Mulligatawny soup. Haunting flavours of lentils, Indian spice, ginger, garlic and lemon. So tasty. Make this when you want something different. Something out of the ordinary. When your main course flavours are assertive.

It doesn’t have to be an Indian dinner. Leave the chicken out and you have a nice “cream of” soup without the cream. Very posh. Use water or vegetable stock for a vegetarian option.

It works as an appetizer to an Indian meal too. Adds a bit of western structure to your meal. And you can make it ahead of time.

Mulligatawny soup – English or Indian?

Mulligatawny soup is a fantastic Indian lentil soup perfect for any meal.

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 very western recipe with 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 fancy dinner party. That way you won’t have the little black flecks.


Mulligatawny soup in a white bowl with a side of paratha flat bread.


Mulligatawny soup is a lentil soup

This is a creamy lentil soup. Masoor dal or red split lentils to be exact. Great thing about masoor dal. Cook it long enough and it disintegrates into a wonderful mess. 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 the relatively muted lentils. 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. I might try that some time.  

But rice and no lentils? No thanks. You may disagree. I’m good with that. But try this version before you write me off…


Dipping a piece of paratha in mulligatawny soup.


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 then do that after you warm it up.

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

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

Fry up some spices with 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 recipe is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s Illustrated Indian Cookery. I think it’s out of print. Really too bad – it’s a great introduction to Indian home cooking. Probably the best one I’ve ever found. Certainly one of my favourites. I’ve had my copy forever.

Whether it’s Indian or English, mulligatawny soup is a great addition to any menu. Try it. It will not disappoint.


Closeup of bowl of mulligatawny soup

Mulligatawny soup in a white bowl from the front.
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4.86 from 7 votes

mulligatawny soup

Classic Indian flavours come together in this mulligatawny soup. Leave the bits of chicken out for a smooth, sophisticated Indian flavoured soup.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Indian
Keyword mulligatawny soup
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 460kcal


  • 1 cup red split lentils - also known as masoor dahl
  • 4 cups low or no-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 oz potatoes cubed
  • 2 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Spice Mix

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


  • Combine lentils, chicken stock and turmeric and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
  • Add potatoes. Simmer another 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot so it doesn't boil over.
  • Puree the soup in batches. Your blender works best. Return soup to pot.
  • Trim visible fat from the chicken. Cut into 1/3 inch chunks.
  • Add 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.
  • Add the spice mix and continue to stir constantly for another 30 seconds. Regulate your heat. Don't let the spices burn!
  • Add the chicken and continue to stir. Cook chicken until almost done - about 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken mixture to soup pot. Simmer 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  • Thin the soup with stock if needed. Adjust seasoning (salt) to taste. To my taste another teaspoon or a bit more works. But everyone is different. Creep up on it. Can always add more. Cannot take it away.
  • Serve with a spoonful of raita or drizzle with a bit of heavy cream.


If you don't have garlic ginger paste make some. Combine equal quantities by weight with a 50/50 mix of vegetable oil and water to form a thick puree. Need more info? The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 460kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 1014mg | Potassium: 1015mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 5.7mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 6.1mg


16 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

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