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Chicken Meatball Soup with Feta & Orzo

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Easy but takes some time
Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner This chicken meatball soup is a slight variation on a recipe that was published in the New York Times and created by Yasmin Fahr. My friends Deryn and Deena made it for me when I was sick, and wow, it did the trick. This soup is deeply flavorful and packed full of turmeric and ginger, powerful antioxidants that are just what you need when you have a bug or just need a healthy meal to chill out on when there has been too much going on in life. To tell you the truth, I'd be happy to eat it every week!

My Variations

Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill and orzo | Something New For Dinner I have changed the ingredients up a bit to include mushrooms and zucchini as I like to bulk up on a variety of plants when I make soup. I add fresh ginger to the meatball seasoning. I use the oats in the meatballs, but do not put them in the soup broth. Instead I add orzo to the broth. Rather than pan-frying the meatballs, I bake them in the oven to reduce time and mess.

Fennel vs. Dill

Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner Fennel and dill are quite similar, but are actually two different plants. Fennel has longer leaves and has a more distinct liquorice taste. This recipe calls for a lot of fresh dill, which is either not regularly available in the markets I shop in, or can be priced at $3.50 or more for just a couple little stems. My solution is to buy a bulb of fennel, which could be cut up and cooked with the onions for the soup, or used for another application. Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner I use the fennel leaves for the meatballs. The good news is that fennel bulbs have plenty of fresh leaves attached to the bulb, making it an economic alternative to fresh dill.

Why Use Oats in Meatballs?

Instead of breadcrumbs, this recipe uses oats in the meatballs. There are several benefits to using oats in meatballs, including:
  • Oats are low in calories and high in fiber, making your meatballs a little bit healthier.
  • Oats absorb moisture and flavoring make your meatballs tender, juicy and delicious.
  • Meatballs made with chicken or turkey tend to be drier; oatmeal helps keep them juicy and moist.

Seasoning Meatballs

Meatballs are seasoned with herbs, spices, cheese, aromatics, and most importantly salt. Meatballs are one dish where it is important to never skimp on salt. As a general rule when making meatballs, I use 1 t of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of meat. Diamond Crystal is a unique salt due to its hollow, multi-faceted crystals. Compared to table salt, it contains about 50% less salt by volume. So one teaspoon of table salt has about the same amount of salt as 2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal.

Diamond Crystal Kosher salt | something New For Dinner

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Diamond Crystal is also less dense than Morton's kosher salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt instead of Diamond Crystal, cut back by about one third.

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Do yourself a favor and switch to Diamond Crystal kosher salt. I keep a small bowl by my range and use it for everything. It dissolves faster than table salt or Morton's Kosher salt due to its more fragile crystals. Note: the Diamond Crystal packaging has changed with a new design and smaller package so you no longer have to buy 3 pounds at a time.

Additional Meatball Seasonings

Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner In addition to Diamond Crystal salt, these meatballs are deeply seasoned with onion, fresh dill, feta cheese, turmeric and grated fresh ginger. Note: the feta cheese also adds a saltiness to your meatballs, just like parmesan cheese does to traditional Italian meatballs.

Baking vs Frying Meatballs

Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill and orzo | something New For Dinner Yasmin Fahr's original recipe calls for frying the meatballs in batches in the same pot that you make the soup. I find this method a little crowded and time consuming. Instead, I bake the meatballs on a sheet pan covered with a piece of parchment paper. I find this method to be both faster and requires less hands-on attention. Instead of hovering over your meatballs on the hot stove, put them in the oven and walk away for 20 minutes. They will not be perfectly browned on all sides, but once they are incorporated into the soup, it really doesn't matter.

Food Processor Saves Time

Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner The original recipe calls for grating half of the onion and pressing it with paper towels to remove moisture. The remaining onion is for the broth and is hand-chopped. To save time I put the onion for the meatballs in the food processor and finely process it. I remove the finely minced onion and put it in a fine mesh sieve and use paper towels to press out the excess water. Chicken meatball soup with feta, dill. and orzo | Something New For Dinner Then I add a second onion for the soup to the food processor and pulse to achieve a medium size chop. This saves both time and my hands. Breville food processor | Something New For Dinner

Photo credit: Amazon

I frequently get asked which food processor I prefer. For the past few years I have been using the largest 16-cup Breville food processor. Prior to that I had a huge 20-cup Cuisinart that I used for 20 years. Sadly, this model is no longer being made. When buying a food processor, my general rule of thumb is to buy the largest, high-quality device you can afford, because the best value you will get from your food processor is when you are cooking large volumes.


This soup freezes fairly well, but not perfectly. You need to thaw carefully and not heat too high when reheating as the meatballs will fall apart. Even if they do fall apart, you will still enjoy a flavorful second meal. It will be just a little less pleasing to the eye. This Chicken Meatball soup is so good, however, that you will be glad to get a second meal out of your efforts.
I like to thaw my Chicken Meatball soup in the fridge overnight or by placing the frozen soup container in a pot of water. I reheat it gingerly in a pot or in the microwave. I hope you enjoy this lovely soup!

Recipe Updated

This Chicken Meatball soup recipe was updated on 5/23/23 and the quantities cut in half as my original amounts called for a very large pot that many people do not have. Feel free to use the recipe sizer to double or triple the recipe.

Chicken Meatball, Lemon & Orzo Soup




Yield 8 servings

This chicken meatball soup with orzo is loaded with turmeric & ginger, making it comforting, whether you are sick or just need a chill meal.


For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 red onion, grated or finely minced in a food processor
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill finely chopped, including stems
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1 t kosher salt, preferably Diamond Krystal

For the soup:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped 
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 T turmeric
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 3 quarts of chicken stock
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 small or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
  • 1/2 pound dried orzo
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 lemon

For the garnish:

  • Fresh dill sprigs
  • Sour cream, labneh or Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Lemon squeezes


For the meatballs: 

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the minced onion in a strainer and press with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  2. Combine chicken, feta, rolled oats, grated onion, dill, cumin, turmeric, ginger and salt in a bowl, gently with your hands until just mixed. 
  3. Wet your hands and form 1 1/2" balls, taking care to gently form the balls without overworking the mixture. 
  4. Place meatballs in the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until they begin to brown. Remove from oven, let sit to cool and set aside. 

For the soup:

  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, such as a Le Creuset, heat the oil on medium high heat and add onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until soft and just starting to color, about 4 - 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 3 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Stir in the turmeric and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the chicken stock to the pot, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Gently drop in the meatballs and zucchini. Return to a boil and add the orzo. Immediately reduce heat and cook to orzo package instructions, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on brand. 
  3. Stir in spinach and lemon juice, let cook for another minute to wilt lettuce and remove from heat.


  1. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, add a spoonful of sour cream, labneh or greek yogurt and garnish with a sprig of dill.


  1. 2 teaspoons of kosher salt may seem like a lot, but meatballs require seasoning or they will be bland. make sure you use kosher salt and preferably Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you use diamond Crystal use 2 teaspoons. If you use Morton's salt reduce to 1 1/4 teaspoons as Morton's is saltier by volume due to the difference in crystal shape. if you use table salt use 1 t or less. 
  2. This recipe calls for a lot of turmeric. I use 1 t  in the meatballs and a whopping 2 T in the soup. Feel free to back off on the soup quantity a bit if you want. Be very careful when handling turmeric as it will stain everything, including your fingers. 
  3. Start with 3 quarts of chicken broth and then add more if the soup is too thick. The orzo absorbs a lot of liquid so additional broth may be needed. 
  4. This recipe makes a lot of soup and will easily make 12 good sized portions. 
  5. This soup can be frozen, but care must be taken in thawing and reheating or the meatballs will fall apart. it will still taste amazing, but the meatballs can crumble. I prefer to thaw in the fridge and then gently reheat to best preserve the meatballs.

Courses Dinner

Cuisine New American, Middle Eastern


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