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Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny Soup is a deeply satisfying, comforting soup full of fragrant spices, vegetables, apples, coconut and red lentils. It’s a super healthy Indian-British hybrid dish with lots of protein. Enjoy this tasty soup for lunch or dinner on a cold winter day.

Mulligatawny soup was made famous on Seinfeld when Elaine steals the Soup Nazi’s recipe for his famous mulligatawny soup.  People were standing on line for his Mulligatawny but you don’t have to, you can make this soup at home.

There are many variations of mulligatawny soup. The base of the soup is red lentils which gives it a creamy texture and nutty flavor. The various Indian spices infuse the soup with warmth and complexity. Onions and apples give depth and sweetness.

The soup is traditionally made with chicken but you can leave it out for a Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup. There’s plenty of flavor in the recipe, you won’t miss it. The important elements are spice, sweetness, and lentils.

Why I Love This Soup

  • deeply satisfying
  • creamy and comforting
  • lots of warm healing spices
  • easy to make
  • healthy, nutritious and full of fiber
  • high in protein
  • can be made with chicken or vegan
  • make ahead meal – stores well in the refrigerator or can be frozen
Mulligatawny Soup over view of 2 bowls with cilantro and lime in bowls on side

Mulligatawny Soup Origins

Mulligatawny Soup comes from the Tamil Nadu region in southern India. The name originates from the Tamil words miḷagu (‘black pepper’), and taṇṇi (‘water’); literally, “pepper-water”.“

During the British rule in India, the officials kept requesting soup as a first course for dinner. This was an odd concept to the Indian cooks. To please the English officers the cooks started experimenting with Tamil rasam 一 a thin soup made with lots of spices. Indian cooks then had fun exercising their creative genius to create the thick and meaty Mulligatawny Soup we enjoy today.

Mulligatawny Soup 2 bowls with lime wedges and cilantro garnish

Ingredients for Mulligatawny Soup

There are many variations of mulligatawny soup. This is what I use to make it. It may seem like a lot of ingredients but they are easy to find in most supermarkets. The spices in this soup improve digestion, calm and sooth inflammation, help improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Read more about them here.

Spices

  • black or brown mustard seeds – this is an essential ingredient
  • ground turmeric
  • curry powder – choose mild or spicy depending on your preference
  • cayenne – optional if you like spicy
  • whole cumin seeds – ground cumin can be substituted

Soup

  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • apple – something tart like Granny Smith or Braeburn
  • tomato paste
  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs, (leave out for vegan)
  • red lentils (masoor dal)
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • coconut milk
  • avocado oil, coconut oil or butter
  • Sea salt
  • lime juice or lemon juice
Mulligatawny Soup ingredients

How To Make

Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you. There are only a few steps and it’s all made in one pot. The preparation only takes 20 minutes. Once it’s in the pot cooking all you have to do is stir. It’s so good! Here are the basic guidelines, details are in the recipe card below.

Step 1 – Start by measuring the spices. Measure the mustard seeds, turmeric, curry, powder, cayenne and cumin seeds. Set aside. Chop the garlic and mince the ginger (don’t grate the ginger). Set aside. Chop the vegetables and chicken.

Step 2 – Heat the oil and saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking until fragrant. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly until the mustard seeds pop and sizzle. This helps develop the flavors.

Mulligatawny Soup sauteed onions and spices

Step 3 – Add the carrot, celery and apple. Cook until they begin to soften. Stir in the tomato paste and mix to coat all the vegetables.

Step 4 – Add the chicken, red lentils and broth. Stir to scrape up any brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a a boil. Simmer until the lentils are soft and the soup is creamy.

Step 5 – Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of the vegetables and broth and blend until smooth. Return to the pot.

Step 6 – Stir in the coconut milk. Squeeze in the lime juice. Serve with a swirl of coconut milk and lime wedges.

Mulligatawny Soup 2 bowls with coconut milk swirl and lime wedges on side

Storage

You can store leftover Mulligatawny soup in the refrigerator for 5 days. I store it right in the pot with the cover. If you want to freeze it, put into an airtight container. It will keep for 3 months.

Warm the soup in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. If it’s frozen you can let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or reheat the frozen soup on low heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What else can I add to the soup?

It’s very common to add basmati rice. Add 1/4 cup along with the lentils. Quinoa would also work. Some people put in potatoes along with the lentils. You could add spinach at the end.

Can I make the soup vegan?

Yes, leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth. You could add tofu for protein. Add white or sweet potatoes to give the soup some chunks.

Can I use chicken breasts instead of thighs?

You can, but they will be less tender than the thighs. Thighs hold up better when simmered in the soup.

Mulligatawny Soup 2 bowls and napkin

If you like this recipe you may also like these other nourishing soups:

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Mulligatawny Soup


  • Author: Ingrid DeHart
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Description

Mulligatawny Soup is a deeply satisfying and comforting soup full of fragrant spices, vegetables, apples, coconut and red lentils. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder*
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne, (optional if you like spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons minced ginger (from about 2 inches of peeled ginger root)
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil, coconut oil, or butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 large apple, about 1 ½ cups, peeled, cored and chopped (Granny Smith or Braeburn)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks (leave out for vegan)
  • 1 cup split red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons line juice, (about. 1 lime)
  • lime wedges and cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Start by measuring the spices. Measure the mustard seeds, turmeric, curry, powder, cayenne and cumin seeds. Set aside. Chop the garlic and mince the ginger (don’t grate the ginger). Set aside. Chop the vegetables and chicken.
  2. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the the spices and cook, stirring constantly, until the mustard seeds pop and sizzle, about 90 seconds.
  5. Add the carrots, celery and apple, and cook, stirring, until just starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, stirring well, to uniformly coat all the ingredients, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the chicken, red lentils and chicken broth. Season lightly with salt, stirring to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir and uncover. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are soft and creamy.
  8. Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of the vegetables and broth and blend until smooth. Try not to scoop out any chicken but if a few pieces get in that’s okay. Pour it back into the pot.
  9. Stir in the coconut milk. Save 1/4 cup as a garnish to swirl in when serving.
  10. Squeeze in the lime juice. Taste to adjust salt.
  11. Serve with a swirl of coconut milk, cilantro and lime wedges.

Notes

The Simply Organic Curry Powder in the link is medium hot, if you want a milder one try Madras Curry Powder.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free

Keywords: mulligatawny soup, Indian mulligatawny soup, vegetarian mulligatawny soup

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