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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