straight from a wood-fired oven. They always turn out soggy and greasy after being enclosed, still steaming, in a box. And being tossed around while being driven around town for 15 min, definitely doesn’t increase their appeal to me. But a creamy, tart, comforting tavuk çorbası served with wedges of lemon and slices of fluffy white bread, now this was always a resounding success!
What’s süzme yogurt?
If you go to a Turkish shop, you’ll most commonly spot 2 main types of yogurt in the refrigerated section: Kaymaksız yoğurt and Süzme yoğurt. Kaymaksız yoğurt is the most widely used yogurt, it is similar to natural yogurt but thicker. It is the main ingredient to make ayran (refreshing drink), it’s spooned next to pilafs, turned into sauces, etc… Kaymaklı yoğurt is the same yogurt as kaymaksız yoğurt but it has a thin skin over the top of the yogurt. The other type of yogurt is süzme yogurt, which is kaymaksız yoğurt that has been strained. Thus it’s even thicker and slightly fattier. It’s mostly used to make mezzes. I prefer making yogurt-based soups with süzme yogurt because it’s richer.
However, if you can’t get your hands on either style of Turkish yogurt you can make this recipe with whole-milk Greek yogurt (preferably 10% fat). Greek yogurt is tangier and creamier but it definitely works out with this recipe. I make this soup with full-fat Greek yogurt whenever I’m too lazy to go to a Turkish shop, since Greek yogurt is available in supermarkets in France. I can attest that the creamy chicken orzo soup always turns out just as good made with Greek yogurt. It might seem weird to use yogurt to make a hot soup, especially if you never cooked with yogurt before, but there’s nothing like a Turkish/Greek/Armenian yogurt-based cook! One spoonful is all it will take to make you fall in love with this luscious creamy, slightly tart, soup.
KEEP IT OVER MEDIUM HEAT
The only thing to keep in mind while making a Turkish creamy orzo chicken soup is to be mindful of the heat, especially after pouring the yogurt mixture into the pan. If the temperature is too high the egg yolk might scramble, instead of simply binding the soup together, the yogurt might curdle and the soup might become a bit too thick. A yogurt-based soup should definitely never come to a boil. So be patient and don’t try to rush things up! It looks intimidating, but honestly, as long as you keep the soup over medium heat once the yogurt has been added to the stock and you stir it from time to time, everything will be A-OK.
Chicken thighs also work well for this recipe as the skin and bones bring extra flavor to the stock. You can poach them the same way as the chicken breasts and discard the bones and skin before dicing the meat. Thighs are fattier than breasts so the meat will be more tender. However, you can make this soup faster with chicken breasts and when poached properly they can be pretty juicy too!
If you don’t have orzo on hand, you can use a different type of small pasta. As long as they are teeny tiny (like pastina, stelline, fideo spaghetti, alphabet) and you keep an eye on them when browning, your tavuk çorbası will turn out great!
I do love the kick you get from sprinkling pul biber over the soup but using chopped fresh herbs, ground black pepper or dried mint is just as common. It’s customary to squeeze lemon juice over Turkish soups and this soup is no exception. Lemon juice cuts through the richness of a creamy orzo chicken soup beautifully and I wholly encourage you to try it!
The thickness of the soup can depend on personal tastes. I usually don’t want my tavuk çorbası to be too watery, I prefer a bit of substance but to the point where I feel like I’m eating a bowl of white sauce. If you want a thinner soup, incorporate just-boiled water at the end (2 tbsp at a time so you can gauge the consistency). If you want a thicker soup you can either add a couple more tablespoons of flour to the yogurt mixture or use 1 cup of pasta (instead of ¾).
If you have leftover yogurt, here are some of my favorite recipes to use it up:Print
Tavuk çorbası is a creamy chicken orzo soup. It is hands down, the most comforting Turkish soup ever! One spoonful is all it will take to make you fall head over heels for this luscious, slightly tart, soup full of tender pasta and juicy chicken.
- 2 small chicken breasts, about 250g (9 oz)
- 1.2L water (5 cups)
- 3 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 30g butter (2 tbsp)
- 75g orzo pasta (arpa şehriye), (2.5 oz, ¾ cup) or use another type of short pasta
- 350g Turkish süzme yoghurt, or use whole-milk Greek yoghurt (1 ½ cup)
- 1 egg yolk
- 50g all-purpose flour (3 heaped tbsp)
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 tsp pul biber, or use another type of chilli flakes (optional)
- Poach the chicken breasts. Put the chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with the water. Add the salt and black pepper and bring to a simmer over high heat. When bubbles start to rise to the surface, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 13 min. Remove the chicken breasts from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool on a cutting board. Strain the chicken stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a big bowl and reserve. Cut the chicken breasts into 1,5cm (½ in) cubes.
- Cook the orzo. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the orzo when the butter has melted and begins to sizzle. Sauté until the orzo turn a deep golden brown, about 7 min (keep an eye on it because it can burn). Pour the reserved stock into the pan, and increase heat to quickly bring to a boil. When the stock is boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the orzo is tender, about 7 to 10 min. Remove from the heat.
- Thicken the soup. Whisk the yogurt and egg yolk together in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and whisk well until completely combined. Gradually pour 500ml (2 cups) of the stock onto the yogurt mixture while whisking constantly (it’s okay if there is some orzo in the stock). Then slowly pour the yogurt sauce into the pan with the rest of the stock and stir. Place the pan over medium heat. Cook the soup, stirring regularly, until it thickens and reaches the same consistency as buttermilk, about 12 min. Add the cubed chicken during the last 5 min to warm up. To prevent the yogurt from curdling, the temperature of the soup shouldn’t go above 85°C (185°F). Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Divide the soup into 3 bowls/plates and serve with wedges of lemon. I like to sprinkle pul biber (chili flakes) over the top to spice up this creamy chicken orzo soup but it’s totally up to you.
This creamy chicken orzo soup can keep for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
The soup will thicken as it cools down. If you’ve got leftover soup, gently warm it through and the consistency should turn back to normal. If not you can always stir in just-boiled water (2 tbsp at a time) to thin it down.
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 728
Keywords: turkish soup, chicken soup, warming winter meals