Mulligatawny Reboot

Mulligatawny 1

Meet my favorite chicken soup in the entire world.

I first wrote about mulligatawny a couple of years back, when I was still getting a grip on this incredible dish, tweaking the ingredients, finding just the right flavor profile and process.

Since then, I’ve made this soup so frequently, the recipe is burned in my brain — good thing, too, because my sole print copy documenting my experiments is wrinkly with chicken stock stains and covered with fading, smudgy pencil scribbles. This version is worth sharing anew: simple, economical, and on the table in way under an hour.

Mulligatawny 2

A soup with a sketchy, storied but unconfirmed history — is it Indian? is it British? — mulligatawny is comfort food, full of flavor, both exotic and familiar at the same time. I can’t even remember the last time I made regular chicken soup.

Oh, and this soup not only keeps well, but it tastes even better after an overnight stay in the refrigerator. Double the recipe and freeze some for those snowy days ahead when you need a warm hug, like, now.


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Yield: serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, divided usage
1 pound chicken (breast or thighs, your choice), sliced into short, thin strips
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour

1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala (store bought or homemade)
2 teaspoons curry powder (mild or hot, your choice)
1 tablespoon flour
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice (quick cooking is fine)
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp), peeled and grated
1 can coconut milk, well shaken (about 14 oz)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-5 qt stock pot or dutch oven over medium until shimmering.

2. Toss chicken pieces with the seasonings and flour and add to pot. Brown chicken on all sides — cooking through completely — and remove to a plate or bowl and set aside.

3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pot (still on medium heat). When melted and shimmering, add onions, celery and carrots. Saute until soft. Add garlic and saute, stirring until fragrant (just a couple of minutes).

4. Stir in garam masala, curry powder and a generous pinch of salt, coating the vegetables. Push the vegetables to one side, and add the remaining tablespoon of oil in the bare spot, heat briefly. Sprinkle the flour over the and stir to form a paste (roux), then mix in with the vegetables, cooking briefly. Add a small amount of the chicken stock and stir to remove any clumps formed by the roux.

5. Pour the remaining chicken stock in the pot and turn heat to high. Bring the soup to a boil, add the rice, and reduce heat back to medium-low. Partially cover and to cook for 15 minutes. Grate the apple over the soup (to catch the juices) and stir in the reserved chicken. Cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and add salt as necessary.

6. Turn heat to low and add coconut milk, stirring to mix thoroughly. Heat for 5 minutes more, and do one final tasting, adding salt and pepper to suit.

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  1. The soup sounds delicious. I’ve never made anything with coconut oil, but am intrigued enough to try. Plus, it’s cold today and soup might just be the antidote. Thanks!

  2. These three ingredients:
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    2 teaspoons garam masala

    Seem to indicate Indian origin. And Garam Masala is one of my favorite spices! Actually masala is mixture and Garam I believe is hot. Yummy anyhow.

    • SoupAddict says:

      Oh, this is definitely my version of mulligatawny – I slant it towards Indian because I love love love garam masala so much (in fact, I grind my own blend). I’ve seen recipes with tomatoes and lentils … zucchini … chard … all kinds of stuff … there seems to be no agreement about what’s authentic. This is based very, very, very loosely on a restaurant recipe a friend once described to me, with turkey and curry and milk.

  3. This looks like a delicious recipe. And with such a glowing recommendation!

  4. I’m making this soup this weekend. It is screaming at me to make it. lol

  5. I am appalled by your compassion for perfecting this dish! just lovely! I love a good chicken soup now and then. Looking at the ingredients, they’re really worth a try!

  6. Hilarious! I selected the old mulligatawny recipe from your archives to make for dinner later this week! Good timing:-)

  7. I just found your site and I’m so glad I did, I can’t stop scrolling back through your recipes. Your photos are great, and I love so many of your dishes. I used to make this soup a lot and have forgotten about it recently. I just love the complexity of flavors in it.

  8. This is my favorite soup from your old site…I make it all the time! And it is on the docket for next week. I just need to go get Coconut Milk as my sister used my sole can for a Coconut Cream Pie.

  9. It sounds so delicious! I’m so curious about it’s history now… The apple in their is also intriguing. Did you notice it in the flavours at all?

    • SoupAddict says:

      I use a lot of apple – usually one of those ginormous Honeycrisps that are in-season in this area now. I even grate the peeled apple over the soup, so that all the juices are captured. You *can* taste the difference; not the apple, per se, but a certain quality, a sweet-tartness that’s so lovely in savory dishes.

      I’ve read a few accounts of its history, including the development of a soupy stew to satisfy soup-lovin’ British soldiers during the time of the British Raj in India (whose cuisine that did not have soup at that time). :)

  10. Hi Karen,
    I’ve made this soup according to your old recipe. I didn’t have lemongrass so I used lemon zest. Do coconut oil and brown rice make all the difference in this case?
    Thank you!

    • SoupAddict says:

      The reboot here is more of a snapshot of how I consistently make the soup now, rather than to show flavor profile differences between old and new. Back with the first recipe, I was growing my own lemongrass, so I always had it on hand. Now, not so much – availability is really spotty here.

      I do love coconut oil. Just in general. Probably doesn’t make any difference if you sub with something else, as the other flavors will drown it out. Brown rice, yes. There’s a definite texture contribution unique to brown rice, which I adore. It’s also healthier than white rice. And honestly, whenever I have it on hand, I use farro rather than rice. Farro is hands down my favorite grain.

  11. This recipe was a hit. My boys 6 and 9 were fighting over who got to take the last of the leftovers for lunch. I grew up in Canada and lived in England so have tasted many versions of this soup and this is definitely one of the yummiest.

    Did you notice that you never said when to re-add the chicken?

    • SoupAddict says:

      Okay, that is really funny. I should be embarrassed, but … I think I do that every time I have a chicken recipe where the chicken gets cooks first. Some kind of a mental blind spot :) Thank you, I’ve fixed that now.

  12. Heather says:

    After casting about on the Internet last night for just the right recipe for dinner tonight, I ended up on your website. I selected the “random recipe” option, which brought me to this recipe. While I was a little skeptical at first (I wasn’t sure how well it would go over with my almost-3-year olds as we don’t eat a lot of curry or other Indian spices), it reminded me of a curried coconut soup with butternut squash, apples, and corn that I had recently with friends. Well, let me tell you . . . this soup was a total winner! Not only was it the perfect meal for a cold snowy night, it turned out to be a hit with the kiddos. Yippee! With only a few minor changes (less seasoning as I didn’t have any garam masala or corriander, plus I added some frozen sweet corn) this recipe is totally a keeper for us. I just wish I had found it earlier so we could have enjoyed it all winter!

  13. I really like this recipe. You are right that the apple makes it, even though the soup is delicious without it. I know this recipe was published a while ago, but I have a tip for people who may want to save some for leftovers. I like to cook the rice on its own and add it to the soup one bowl at a time. Otherwise I had issues with the rice expanding too much and zapping the liquid from the soup. That said, I use jasmine rice (don’t care for brown). If using brown rice as the original recipe calls for, you might not have the same problem.

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