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Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

This easy Chicken Mulligatawny Soup has a rich, creamy, curry-flavored broth that’s filled with chicken, veggies, rice, and apples. It’s a comforting and satisfying complete meal in a bowl that’ll wow everyone’s tastebuds!

Ready in under an hour, this one-pot wonder is absolutely jam-packed with bold flavors…and it’s one of the best soups I’ve ever had. If you’ve never tried it, now is the perfect time because soup season is officially here!

So, if you’re a fan of the TV show Seinfeld, you’ve probably at least heard of Mulligatawny.

You know the episode. It’s the one where tons of people are lining up at a certain soup shop because the soup is so good. And they’re all afraid that, if they don’t follow the ordering procedure, they’ll anger the owner and be told, “No soup for you!”

Which is exactly what happens to Elaine when Kramer asks her to get him a bowl of Mulligatawny while he guards an armoire that she has to leave on the sidewalk overnight. And it all goes downhill from there. Classic.

Well, that was the first time I had ever heard of Mulligatawny. Of course, I was intrigued and wanted to make it. And that’s how my love of this delicious chicken curry soup began…and there’s been lots of soup for me ever since!

What Is Mulligatawny?

Mulligatawny is an Indian-British fusion soup that is basically a curry-flavored broth with meat (or it can be made without meat), vegetables, rice and/or lentils, and apples.

In doing my research, I had a hard time nailing down the exact history of this dish (lots of different stories!). But the name originates from two words in the Tamil language: milagu, which means “pepper” and thanni, which means “water.” So the literal translation is “pepper water.”

But don’t let that fool you or scare you away! It really doesn’t describe this soup at all. The recipe I’m sharing with you today has a relatively mild spicy heat, and you can easily adjust that up or down to suit your own tastes.

Mulligatawny has evolved quite a bit over the years and there are lots of different variations. Some have chicken, and some have lamb or beef. Others have no meat. Some have rice, and some have lentils. Some are thick, some are thin, and some are creamy while others are more brothy.

This version is my favorite. It’s lightly creamy but not super thick, and it’s got chicken, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, rice, chicken broth, coconut milk, and apples.

And yes, I know that it might sound a little weird to put apples in soup. I thought so too. But I’m telling you, it really works!

So put this Mulligatawny with chicken on your list of recipes to try this soup season. It’ll really warm you up on a chilly day, and I think it’ll become one of your favorite soups too!

all of the ingredients needed to make chicken mulligatawny soup

Ingredients You Need

  • Olive oil (regular or extra-light tasting)
  • Butter
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (fresh)
  • Curry powder (I use my Easy Homemade Curry Powder)
  • Garam masala
  • All-purpose flour
  • Chicken stock or broth (I use a roasted chicken base mixed with water)
  • Basmati rice (or any long-grain white rice)
  • Coconut milk (canned; I use full-fat)
  • Apples (I use Granny Smith or other another variety of tart apple)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley (for garnish; optional)

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

How to Make Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

1: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

2: When the butter has melted, add the onions, celery, carrots, and chicken to the pot; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink and the veggies begin to soften.

3. Add the garlic and ginger; stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute.

3 numbered images; number 1 is of butter and oil heating in a pot, number 2 is of onions, celery, carrots, chicken, salt and pepper added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon, and number 3 is of ginger and garlic added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon

4: Add the curry powder and garam masala; stir to combine.

5: Add the flour; stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute.

6. Add the chicken stock or broth and the rice; stir to combine.

3 numbered images; number 4 is of curry powder and garam masala added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon, number 5 is of flour added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon, and number 6 is of broth and rice added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon

7: Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the veggies and rice are tender.

8: Add the coconut milk and apples; stir to combine. Simmer for a few more minutes just to soften the apples a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

9: Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, if desired. Enjoy!

3 numbered images; number 7 is of the soup simmering in the pot, number 8 is of the coconut milk and apples added to the pot and being stirred with a wooden spoon, and number 9 is of a bowl of the finished soup with text that says enjoy

Note: This is just a brief overview of the steps. For the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post.

Recipe Tips & Tidbits

  • All curry powders are different, and some may be hotter than others. Use your favorite and adjust the amount to suit your own tastes, both in the intensity of the curry flavor and the heat level. I recommend starting with one tablespoon and adding more if needed.
    • I use my homemade curry powder. Since I like a good amount of curry flavor in this soup as well as a bit of a spicy kick, I generally use 2 tablespoons.
  • If your curry powder isn’t hot but you want more heat, add cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Garam masala is a spice blend that is different from curry powder. While curry powder has turmeric as one of it’s main ingredients, garam masala does not. There may be some overlap of spices between the two, but garam masala often has other “sweeter” spices that aren’t typically found in curry powder, such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg.
    • I use both spice blends for a wonderful depth of flavor.
    • Garam masala is usually easy to find in the spice aisle of a well-stocked grocery store. If you don’t have or can’t get any, you can omit it and just use curry powder instead (it’s the dominant spice in this recipe). The flavor will be slightly different, but it will still be super delicious!
  • I just love the vibrant yellow color of this soup (thanks to the turmeric in the curry powder). If yours isn’t quite as yellow as you’d like it to be, you can add some turmeric. A little goes a long way, though, so start small.
  • Speaking of turmeric’s yellow color, be aware that it can very easily stain wooden spoons, cutting boards, towels, and clothes. With cooking utensils, I find that it usually eventually fades away after several washes. And a little laundry pre-treater often does the trick on towels and clothes.
  • The soup will thicken up a bit more as it sits because the rice will continue to absorb the broth.
  • I generally serve this as a main course, but you could also do smaller servings and serve it as a starter.
a pot of chicken mulligatawny soup with a ladle full of soup being lifted out

Substitutions & Variations

  • I love using chicken thighs because they are so forgiving and pretty hard to overcook. But you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you’d prefer.
  • Heavy cream can be used instead of coconut milk.
  • Red lentils can be used instead of or in addition to rice. Adjust cooking time as needed.
  • If you don’t want to use apples, you can use diced potatoes instead (or you can use both). Since potatoes take much longer to cook, I would suggest adding them with the chicken broth and rice.
  • Try adding a splash of lime juice at the end to add a bit of bright flavor (or offer lime wedges for people to try in their own bowl).
  • Some Mulligatawny recipes add tomatoes…try adding some canned diced tomatoes or seeded and diced fresh tomatoes.
  • For more veggies, stir in a big handful or two of fresh spinach stirred in at the very end.
  • Want a meat-free version? Use chickpeas or lentils instead of chicken.
two bowls of chicken mulligatawny soup garnished with cilantro with two spoons and a small bowl of cilantro on the side

Storage, Freezing & Reheating

Storage

Store any leftover soup, once cooled, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

Note that the rice will soak up some of the broth and soften more as the soup sits in the fridge, so it will likely be a little thicker.

Freezing

Although the texture of the apples and the color of the soup can change a bit (the apples will soften and the color won’t be nearly as vibrant), you can freeze this soup with very good results.

Once cooled, place the soup in airtight freezer bags or freezer containers (you can freeze it as a large batch or as individual servings) and freeze for up to 2 to 3 months.

Thaw the soup completely in the refrigerator before reheating as directed below.

Reheating

Reheat the soup in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until completely heated through.

If the soup has thickened, you can add chicken stock, chicken broth or water to thin it out.

close up of a spoonful of chicken mulligatawny soup being lifted out of the bowl

What to Serve With Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

Although this soup is a meal all by itself, here are some of the things I like to serve it with.

  • Chopped fresh cilantro. For those who don’t love cilantro: chopped fresh parsley.
  • Sliced green onions (instead of or in addition to the fresh herbs).
  • A dollop or two of plain yogurt or sour cream (this would also help tame any spicy heat)
  • Bread (I always want bread with soup). And with Mulligatawny, my favorite is my Quick and Easy Yogurt Flatbread or some naan bread. But really, any kind of bread, breadsticks, rolls, or even crackers will do.
  • Salad…because a good soup and salad combo is pretty hard to beat!

I hope you try this Chicken Mulligatawny Soup recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

michelle signature

More Soup Recipes To Try

For even more simple and delicious soup recipes, check out my Soup, Stew and Chili Recipes page!

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

chicken mulligatawny soup in a white bowl with a spoon on the side

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

This easy Chicken Mulligatawny Soup has a rich, creamy, curry-flavored broth that's filled with chicken, veggies, rice, and apples. It's a comforting and satisfying complete meal in a bowl that'll wow everyone's tastebuds!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 (as a main dish, a little less than 2 cups each; recipe makes about 11 cups total)
Estimated Calories: 423

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, regular or light tasting
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth, I use a roasted chicken base mixed with water
  • ½ cup basmati rice, or any long-grain white rice
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, I use the full-fat version
  • 2 cups peeled and diced apples, I use Granny Smith (any tart apple will do)
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional), or parsley

Instructions

  • Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat (I use a 5-quart soup pot).
  • When the butter has melted, add the onions, celery, carrots, and chicken; season lightly with salt and pepper.
    When seasoning at this point, take into account how salty your stock or broth is so the soup doesn't end up too salty (the stock will reduce and concentrate some while the soup is cooking). You can always add more later, if needed. I usually add ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and about ¼ teaspoon of pepper here.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is no longer pink and the veggies begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
    It's okay if the chicken isn't fully cooked through at this point; it will continue cooking in the following steps.
  • Add the garlic and ginger; stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute.
  • Add the curry powder and garam masala; stir to combine.
  • Add the flour; stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute (this will cook out the raw flour taste).
  • Add the chicken stock or broth and the rice; stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the veggies and rice are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk and apples; stir to combine. Simmer for about 5 more minutes or until the apples have softened just a bit (you don't want them to become mushy).
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  • All curry powders are different, and some may be hotter than others. Use your favorite and adjust the amount to suit your own tastes, both in the intensity of the curry flavor and the heat level. I recommend starting with one tablespoon and adding more if needed.
    • I use my homemade curry powder. Since I like a good amount of curry flavor in this soup as well as a bit of a spicy kick, I generally use 2 tablespoons.
    • If your curry powder isn’t hot but you want more heat, add cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
  • If your soup isn’t quite as yellow as you’d like it to be, you can add some turmeric. A little goes a long way, though, so start with a small amount.
  • Most grocery stores with well-stocked spice sections should carry garam masala. It adds to the depth of flavor, but if you don’t have it or can’t get it, you can omit it and just use the curry powder. The soup may taste slightly different, but it will still be absolutely delicious!
  • The soup will thicken up a bit more as it sits because the rice will continue to absorb the broth.
  • Please refer to the post for additional recipe tips, substitutions and variations, serving suggestions, and information on storing, freezing, and reheating. 
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