Mulligatawny Stew

published Jan 25, 2023
Mulligatawny Stew Recipe

This cozy stew truly is layered with incredible flavor thanks to a combination of chunky vegetables, hearty protein, lentils to lend thickness and soup, and a mingle of spices.

Serves4 to 6

Makesabout 10 cups

Prep25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 50 minutes

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Credit: Keya Wingfield

Mulligatawny is one of those soups that goes best with a cold winter day. It’s a snap to make and very adaptable to your choice of protein — meat or plant-based. As far as cooking it, you can let a Dutch oven or large pot do all the heavy lifting for you.

Full disclosure: The first time I heard of mulligatawny, I thought it was really complicated. Rarely does a single recipe tick all the boxes. Vegetables? Check. Lentils? Check. Hearty protein? Check. And after all that, is it really filling and full of flavor? Oh yes! It tastes like a complex dish that took hours of hard work, when in reality it only took a little bit of chopping and 20 minutes of inactive stove time to make a really delicious stew! 

What Is Mulligatawny?

Mulligatawny is the Anglo version of a stew that originated in Southern India. It was adapted by the British, who made it their own (not the first or the last time that’s happened, am I right?). The original (Indian) version was lighter and added tamarind for tanginess. The newer versions are creamy, and chock-full of lentils and vegetables. There have been many versions of this dish over the years, but they all seem to have the following ingredients in common: lentils or rice, vegetables, and apples. The apples add a unique tartness and sweetness, and I also love the soft texture they lend to this stew.

The main ingredients used to make this endlessly adaptable stew are vegetables, lentils, chicken, and spices. It’s tangy, slightly sweet, and a little spicy, with lots of layered flavors. As far as texture, it has chunky pieces of veggies and apple as well as body and thickness from the lentils. Shredded chicken adds a nice bite and depth of texture. 

How to Customize Mulligatawny

If I still haven’t convinced you to make this, the following substitutions most definitely will!

  • Vegetables: I prefer to add firmer vegetables to this stew, as they need to hold up to the cooking time and not get too mushy. My favorites are carrots, zucchini, squash, and eggplant. You can add potatoes or sweet potatoes too. Got a veggie that you need to use up? Toss it in!
  • Protein: While I’ve used chicken in this dish, you can also use fish or shrimp. For plant-based options, I love adding a can of chickpeas or large cubes of tofu. Or you can buy your favorite rotisserie chicken, already cooked, then shred and add as directed. One less thing to worry about makes it even faster to put this together!
  • Spices: You can take out some of the spices listed here if you prefer, or add in some of your favorite Italian spices instead for a more Italian/Indian kind of a Mulligatawny stew. 
  • Broth: I used veggie broth for a neutral flavor. It allows me to add whichever protein I have on hand. You could very easily substitute it with chicken broth for a slightly heavier chicken flavor. 
  • Herbs: I’ve used basil, but other herbs that will work wonderfully are tarragon, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, or sage. 
  • Dairy: If you’d like to make a plant-based version, one great swap for the heavy cream is cream of coconut or coconut milk. If you’re using coconut cream, using the same amount as specified in the recipe is great. If you’re using coconut milk, add up to a half cup based on your desired creaminess. 

How to Serve Mulligatawny

  • Spoon over a bed of rice! Jasmine rice or Basmati rice are great. 
  • Toast up some Naan in a pan with butter, and use that to scoop up the stew. 
  • Serve with large hunks of baguette. 
  • Crush up saltines on top of the stew.

Mulligatawny Stew Recipe

This cozy stew truly is layered with incredible flavor thanks to a combination of chunky vegetables, hearty protein, lentils to lend thickness and soup, and a mingle of spices.

Prep time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes to 50 minutes

Makes about 10 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 8 cloves


  • 2

    Thai or bird’s eye chilies or 1 medium serrano pepper

  • 15

    curry leaves (optional)

  • 2

    dried bay leaves

  • 2

    large carrots (about 10 ounces total)

  • 2

    medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)

  • 1

    medium apple, such as gala

  • 1

    small lemon

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    red chili powder, plus more for serving

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 3/4 teapoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    dried red lentils

  • 1 (32-ounce) carton

    low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (4 cups), divided

  • 1 cup


  • 1 pound

    cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 1/4 cup

    heavy cream, plus more for serving

  • 1 small handful

    fresh basil sprigs, plus more for serving


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as it is completed: Dice 1 large yellow onion (1 3/4 to 2 cups). Mince 8 garlic cloves. Split 2 Thai chilies or 1 medium serrano pepper lengthwise; remove the seeds from the serrano if desired for a less spicy mulligatawny. Add 15 curry leaves if using and 2 dried bay leaves.

  2. Cut the following into small dice: 2 large carrots (peel first, about 2 cups), 2 medium zucchini (about 3 cups), 1 medium apple (about 1 cup). Juice 1 small lemon until you have 1 tablespoon juice.

  3. Place 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 3/4 teaspoon red chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

  4. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion mixture and sauté until the onion is translucent and just barely starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots and zucchini and sauté until starting to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the apples and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir until everything is well coated.

  5. Add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup dried red lentils and sauté for 2 minutes.

  6. Add 3 cups of the low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and 1 cup water, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the lentils are tender and the soup thickens, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, shred 1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces with your hands or 2 forks.

  7. Add the chicken, remaining 1 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and a handful of fresh basil leaves. Stir to combine and simmer until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.

  8. Remove and discard the curry and bay leaves. Serve garnished with more fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of heavy cream, and a generous pinch of red chili powder for more spice if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat over medium heat until heated through.