Cozy, flavorful, and hearty, this Vegan Orzo Soup is super easy to make in 30 minutes or less! It’s packed with SO MUCH FLAVOR!
- 2 cups dry soy curls (see note 1 for substitutions)
- 2 cups vegan chicken broth (see note 2)
- 1 small to medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large ribs celery, finely chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 5-7 cups (total) vegan chicken broth (see note 2)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried) (see note 3)
- 1 cup dried orzo pasta (see note 4)
- 2-3 cups packed baby spinach (see note 5)
- Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (to taste) (see note 6)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, optional
If using soy curls:
- Rehydrate: Add the soy curls to a medium bowl. Cover the soy curls with 2 cups of the broth and press the curls down gently gently. Let sit for 10 minutes. When they’re rehydrated, use your fingers or some kitchen shears to cut any of the larger pieces into smaller pieces more suitable for soup.
- Cook until lightly browned: Heat a large nonstick pot (you can use the same pot you’ll use for the soup if you’d like) over medium high heat. Working with one handful at a time, gently squeeze the excess broth out of the soy curls and throw them in the skillet. You don’t have to go crazy getting them dry--just gently squeeze them once over the bowl and add to the pan. DON’T DISCARD THE REMAINING BROTH! You can strain out any of the remaining tiny pieces of soy curl and add it to your soup as part of the 6 cups the recipe calls for.
- Add a little oil if you want: Stir them often with a wood or silicone spoon/spatula. If you notice them start to get really dark or burned, turn the heat way off. After they start to get a little brown, you can optionally drizzle them with a little olive oil. This helps the texture firm a bit more (gives a more authentic mouthfeel to meat because of the bit of fat it imparts) but it’s not necessary.
- Set aside: Remove them from the pot and place in a bowl. It’s best to add them to the soup when the soup is nearly done so that the soy curls don’t absorb too much more broth and lose their texture.
To make the soup:
- Heat oil or cook oil-free: Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil or avocado oil (or a similar oil) to your large nonstick pot and heat over medium high heat. OR if you’re oil-free, keep adding broth or water a tablespoon at a time while you cook the veggies and stir constantly to keep from burning or sticking.
- Cook mirepoix (the base veggies): Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and stir frequently for 3 minutes until somewhat softened. Add the garlic and dried thyme and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
- Slowly pour in the broth: Now place the bay leaves and the sprig of rosemary in the broth and lightly press them down so they are submerged for a few seconds. They’ll float back up but that’s OK. Bring the whole thing to a boil.
- Add orzo: Add the orzo and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally.
- Add soy curls: When the orzo is nearly finished (takes about 10 minutes for me), add back the cooked soy curls (if using). Let those heat in the soup for about 1-2 minutes.
- Remove large herbs: Now remove your bay leaves and the stem from the rosemary. It’s totally normal and OK if the leaves of the rosemary fell off. They should be tender enough to eat now. If not, simmer your soup for a little longer.
- Add greens: Add in the spinach and stir it around till it wilts. This will take about 30-60 seconds. I know it looks like a lot of spinach but it really shrinks when it cooks, I promise.
- Season to taste: Taste the broth. If you’d like, add some sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Remove from heat.
- Add lemon: Add the fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste once you’ve removed it from the heat. I like about ¼ cup lemon juice (2 smallish lemons’ yields, usually) in my soup.
- Serve: Serve immediately and garnish each serving with a generous amount of finely chopped parsley. Enjoy! This is really good with a hunk of bread, if you like carbs as much as we do lol.
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. The pasta will absorb some of the broth and the lemon flavor may fade a bit. When reheating, feel free to add a bit more vegan chicken broth and a fresh squeeze of lemon (add this after it’s reheated). It freezes well, too--just let it cool down before freezing.
- Note 1: I used soy curls for the “chicken” because they most resemble it and they’re very easy to prepare. However, you can substitute them for anything you like including chickpeas, white beans (like butter beans) cubed tofu, store-bought vegan chicken, or even jackfruit (learn how to prepare it for soup in under 10 minutes by checking out my vegan shredded chicken). Or you may simply omit them, but you may want to use a little less broth than called for (I’d use 4-5 cups total in this case).
- Note 2: My go-to vegan chicken broth is Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base because it tastes SO GOOD. Other vegan chicken bouillon products (like Orrington Farms) will work, as will prepared vegan chicken broth (like Imagine). In a pinch, vegetable broth will also work--in this case I recommend adding a bit of poultry seasoning, which is totally vegan and just contains the herbs typically used in preparing poultry.
- Note 3: love the flavor this adds--I put a large sprig of fresh rosemary in the pot after adding the broth. You can remove the stem part at the end--the leaves usually fall off but they get very tender and edible during making the soup. If you’re worried, you can place them in an herb sachet made from cheesecloth. After simmering, just remove the bag.
- Note 4: Technically this soup would work with any pasta, not just orzo. But since this is a vegan orzo soup, I’m using orzo, lol. This would work with gluten-free pasta--just keep an eye on how it’s progressing during the cooking process since they all cook a little differently. You could even swap out the orzo for rice like I do in my vegan cream of chicken soup. Simply adjust the cook time for the type of rice you’re using (white short grain rice will cook up in a similar time frame to orzo; brown rice will take longer and may be better parboiled (partially cooked beforehand)).
- Note 5: I like to add baby spinach at the end, though you could certainly use adult spinach (just give it a rough chop) or another green. If using a heartier green such as kale or collard greens, put it in a few minutes earlier when the orzo is still al dente (chewy) so it has a chance to cook down a bit more. You may just skip the greens if you prefer--I added them as I love the texture of wilted spinach in soup and it adds a nice bit of nutritional value and color.
- Note 6: I highly, HIGHLY recommend you don’t skimp on the FRESH SQUEEZED lemon juice for this, it adds so much flavor and brightness. It makes all the flavors pop and the citrus is really refreshing in this savory soup. Turn the heat off before adding the lemon as heat can dull the flavor of lemon juice. Try before you buy: squeeze a drop or two of lemon juice into a big spoonful of the broth and taste it before adding the lemon juice to the entire pot of soup.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Vegan soup, dinner, vegan orzo soup