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Mulligatawny Soup with Chicken

Probably the best-known example of Anglo-Indian cooking, mulligatawny (literally pepper water or pepper broth) is no more subject to a single definition than is minestrone. Despite its name, the soup is generally not incendiary.

  • Servings: 4

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  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 8 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups green or yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, mustard, coriander, cayenne, cloves, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes more.
  2. Add the split peas, water, salt, and chicken breasts to the pot. Simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is just done, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon.
  3. Continue simmering the soup, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the split peas are tender, about 20 minutes. Shred the chicken and return it to the soup along with the black pepper. Serve the soup topped with cilantro leaves, if using.


Indian cooks prefer to use whole spices and grind them as needed. Commercially ground spices may not be quite the same, but they are quicker. Just remember that they do lose strength over time and are best used within a year of their purchase.

Suggested Pairing

Gewürztraminer's litchi, apricot, and floral flavors are just perfect with the complex, sweet spices of Indian cooking. Go for a grand cru Gewürztraminer from Alsace for enough oomph to match this soup.

Photo © Addie Juell

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