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Avgolemono Chicken Soup: The Greek Winter Nectar Every YiaYia Makes

chicken soup
Avgolemono Greek chicken soup. Credit: Greek Reporter

The avgolemono chicken soup every Greek yiayia makes in the wintertime is not only the best medicine for colds, but soothes the soul as well.

A nice, hot bowl of soup with chicken is one of the standard comfort foods worldwide. However, the traditional avgolemono chicken soup Greek mothers make encompasses all the possible goodness of the dish.

In one of the first Greek cooking books influenced by French cuisine, called Σύγγραμμα Μαγειρικής (“Cooking Book”), published in Constantinople in 1863, Nikolaos Sarantis calls the particular soup “sante soupe,” literally meaning “health soup” in French.

The old French recipe includes spit-roasted chicken, carrots, celery, onions, cloves, butter — and a surprise ingredient — salami(!).

Throughout the years, however, Greek cooks, mothers and grandmothers simplified their recipes for chicken soup, but gave it that distinctive Greek flavor by adding avgolemono.

Avgolemono is a mix of egg and lemon added carefully to the chicken broth at the end of the cooking of the soup.

A healing bowl of avgolemono chicken soup

Every Greek man and woman has a childhood memory of eating an avgolemono soup with chicken their mom or yiayia made for them when they had the sniffles or a fever in the wintertime.

Greeks also eat chicken soup when they have a stomachache — and it’s handy when you want to cure a hangover too!

Like the apple a day that keeps the doctor away, avgolemono chicken soup is not only the best medicine, but it tastes great as well.

A steaming bowl of the Greek soup is not only good for the body, but heals the soul as well, giving one a wonderful feeling of well-being. The epitome of Greek comfort food.

After finishing a big bowl of avgolemono soup, one feels a soothing warmth in their whole body and the pleasant feeling of contentment.

In most cases, the Greek version of chicken soup has a little rice in it to make it more filling.

How to make a nice avgolemono

You need two eggs and two lemons for a family-size pot of chicken soup.

When your chicken soup is ready, turn off the stove without removing the pot from the heat.

1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Put the egg whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small one. Squeeze the lemons and keep the juice.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk until they become fluffy and double in volume.

2. Add the yolks, beat them a little with the whisk and then add the lemon juice slowly. Carefully mix them all together.

3. Using a spoon, take a bit of broth from the pot and, spoon by spoon, add it to the egg mixture, stirring constantly with the whisk.

Continue to add broth with the spoon, always stirring, to incorporate the broth little by little in the avgolemono. Do not stop stirring with the whisk throughout the process of adding the broth.

4. The purpose is to gradually heat the avgolemono so as the eggs do not cook and the avgolemono does not curdle (tempering).

5. When the avgolemono is ready, pour the egg and lemon mixture into the soup and swirl it in a circular motion so as to mix everything evenly. Then remove the pot from the stove.

The international feel-good dish

Chicken-based soup is a standard in international cuisine and is considered a delicious medicine for the soul and body all over the world.

In Korea, Samgye-tang – ginseng chicken soup – has a reputation for not only curing ills but also preventing disease.

Chicken soup is also known around the world as “Jewish penicillin” because Jewish people  have always believed it cures many ailments.

Variations on classic chicken soup are endless, since in every place in the world they make it just a bit differently:

It is made with corn and noodles in China; with coriander in Peru; with coconut milk in Thailand and, of course, with avgolemono in Greece.

When someone makes avgolemono soup for you, you know you’re loved. So a nice bowl of chicken soup is the perfect food for a rainy day, or any time of the year.


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