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Mulligatawny soup. Savoury lentils. Chicken. Indian spices. Ginger. Garlic. And lemon. How can you go wrong?

Make this when you want something different. Comforting. Deeply satisfying. And so tasty. If you like dal, you are going to love mulligatawny soup.

It can be what’s for dinner. With a paratha or naan. Little green salad on the side. It’s that satisfying. Soup that eats like a meal.

Leave the chicken out and you have a nice “cream of” style soup without the cream. Very posh. Perfect for a dinner party. Just keep the portions small.

Or go with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, leave out the garnish and it’s vegan. It’s gluten free too. Lentils are environmentally friendly.

Healthy. Good for the planet. Sometimes delicious can be good for you. It happens. It’s rare. But it happens. This is one of those times. I love these times.

Mulligatawny soup – English or Indian?

Mulligatawny soup comes from Colonial India. Time of the British Raj. Back in the late 1800s. It’s an English recipe really.

Roots in Indian cooking for sure. But British.  It’s like a tame sambar. Or a pureed rasam. A western take on Indian flavours. East meets west. Kipling stands corrected…

Depending on who you believe it is named for the Tamil words for pepper and water. This recipe does have a good amount of black pepper in it.

Roll back on it if you’re not a big pepper fan. Use a bit of white pepper instead if you are doing this for a dinner party. No little black flecks that way.

Or embrace those black flecks. Feature them. That’s what I do. It’s pepper water. It should have pepper. I think anyway.

Pepper water. It’s funny. This has nothing to do with pepper water. And everything to do with bold flavours and creamy texture. Have I mentioned I love mulligatawny soup?

Bowl of mulligatawny soup garnished with kashmiri chilies, cream and cilantro from above.

Mulligatawny soup is lentil soup

This is a creamy lentil soup without the cream. Masoor dal or red split lentils to be exact. Great thing about masoor dal. Cook it long enough and it disintegrates. Just perfect for soup.

Like any pureed lentil soup it has good body. Texture. Mouthfeel. The spice mix adds a warming heat. The lemon brings a bit of acidity to cut through it all. Wakes every thing up nicely.

I’ve seen a lot of mulligatawny recipes out there that have a ton of stuff in them. Vegetables. Rice. Coconut milk. Like a stew really. Or a vegetable curry.

I’ve even seen recipes without lentils. That just makes no sense to me. Just strange. I can see the coconut milk. Maybe. I might try that some time.  

Mulligatawny over rice. Makes sense. But rice and no lentils? Not for me. You might disagree. I’m good with that. But give this version a try before you write me off…

Pot full of pureed lentils with spices and chicken drizzled overtop.

Make it ahead of time

The great thing about mulligatawny soup is it reheats really well. It’s a lentil dish so there’s nothing to get overcooked really. 

You can just warm it up gently before you serve. If you are adding cream do that after you warm it up. It’s bullet proof. Perfect for dinner parties.

Makes a great lunch too. Something to bring to work. It’s even microwave friendly.

And it’s a snap to make. Cook some lentils and potatoes in stock. Puree it. A blender works best.

Fry up some spices with some garlic ginger paste. Cook the chicken. It’s cut into small pieces so that takes no time. Toss it all together. Add a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten things up and serve. This is really dead easy.

This recipe is loosely based on a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s Illustrated Indian Cookery. I don’t usually do tribute recipes. Try to stick to my own stuff.

But we are talking about Madhur here. And I owe her. Lots of people owe her.

She started me off. My very first Indian cookbook. Should have paid more attention to what my parents were cooking.

Whether it’s Indian or English, mulligatawny soup is a great addition to any menu. Try it.

If you like lentils. And you like Indian flavours. Then you are just going to love this. I know I do. Seriously good.

Table scene with a bowl of mulligatawny soup on a white napkin on plate with old silver spoon.
Bowl of mulligatawny soup garnished with drizzled cream, cilatntro and whole kashmiri chilies from the front.
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4.86 from 7 votes

mulligatawny soup

Classic Indian flavours come together in this warming and healthy mulligatawny soup.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Indian
Keyword mulligatawny soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 397kcal
Author glebe kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red split lentils – also known as masoor dahl
  • 8 cups low or no-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 8 oz potatoes cubed in 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste – recipe link below
  • 3 kashmiri chilies – optional
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts if you prefer. I like thighs for this.

Spice Mix

  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder or 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp course ground black pepper or 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste

Instructions

Prepare the lentils

  • Combine lentils, chicken stock and turmeric. Bring to a simmer. Then cover. That's important. Lentils boil over. Big mess. Cook, covered for 30 minutes.
  • Add potatoes. Simmer another 30 minutes.
  • Let the soup cool a bit. Then puree the lentil mixture in batches. Your blender works best. Return soup to pot. Be careful here. Make sure you are set up to release steam. You don't want to get burned. That would suck.

Make the mulligatawny soup

  • Trim visible fat from the chicken. Cut into 1/3 inch chunks. Little bites really.
  • Add the oil to a clean frying pan. Heat over medium heat.
  • Pay attention at this point. Add the garlic ginger paste and fry, stirring constantly until the splattering stops.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix and continue to stir constantly for another 30 seconds. Regulate your heat. Don't let the spices burn! You are blooming spices here. This is where the magic happens.
  • Toss in the whole kashmiri chilies. Cook them around 15 seconds. Flip them. Cook another 15 seconds or so.
  • Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the chicken and continue to stir. Cook chicken until almost done – about 3 minutes. Stir the whole time. It may take a little longer. I don't know your stove or your pan so it's a little hard to be precise.
  • Transfer the chicken mixture to soup pot and stir it in. Simmer 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Let it simmer another 2 minutes.
  • It will probably be too thick at this point. Thin it out with some stock. You want a texture somewhere around a full-bodied cream of soup.
  • Adjust seasoning (salt) to taste. To my taste another teaspoon or a bit more works. But everyone is different. Creep up on it. You can always add more salt. That's easy. Taking it away is pretty much impossible.
  • Serve with a spoonful of raita or drizzle with a bit of heavy cream.

Notes

You can buy garlic ginger paste ready made but it isn’t very good. It lacks flavour. I like to make my own garlic ginger paste.  

Nutrition

Serving: 8servings | Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 708mg | Potassium: 882mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 122IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 5mg
Mulligatawny soup is a fantastic Indian lentil soup perfect for any meal.

18 thoughts on “mulligatawny soup

    • I hope you try it some time. It’s delicious. For the garlic ginger paste I coarsely chop equal amounts of garlic and ginger by weight and toss it in a blender. Enough oil and water to get it to puree and I’m done. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge and so much better than the jarred stuff.

  1. This looks so fantastically creamy. This is definitely going into my personal recipe library. As a cookbook junkie, I actually have a very hard time finding good indian cookbooks, probably because I don’t really know what to look for – it’s a shame it’s out of print 🙁 Is there any other indian cookbook you recommend? 🙂

  2. i tripled the recipe for a big brunch party. even with my poor simmering skills, the spice mix and chicken addition turned out amazing! i wasn’t sure on the amount of salt to add so i used 1/2 chicken stock that was pre-salted and then 1/2 chicken stock that was unsalted. i didn’t have to add any other salt except for the kosher salt asked for by the recipe.
    i have 14 cups of super tasty soup… my friends will not believe that i made this!

    thanks Romain and the GlebeKitchen!!!

  3. Hi, love this adaptation of the recipe! I was just wondering if it particularly matters what potatoes you use to make the soup? Can’t wait to try it out for the family

    • You can cook the lentils in your pressure cooker certainly. They cook fast enough in a pot that I don’t bother pulling out my pressure cooker (it lives somewhere inconvenient in my house) but probably around 20 minutes in a pressure cooker then simmer a bit longer if they need more time to really disintegrate.

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