Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Have you ever had mulligatawny? Best soup ever! It’s basically a curry soup, most often made with chicken, vegetables, apples, and rice. Not only is it absolutely delicious, it’s the perfect example of how one culture acquires food from another, and adapts it to their own taste.

Mulligatawny is the ultimate “fusion” food, invented centuries before anyone would even know what that meant. It hails from the early days of the British Raj in India.

Mulligatawny Soup

According to Lizzie Collingham in A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors, the colonialists, wanting a first course for their dinner, requested of their Indian cooks to make them soup. The cooks obliged with what most approximated soup in their repertoire, a light tonic broth made with peppers, tamarind, and water (“molo tunny” in Tamil), dressed up with some vegetables and meat.

Over the centuries the soup evolved to what we know today—a creamy curry chicken soup with apples, rice, and vegetables. It’s a simple, wholesome soup, and a classic in Anglo-Indian cuisine.

 

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 1/4 pound (570 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat
  • 2 cups (475 ml) chicken stock
  • 2 cups (475 ml) water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 2 tart apples, cored, peeled, and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4  (60 ml) cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) plain yogurt for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp minced chives for garnish

Method

1 Sauté onions, celery, carrots in olive oil and butter, add bay leaves, curry powder: Heat butter and olive oil on medium high heat in a large (4 to 5 quart), thick-bottomed pot. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the bay leaves. Add the curry powder and mix to coat.

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2 Add chicken, stock, salt: Add the chicken thighs and stir to coat with the curry mixture. Add the stock and water to the pot. Add the salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

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3 Remove chicken, let cool to touch: Remove the chicken pieces from the pot. (They should be just cooked through. If not, return them to the pot for another 5 minutes or so, until they are cooked through.) Place on a cutting board and allow to cool to the touch.

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4 Add rice, apples: Add the rice and the chopped apples to the soup. Return to a simmer on high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through.

5 Shred the chicken, return to soup, add cream: While the apples and rice are cooking in the soup, shred the chicken, discarding any tough bits. Once the rice and apples in the soup are cooked, add the chicken back to the pot. Heat for 5 minutes more. Then stir in the cream.

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Serve with yogurt and chives.

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More mulligatawny trivia. According to food historian Janet Clarkson in her book, Soup a Global History, William Kitchiner had this to say about the dish: "It is a fashionable soup, and a great favourite with our East Indian friends, and we give the best receipt we could procure for it... the more familiar name of curry soup would, perhaps not have had sufficient of the charms of novelty to seduce him from his much loved mock turtle."

Links:

Indian Mulligatawny Soup from The Wanderlust Kitchen

Vegetarian Mulligatawny from Karina, the Gluten-free Goddess

Curried Turkey Soup, a Mulligatawny made with leftover turkey, here on Simply Recipes

Mulligatawny Soup

Showing 4 of 43 Comments

  • Hannah

    This soup is as easy to make as it is delicious! I’m currently nursing a cold and this is the perfect soup because it is easy to make and it is super flavorful when everything else tastes dull. I used vegetable instead of chicken stock because it’s what I had in the pantry and it was still amazing. I added a bit more curry at the end to add some kick. When you’re sick you can always use extra flavor! I plan on making this often when it cools down

  • Rehana

    I just finished making this soup and it is absolutely delicious! I made a few changes for my taste, added coconut milk (instead of cream), garlic, & garam masala (stir in a teaspoon of this near the end of cooking for aromatic enhancement). Garnished with cilantro. Beautiful! Thank you so much for this!

  • Suze

    Elise, I absolutely love your recipe! I first had this soup at Marlene’s in Tacoma. I had to make it at home so I did a search and landed here! I am so glad because it is excellent! I made it several times during the Fall and am going to make it again today! I brought it to work and everyone loves it! Glad I found you!
    Thank you so much!!
    Suzie

  • Susanne

    Elise I love all your recipes on this site and this is another winner I made tonight. Looks exactly like your photo and it’s delicious on a cold night ! I doubled the recipe so will have plenty more, but next time I will add a little more rice to the pot for this delicious broth. Thank you !

  • Karen @ On the Banks of Salt Creek

    Oh my gosh. Made this tonight. EVERYONE loved it. Definite keeper. Thank you.

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