This Middle Eastern Orzo Soup, an Egyptian classic known as Shorbet Lesan El Asfour, is not just traditional comfort food — it’s also budget-friendly, lightning-fast to whip up, and designed to satisfy a crowd. Whether you choose to savor it solo or pair it with your favorite sides, get ready for a warm meal that’ll have the whole family singing its praises!

overhead image of Middle Eastern Orzo Soup topped with shredded chicken with a white bowl on top of a white plate with a spoon on the side

Why You’ll Love Middle Eastern Orzo Soup

For us, indulging in this hearty and comforting Egyptian classic is a trip down memory lane. We practically grew up with this soul-warming delight, and it’s not just nostalgic. It’s a staple in our homes now, and a taste of tradition that withstands the test of time. Packed with aromatic spices and generous portions of chicken, it’s the ultimate spot-hitter on a chilly winter day.

What’s more, it’s a feast fit for a family or a genius meal-prep choice for the next day’s adventures. We could go on and on about why this dish is a winner, but we’ll keep it short!

It’s: 

  • Simple to make
  • Healthy and filling
  • Budget-friendly
  • Even tastier the next day

What Is Orzo? 

One of the most common questions we get is, “Is orzo pasta or rice?” Honestly, at first glance, it’s hard to tell! However, while orzo may look like a grain, it’s actually part of the pasta family! In fact, Italians often refer to it as pastina due to its small size. 

Orzo gets its name because of how it resembles barley. Actually, when translated, the word orzo actually means barley in Italian. Typically, orzo is made from a combination of whole wheat and semolina flour. However, some pasta makers will use white flour or whole grain flour as well. You can even find gluten-free versions in some stores! After the dough is formed, it is rolled out and punched into its traditional oblong form and has a slightly chewy, almost rice-like texture once cooked. 

How Did Shorbet Lesan El Asfour Get Its Name?

Shorbet is an Arabic word that translates to the word soup. Any time you see the word shorbet in front of a recipe, like in our scrumptious Shorbet Ads you can automatically know that it is a soup. 

Next, Lesan el Asfour (sometimes written as lisan al-asfour) directly translates to mean bird’s tongue. Don’t worry, though! You won’t find any tongues in the ingredients list for this recipe. Instead, the name was inspired by the shape of the orzo used to complete the dish. You see, if you look closely at a single piece of orzo, you will notice that it resembles a bird’s tongue in its shape. 

So, when put together the words mean bird’s tongue soup! Or, for simplicity’s sake, we often just referred to is as orzo soup. No matter what you call this recipe, it’s always tasty! 

When to Eat Shorbet Lesan Al Asfour

As we begin to observe Ramadan each year, we are excited to gather around the table with our family and eat this scrumptious soup during Iftar. Iftar is the mealtime that occurs after sundown when we break our fast each night. It is a cherished time to spend practicing our faith with our families during the holy month of Ramadan.

However, outside of Ramadan, we love to keep Lesan El Asfour in our regular meal rotation, especially during the wintertime! You will find that this orzo soup is quite similar to chicken noodle soup and provides warmth, comfort, and nourishment with every bowl.

In addition, we find that it is the perfect soup for when you aren’t feeling well. Our mom made it for us when we had colds as children, and now we do the same for our kiddos!

Ingredients You’ll Need

The ingredients for this recipe are simple but create a unique flavor we know you’re going to love! Take a look at everything you’ll need: 

  • Whole Chicken – The addition of protein helps transform this recipe into a complete meal. Plus, the fat from the dark meat adds tons of flavor.
  • Onion – Used primarily to enhance the savoriness of this dish, onions also help boost the fiber content. 
  • Seasonings and Flavor Enhancers – Cardamom pods, ground cardamom, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, and mastic gum create a warm and comforting taste. 
  • Water – This forms the base of the soup and allows the orzo to cook until soft. 
  • Toasted Orzo Pasta – High in carbs, orzo makes this soup extra filling. 

How to Make Middle Eastern Orzo Soup

This recipe might look complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really simple to make! 

  1. Pour the water into a large stock pot. 
  2. Then, add the onion and seasonings
  3. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and add the chicken to the pot. 
  4. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer
  5. Remove the chicken, bay leaf, cardamom pods, and mastic
  6. In a separate dry pan, toast the orzo over low heat until it is fragrant. 
  7. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate. 
  8. Bring the liquid back up to a boil, and cook the orzo according to the package instructions. 
  9. In the meantime, use two forks to shred the chicken to add back to the soup. Or, slice it to serve on the side
  10. Serve warm with a squeeze of fresh lime juice or a sprinkle of fresh herbs such as parsley. 

Preparation Tips

After countless years perfecting this recipe, consider us your culinary time-travel guides. Why spend ages figuring it out when we’ve already done the hard work? Lucky for you, we’re spilling all the secrets and handing over our tried-and-true tips. 

Prepare the Chicken. You’ll want to be sure to clean your chicken thoroughly and remove the gizzards before you begin to cook. 

Wrap the Aromatics. To make it easier to remove them from the pot, wrap the bay leaf, cardamom pods, and mastic in a mesh bag before adding them to your orzo soup. Think of it as a tea bag for soup! 

Let Vent. We highly recommend using a stock pot that has a small hole in the top or setting the top down slightly off to the side to leave a vent. This allows the steam to escape from the pot while cooking so it doesn’t gather up under the lid! 

Use Plenty of Salt. If you don’t add enough, the flavor of the broth will be bland and boring. So, be sure to taste-test your soup and add more as needed. 

Middle Eastern Orzo Soup topped with shredded chicken

What Is the Difference Between Cardamom Pods and Ground Cardamom? 

In our opinion, cardamom is highly underrated when it comes to cooking! If you’re unfamiliar, it is a delicious spice that originally came from India and Indonesia. The flavor can best be described as being earthy and somewhat piney, making it perfect for savory recipes. Unlike many spices, cardamom is used in two forms – the pods and the grounds! 

Cardamom pods are similar to bar leaves in that they enhance the flavor of soup and broths when simmered. However, you do not want to accidentally bite into them! A whole pod of cardamom has an intense, somewhat bitter flavor that isn’t pleasant to eat. However, when left in soup the taste is softened and used to round out the rest of the flavors in the dish. 

Meanwhile, ground cardamom is much milder in taste. This is because the drying process removes the essential oils that live in the walls of the pods. These oils are what are responsible for the unpleasant flavor associated with the whole pods. Yet, adding the ground spice to your orzo soup can be considered as the metaphorical cheery on top in terms of flavor! The soup just isn’t the same without it. 

What Is Mastic Gum? 

A common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking, mastic is a type of sticky, sap-like resin that is obtained from the sap of a resin tree. It possesses a refreshing, piney flavor that adds incredible depth to this soup. Plus, it’s full of health benefits, too! Keep reading about mastic’s use and benefits here.

How to Store Leftovers

Savor the perfection while it’s fresh! This recipe is a superstar right off the stove. Be warned, though: after a few days, the orzo might decide to go a bit too soft and mushy for its own good. If you’re the forgiving type who doesn’t mind a softer pasta, you can store it in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Just remember, the magic is in the immediacy!

Or, for a longer-lasting option, prepare the soup and leave out the orzo. Then, place the broth in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook, let the broth thaw in the fridge. Once thawed, warm it on the stovetop, and add the orzo to the broth on the stove. In a matter of minutes, it’ll taste good as new! 

Even More Great Orzo Recipes


If this soup has stolen your heart, get ready for a love affair with flavor! We’ve got fantastic news for you—our recipe collection is brimming with similar warm goodness that’s just waiting to join your meal prep menu.

  • Our Egyptian Orzo Pasta is the non-soup version of this dish, and it’s absolutely to die for! 
  • If you are looking for something easy and hands-off that delivers on flavor, then look no further than our One Pot Mediterranean Orzo Pasta
  • Creamy, comforting, and loaded with secret veggies too, this Creamy Parmesan Orzo Pasta is super indulgent and will have all your guests coming back for more! 
  • Our Greek Orzo Pasta Salad is absolutely delish – and it makes for an incredible side dish.
overhead image of middle eastern orzo soup

Middle Eastern Orzo Soup (Shorbet Lesan El Asfour)

5 from 3 votes
Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 12 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 8 minutes
Total: 1 hour 23 minutes
Middle Eastern Orzo Soup, also known as Shorbet Lesan El Asfour, is a traditional Egyptian comfort food that’s budget-friendly, quick to make, and perfect for feeding a crowd! Serve it on its own or with your favorite sides for a warm meal the whole family will love!

Ingredients  

  • 6-8 cups water or enough water to completely cover the chicken
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 3-4 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • 3 small pieces of mastic
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4-5 pound whole chicken cleaned and gizzards removed
  • 8 ounces toasted orzo pasta
  • Optional Garnish: fresh lime juice fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Pour the water into a large stock pot. Add the quartered onion, cardamom pods, ground cardamom, bay leaves, mastic, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring the ingredients to a boil. NOTE: For easy removal, wrap the bay leaf, cardamom pods, and mastic in a mesh bag.
    6-8 cups water, 1 onion, 3-4 whole cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 2 dry bay leaves, 3 small pieces of mastic, 1 Tablespoon kosher salt or to taste, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Once boiling, add the chicken to the pot, breast side up. Turn the heat down to medium-high, and cover the pot. Cook for 1 hour or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (See notes)
    4-5 pound whole chicken
  • Remove the chicken and aromatics (bay leaf, cardamom pods, and mastic). Set aside.
  • In a separate pan, toast the orzo pasta on the stovetop over low heat for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
    8 ounces toasted orzo pasta
  • While the water is still simmering, add the orzo to the pot. Cook on low for 8 minutes or until the pasta reaches al dente.
  • In the meantime, shred the chicken to be added back to the soup. Or, slice it, and serve it on the side.
  • Serve the soup warm with a fresh squeeze of lime juice and fresh parsley.
    Optional Garnish: fresh lime juice

Video

Equipment

Notes

We recommend using a pot with a top that has a hole, or setting it slightly to the side to allow the steam to escape while the chicken is cooking. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 232kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 58mg | Potassium: 202mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 104IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This truly is a comfort meal. It’s like getting a hug from the inside.

    I’ve made it with rotisserie chicken before to save time and it was just as good.

    I always add a fresh squeeze of lemon juice right before i eat it, it just elevates it.

    1. Hi MaryAnn- Great question! It’s common in a lot of Mediterranean cooking and baking. It gives a nice aroma. You can find it on Amazon
      Or you can omit all together.
      Let us know if you end up giving it a try with or without the mastic!
      Alia & Radwa