Vegan Avgolemono (Greek Easter Soup with Lemon)

by Gena on April 15, 2012

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Most of you who observe Easter were probably celebrating last weekend with DIY wooden Easter eggs and veganized recipes galore. For those of us whose families hail from Greece (or the Ukraine, or Russia, among other nations), Easter is actually today. That’s right—this is Easter Sunday in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. So, it is with great enthusiasm that I greet all of my readers who are celebrating today with a big “Christos Anesti!”

You guys have heard the stories about me and my Greek Yaya, who was as perplexed by the idea of vegetarianism as she might have been by an alien language, or an advanced multivariable calculus problem. You may also have seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and enjoyed this scene:

Ah, Greeks…

It describes almost precisely my Grandmother’s reaction to my announcement that I would no longer eat red meat, many many years ago. Lamb is so ubiquitous in Greek cooking that choosing to forgo it is akin to heresy! Nevertheless, I persisted in my meat-less inclinations, deepened them, and you guys know the rest of the story: going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

A frequent fear among the newly vegan is that veganism will disrupt or even ruin cherished family holidays. What’s Thanksgiving without turkey, people wonder, or Passover without gefilte fish, or Christmas without a roast? Well, let me assure you all that these holidays can be every bit as rich—or more so—when your meals have been prepared without any injury done to animals.

Beyond that, I think we all tend to think of holidays as fixed, unchanging things: rituals so sacred that any modification will be an affront to family and upbringing. When you think about it, though, this is very far from the truth! Holidays are always in flux, because our families are always in flux: new spouses, children, and friends are welcomed into the fold, and as this happens, traditions change. Dinners are served in new homes, with new recipes and new faces. Holidays accommodate us as we evolve and change; we don’t need to resist personal transformation in order to keep them intact.

Shift your thinking, then, to envision your family celebrations not as timeless and static traditions, but as a communal gatherings that are open to your growth. Honor the holiday by sharing food and rituals that embody who you are and the direction your life is taking. Sharing your values—food related and not—with your family and friends is one of the most meaningful contributions you can make to any holiday season.

This soup is my contribution. Though Western Easter is not generally my favorite holiday, Greek Easter is important to me; celebrating it as a child was a way of bonding with my mother and grandmother, who were raised in that faith, and a way of experiencing their traditions. It was also fun! We broke Easter eggs (if we still did that, I’d be introducing wooden egg DIY projects), stayed up late (midnight is exciting to an 8-year-old), and feasted on good food, especially avgolemono.

Avgolemono (aahv-go-lemon-o) is a Mediterranean soup or sauce that typically has an egg and and lemon base. Lemon is added to the soup in a delicate, thin stream, so as not to curdle the egg as you add acid. I used to love watching my mother do this in my Grandmother’s kitchen; she was masterful, and the task was always entrusted to her because my mother can be counted on to do difficult tasks with a steady hand. In my family, the soup was made with heaping portions of lamb. And you will find it amusing to know that, from a very young age, I started picking the lamb out and resting it on my plate; so much so, that my mother started making a small bowl for me that was just broth.

I’ve searched for vegan avgolemono for a long time, and none of the recipes I’ve seen blown me away. I wanted something quick, simple, tart, and very much like the creamy soup I remember, sans egg (which is the traditional thickener). I think I’ve figured it out, and let me tell you: it was so much easier than I thought it would be. Here, folks, is a vegan avgolemono that will take you 20 minutes in a pressure cooker, and 45 minutes without one (most of that inactive). It’s tangy from the lemon, creamy from miso and tahini, and full of nutritious, grounding brown basmati rice. Who needs meet when you have vegetables and grains?

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Vegan Avgolemono (Greek Easter Soup with Lemon and Rice) (gluten free, soy free)

Serves 4 generously

5 cups water and 3 no salt added, organic vegetable bouillon cubes, OR 5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup brown basmati rice (or long grain brown rice)
2 small shallots, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp mellow white miso (or any miso, really)
2 tbsp tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 heaping tbsp dried dill, or 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

If you’re using a pressure cooker: Add the water or broth, rice, carrots, garlic, shallots, and sea salt to the cooker. Seal and cook on high for 20 minutes. Release steam naturally. Whisk together (or use a blender) the miso, tahini, and lemon juice. Add to soup, whisking, till soup is uniform in color. Add nutritional yeast and dill. Serve!

If you’re using a regular stovetop: Sautee the shallots, carrots, and garlic in broth, water, or a touch of coconut or avocado oil till shallots are translucent (7-10 min). Add broth or water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until rice is cooked through (it may take a bit longer). Whisk together (or use a blender) the miso, tahini, and lemon juice. Add to soup, whisking, till soup is uniform in color. Add nutritional yeast and dill. Serve!

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I use tahini, nooch, and miso in a lot of my recipes, but I never imagined it would bring a childhood classic to life so perfectly. For the record, I also tried (in the past) using soy or rice milk to thicken the soup, as well as an arrowroot version; this is by far the best and most authentic. It’s salty, tangy, and kissed with dill, just as the soup should be. I cannot wait to make it for my Mom!

Hope you guys give the recipe a shot; you don’t have to be Greek to enjoy it! Winking smile

What traditional holiday recipes have you veganized or added a vegan meal to recently? I’d love to hear how you’ve brought your vegan values to holiday gatherings with family and friends.

xo

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Averie Cooks April 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

That soup sounds great, Gena. The rice and the nutritional yeast, carrots, spices…mmm, sounds comforting and hearty!

Good for you for showing your relatives that vegan can be delicious with recipes like this one!

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Hannah April 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Ah I love that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding! I love when you put funny youtube videos on your blog :D

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Ela April 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I hope your mom will love it! I’ve been contemplating a tahini/nooch/miso sauce for cauliflower for dinner tonight.

I’m not a rice fan, but your pictures make that soup look so alluring–creamy and comforting.

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Allie April 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I visited Athens a few years ago and fell in love with avgolemono and other similar dishes, like potatoes served with an egg-lemon sauce. I mastered making my own but then stopped eating eggs and have been yearning for a vegan version ever since. Thank you!

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Alex @ Raw Recovery April 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

My Romanian family is pretty much the same. My godfather FLIPPED OUT in a Whole Foods when I told him I was a vegetarian, then asked if my dad knew because he was going to “tell on me” haha. This soup looks amazing!

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Raw Michelle April 17, 2012 at 11:55 am

You’d think the fact that you were in a Whole Foods would have given it away lol. My mother still pretends to forget every single time we get together, and cooks meat AND NOTHING ELSE. Meat and meat sauce. And then acts like I’m causing her some great injustice by not eating it. You’d think that she’d remember for all the emotional distress she appears to go through.

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Vegyogni April 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I’m really excited to try this soup! If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t have any carrots in the fridge at the moment, I would’ve already whipped it up.

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sarah April 15, 2012 at 7:48 pm

We’re heading into soup season here, so I am really excited about this! I have never heard of Avgolemono, despite many childhood (and adult) visits to Greektown when I used to live in Michigan. Yours sounds better than the original though :-)

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Jenny H April 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I was curious about this soup, it sounds delicious and I hope your mom enjoyed your version!

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Christine (The Raw Project) April 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

This looks fabulous, love that it uses tahini and miso – yum! We really have no traditional family recipes that I’ve veganized yet, but I’ve been having fun bringing new vegan recipes to family gatherings.

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Kristin April 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Gena! Χριστός ἀνέστη! So nice to meet a fellow Greek focused on a vegan lifestyle. Can’t wait to try this recipe. (PS – loved the clip. my Yiayia reacts the same way).

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Dreena Burton April 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Looks amazing Gena! I love lemon in soup, and lemon in general, just brings things ‘alive’. This sounds like a classic combination, and that vid clip is classic too, SO funny. And, kind of familiar… “I’m vegetarian, just eat fish”. ;)

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Teresa April 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Wow, why am I not Greek? Easter was often quiches for my big catholic family. And even though I loved meat as a kid, I abhorred eggs, especially in the form of omelettes, quiches, and deviled concoctions. Had this soup been present, I think I would have loved it! I’m definitely going to try this recipe soon, although I might use forbidden rice since I have it on hand. Hope that doesn’t ruin the recipe! Happy Easter!

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Shannon April 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Just finished a big bowl of this! It was delicious and tangy…didn’t expect it to come together so well, but it was great, thanks for the yummy recipe!

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Gena May 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

So glad you liked it!

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Britt April 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

This looks so good and I love that I have almost all of the ingredients on hand right this minute. I may have to whip up a batch this week!

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Britt April 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Update: Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious. The hubby went back for more. There are are no leftovers.

Thanks so much for the great recipe! :)

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Fiona April 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I love pressure cooker recipes! I also like how you shared a dish from your culture and a story behind it.

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Emily April 16, 2012 at 12:21 am

My family is Russian and our Easter (rather, Pascha) celebrations are among my most treasured traditions! This is the first year I’ve been vegetarian, but I’m finding ways to make it work. I’d love to try this recipe! Anything Mediterranean-inspired gets a huge thumbs-up from me.

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Anna April 16, 2012 at 1:22 am

Gena, any chance you could whip up some raw soups? I’d love a delicious raw soup recipe!

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Moira April 16, 2012 at 6:34 am

Christos Anesti! I’ll be making this soon! For “Greek Easter,” my veggie menu included green beans with shallots + orange zest, oven roasted carrots + broccoli with balsamic reduction and some home-made tiropitas. (There was tenderloin for the meat-eaters.) So glad to find your blog from a link from Peas + ThankYou.

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Gena April 17, 2012 at 8:33 am

Enjoy, and welcome to CR!

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Lyza April 16, 2012 at 7:56 am

This looks divine….I cannot wait to try this, I am a huge fan of veganized cultural dishes. It was also wonderful to hear about your family and your own culture. It’s just fascinating to hear about other cultures straight from the people who are descended from them. :)

Honestly, so far every time I’ve made a dish at a holiday–nobody’s eaten it!!! Or they tried a few bites and maintained “tradition.” Oy… I do have a cousin who makes huge amounts of roasted veggies especially for me though, which is kind and thoughtful and it’s a dish everyone eats. I just feel like if I make roasted veggies A) she already makes them so what’s the point, and B) it’s a cop-out! >.<

I have made pumpkin muffins that didn't turn out right, a chocolate pumpkin pie with coconut whipped cream that probably could have been sweeter and nobody ate because every woman at the holiday for some reason seemed to have brought their own pie so everyone was eating their own, a hilarious looking tofurkey (well, I think they're all especially hilarious looking) that relatives tried and were surprised at how it tasted–which I guess was sort of a victory, although they were weirded out by it's small ball-shape…. I always feel rather humiliated bringing in things I make because nobody seems to want to eat them!! :( Oh well.

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marisa April 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

Yesterday I was homesick, super far away from big Greek family. Thank you for this post! Also I can’t say enough how refreshing it is that you talk about BOTH the nutritional benefits of being vegan and the animal rights. I am absolutely a vegan for the animals though the nutrition certainly doesn’t hurt. I am so happy to see all the attention being paid to the nutrition of a vegan diet recently but THANK YOU for talking about the animals!!!

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Gena April 17, 2012 at 8:31 am

You’re so welcome! Thank YOU for noticing and caring yourself…I became vegan for my health, but it would feel very empty now without animal rights in the picture.

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Marion April 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

Long time reader, first time poster, and fellow Greek vegan! Thank you so very much for figuring out how to turn my favorite Greek holiday recipe vegan. Spanakopita, moussaka, melomakarona, pantespani, patates sto fourno- those were all fun to figure out, but I’ve been hesitant to even attempt a vegan avgolemono. I’ll be trying this recipe as soon as I restock my tahini and nooch! Any chance you’d take on galaktoboureko?

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Gena April 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

I’ll sure try!!

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the delicate place April 16, 2012 at 10:31 am

sorry to totally ignore your questions! this soup looks very interesting! i have a question and am curious if this is common. i’ve been eating less meat lately and incorporating more veg/fats in my diet and i am dropping weight. is this normal? i did just get off birth control 3 months ago exactly so i’m wondering if that has something to do with it as well?

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Gena April 17, 2012 at 8:33 am

Hey Melissa!

It sounds to me as though you could use some grains and more carbs. In my experience, any diet in which protein, fat, or complex carbs is lacking/imbalanced can lead to weight loss and other problems. Try adding some grains of choice, and see how it goes?

G

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Kathryn April 16, 2012 at 10:44 am

Thank you so much! I have been wanting to attempt to make avgolemono soup for years and now that I am a vegetarian and don’t even have the option to go grab a bowl in Greektown my cravings have gotten worse. I can’t wait to try this out!

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Claire April 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

Oh, I missed this soup so much. Thank you!

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bitt April 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm

This is awesome! I hope I can make it for my Greek in-laws someday. Happy Greek Easter!

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Catherine April 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I love that scene! For Italians, it is similar. Red meat = meat, and chicken = chicken. What a great movie.

Looks like a delicious soup!

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Sarah April 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Awesome looking soup Gena! I love the idea that holidays are constantly in flux and changing just like people. Just because something is considered a tradition does not mean it has to be inflexible. Great thought-provoking post!

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Molly April 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm

This looks so good. I want to swim in it.

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Natalie Rothgarden April 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

Looks incredible. I can’t wait to try this.

Thanks,
Natalie
www,rawfoodland.com

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Victoria (Sweet and Healthy Living) April 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Wow, this looks so good! Such a yummy flavor combo… tahini, lemon and dill!

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Anastasia@healthymamainfo.com April 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Sounds so delish! I love that you use shallots, they contain more flavoroids and phenols than regular onions.

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CocoaNutter April 17, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Gena, I made this yesterday and it turned out perfectly! I did cut down on the miso and tahini as I don’t like those two together too much. Boy oh boy this soup is good! I will never get to taste my mum’s chicken avgolemono ever again now that I’m vegan but your soup is a mighty fine replacement. I’m so glad it’s autumn where I am now as I envisage this being my cold weather soup of choice!

I started a blog journalling my move to veganism but I anticipate it will end up being a Gena fan blog because so many of your recipes turn out fab!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles April 21, 2012 at 8:37 am

Gena, I love your sentiment that holidays are always in flux. This is so true, and I’ve just never thought of it this way before. We all have traditions, but one holiday is never the same as the one previous. Holidays were something that concerned me when I became vegan because my family loves to stick to tradition. I’ve since overcome my fears and survived my first round of vegan family holidays, but thanks for the words of support and encouragement!

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Leandra May 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

I’ve tried so many times to veganize avgolemono, to no avail! I can make a pretty good vegetarian version, but without eggs it’s tough. I will definitely try this one. It looks delicious!

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janet @ the taste space June 13, 2012 at 7:09 am

I don’t know what this traditional egg-based soup is supposed to taste like, but I know this tastes great! Thanks for sharing the recipe, Gena. I liked the hint of tahini with the dill. I swapped quinoa for the rice with great results. :)

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cj August 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Simply excellent! I didn’t have any dill but didn’t want to wait to try the recipe. The soup was fabulous!!

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Pela January 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

Thank you for posting this. Just started on the vegetarian journey (one month in) and I honestly started to regret it (almost) because the thought of not eating this soup ever again makes me really sad. My parents live in Greece, while I am in the US, and I just love this soup for the tradition, memories and especially the taste! I can’t wait to try your version! I have high hopes;)

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Syntages February 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Brava Gena! (or Eugenia I think is the original name in Greek), this is by far the best vegan augolemono recipe I have ever tasted.

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Gena February 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

Oh, I am so, so, so delighted to hear that!!! Thank you, Syntages!

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Gena February 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

And yes, it’s “Eugenia” by English pronunciation, “Evgenia” to my Yaya.

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Stasi April 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Wow, I just made this recipe and it is fantastic! I am Greek also and a first time reader (I have been searching for vegan recipes since we are fasting during lent) and when I am across this I wanted to try it. First thank you for introducing me to nutritional yeast. This soup is not only easy to make it is yummy. Great job. Thank you for sharing.

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Kelsy November 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

This is amazing. I too am Greek. I also told my yiayia that I was a vegetarian and could not eat her chicken pitas, she stopped looked at me for a few minutes and in her broken english said, “oh honey its okay its just chicken you can eat, eat!” To her chicken was not meat, the only meat that really mattered to her was lamb, of course. I have made vegetarian versions of her avgolemono soup and am very excited to try this vegan one!

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Jaime November 30, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I’m thoroughly impressed. This soup is not only delicious on it’s own (my partner who has never had Avgolemono loves it), but wow, it really fills the void left by Avgolemono. Growing up as my Greek grandpa’s sidekick, Avgolemono was my FAVORITE food. Period. I haven’t eaten it in over ten years, and never thought I could make a vegan version. Thank you for making my childhood food dreams come back to life!!!

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Gena December 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

That’s wonderful news, Jaime! Thanks for letting me know.

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Andrea @ Vibrant Wellness Journal December 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Gena, this is one of my favorite recipes of all time. It’s the best comfort food, and features all my favorite ingredients. What an epic creation.

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