This easy lemon chicken quinoa soup is packed with fresh spinach leaves and has a bright, bold flavor. Use leftover or rotisserie chicken in this healthy soup for a quick shortcut!
This may be the soup equivalent of spa water. You know, that luxe, fruit-infused water that makes you feel like a healthy superstar, even if all you’re doing is just drinking a glass of water?
It checks all the boxes when you’re looking for a substantial yet lighter meal, and bonus: when you have leftover cooked chicken you’d like to use up.
By my count this is the third chicken soup recipe on here, with all three bringing very different flavors to the table. And none being classic chicken noodle soup – ha!
My easy chicken tortilla soup is on the lighter end of the spectrum with the nutritious addition of brown rice, and it calls for cooked chicken for a dinnertime shortcut.
Then we have creamy chicken and rice soup, which has my favorite, very unexpected blend of two pantry staple spices that totally makes it. I use a roux here to bring the creaminess which takes it out of the ‘healthy soup’ running, but oh man, what comfort food this is.
And now this soup. Its bold citrus flavor pairs up nicely with some of the traditional elements of chicken soup (broth-based, chicken, carrots, celery), with a hefty addition of spinach and quinoa (instead of rice or noodles).
An easy chicken broth base is brightened up with fresh lemon juice and a mix of vegetables, including celery, onion, carrots, and fresh spinach leaves.
We also have a little garlic added to the sautéing vegetables near the end of their cook time (because I’m hard-pressed not to add garlic to savory dishes).
Next we have a mix of chicken broth and water, dry spices, a bay leaf, and the quinoa. The quinoa cooks right in the soup, so there’s no need to dirty up a separate dish. Of course, if you happen to have leftover cooked quinoa on hand, you can instead add it in towards the end.
Once everything is brought to a simmer, the quinoa will take around ten to twelve minutes to cook. Cooking quinoa in broth is one of my favorite ways to give it an extra oomph flavor-wise in general, and that same trick works here as it fluffs up in the soup.
This quinoa soup may be a little thick at this point, so you can add extra broth and/or water if you like.
Now’s the time to add cooked chicken and the spinach. Let everything simmer as the chicken warms up and the spinach wilts.
While you can technically stop there and have yourself a nice chicken quinoa soup, I *highly* suggest stirring in some fresh lemon juice. I usually use about two big lemons or lemon medium sized ones. It adds such an amazing flavor here that makes this soup bright and spring-y.
One other highly recommended tip for serving: grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese. We didn’t eat soup without a heavy dusting of it growing up, and that remains true today.
- Using the meat from a rotisserie chicken is my usual move here, but any kind of cooked or grilled chicken works just fine.
- Kale can be used instead of spinach, though you’ll have to add it sooner into the cook time as it needs more time to tenderize.
Lemon Chicken Quinoa Soup with Spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups water, plus 1-2 cups additional if needed
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper or to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- Juice of 2-3 lemons or to taste
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, for serving
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring a few times. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add dry quinoa and stir. Let quinoa toast for 1-2 minutes, then add chicken broth, 3 cups of water, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and bay leaf and stir to combine.
- Bring soup to a simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the quinoa is fully cooked. You should notice the quinoa germ ring (that little squiggle) has separated from the kernel. Add additional water and/broth, up to 2 cups, if soup has thickened too much.
- Add cooked chicken and spinach and stir. Simmer for several minutes until the spinach leaves have wilted and chicken is warm. Remove bay leaf and stir in lemon juice to taste. Add additional salt/pepper as needed. Highly recommended: serve with a heavy sprinkle of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
Soup recipe adapted from Food Network.
New pictures added June 2020 with just a slight zhush to the recipe (added celery and bay leaf).