Indian Spiced Red Lentil & Chicken Soup

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This red lentil and chicken soup is a quick and easy version of Mulligatawny, the curry-flavored soup popular in Anglo-Indian cuisine.

chicken soup

This red lentil and chicken soup is a quick and easy version of Mulligatawny, the curry-flavored soup popular in Anglo-Indian cuisine. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you might remember it as Kramer’s favorite soup from the infamous Soup Nazi. Made with a rotisserie chicken and canned coconut milk, it’s a one-pot supper that you can have on the table in 45 minutes (or less, if you’re lazy like me and use a food processor to chop the vegetables).

A little heads up: don’t skip the garnishes. The fresh cilantro and lime brighten up the flavor and add a much-needed pop of color. To make the dish a little heartier, sometimes I like to serve it with a scoop of basmati rice. But, really, store-bought or homemade naan is all you need to complete the meal.

What you’ll need to make red lentil and chicken soup

ingredients

How to make red lentil and chicken soup

Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. It’s important to use red lentils, as opposed to another variety; they cook quickly, add wonderful flavor and thicken the soup nicely. They won’t hold their shape once cooked — that’s okay, they are intended to break down and give the soup a hearty texture. And Garam Masala is a fragrant Indian spice blend typically containing peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. It’s available at most large grocery stores (McCormick makes it as part of their Gourmet Collection), but if your regular supermarket does not carry it, you can always find it at Whole Foods or just substitute curry powder.

garam-masala

Begin by chopping the vegetables and apple. I use a food processor; if you do the same, be sure to roughly chop the vegetables first, so that they process evenly. And be sure process only until the mixture is roughly chopped, not puréed.

vegetable-and-apple-chunks

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the Garam Masala and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

toasting-spices

Add the vegetable/apple mixture.

adding-vegetable-apple-mix

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is softened.

softened-vegetable-apple-mixture

Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, lentils, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender and starting to break down.

adding-lentils

Stir in the chicken and fresh lime, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

adding-chicken

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle generously with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Indian-Red-Lentil-&-Chicken-Soup-1

This recipe is adapted from Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.

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Indian Spiced Red Lentil & Chicken Soup

This red lentil and chicken soup is a quick and easy version of Mulligatawny, the curry-flavored soup popular in Anglo-Indian cuisine.

Servings: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (curry powder is a fine substitute)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tart-yet-sweet apple, such as Honeycrisp or Fuji, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth, best quality such as Swanson
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded, skinless cooked chicken, from a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftovers
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus 6 lime wedges, for serving (you'll need 2-3 limes)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the garam masala and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the chopped carrots, onions, apples, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, red lentils, ginger and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and starting to break down.
  3. Add the cooked chicken and 1 tablespoon lime juice, and heat until warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, more lime juice and cayenne pepper, if desired. Serve the soup generously sprinkled with fresh chopped cilantro, with lime wedges on the side.
  4. Note: The soup will thicken as it sits. Add more chicken broth to thin it out if necessary.
  5. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: This soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat it on the stovetop over medium-low heat until hot. (The soup will thicken up a lot when frozen, so you’ll likely need to add quite a bit of broth when reheating.)

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 367
  • Fat: 16g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Protein: 22g
  • Sodium: 434mg
  • Cholesterol: 35mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I have a lot of very special soup recipes that I collected throughout the years… this one is my favorite! Wonderful flavors, easily adapted to be vegetarian..I serve it with roasted garlic Stonefire naan. I omit chicken and use 4 cups veg broth and 2 cups veg bouillon broth-and a little extra veggies- spectacular!!!

    • — Sharon Morris on April 2, 2021
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  • Loved this! Super easy. Even pickier, younger, family members ate this up. Thanks for another hit!! I did use the food processor for chopping the veggies, but didn’t see that info in the directions, glad I read the full preview article and knew this great tip.

    • — Rachel on March 31, 2021
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  • I could find only coconut cream. Should I use half as much and add more stock or water?

    I am cooking my way through your site and your cookbook, and have found every recipe to be a winner. Can’t wait to try this one

    • — Beth on March 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you’re enjoying the recipes! Yes, I think the coconut cream/water or stock mix will work. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 26, 2021
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  • Another excellent recipe. I did find after tasting that it really did need more flavor especially quite a bit more salt (broths vary widely in salt content). I also added more lime and about a teaspoon of garam masala to “warm up” the spice. Cilantro is a must have garnish for this.

    I made the naan recipe to accompany this. It is so easy and probably the best thing I’ve made from Jenn’s cookbook/website.

    • — Jeremy on March 20, 2021
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  • This is so easy and so delicious! I made my broth from the rotisserie chicken carcass. I only used four cups of broth, because we prefer a thicker soup. The Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Coconut Milk worked well. Even with less broth, it still made four generous servings with naan.
    Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Samosas made a great first course served with a martini (two olives).

    • — Phyllis on March 16, 2021
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  • I substituted turkey for chicken. It was such a hit, I bought another turkey to make a double batch to freeze for our daughter (away in school). I also added 4 Bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. Turmeric, 1 tsp Cumin, 1 large Tbsp Curry, 1 tsp. Thyme, 1 tsp Rosemary, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1 Tbsp. sage, 2 tsp Paprika, 1 tsp. ground Ginger and 1 Tbsp minced garlic. I keep cooked turkey on the freezer for further batches now. Easy and deicious!!

    • — Flo on March 11, 2021
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  • I made this for my family of 6 last night. I normally steer clear of soup with coconut milk, as I find the taste slightly unappealing; but I decided to give this a try since I’ve never met a Jenn Segal recipe I didn’t like. I’m sure glad I did, because it was a hit! I’ve added it to “My Recipe Box” and will make it again soon. Note: I didn’t have red lentils handy, so I used green instead.

    • — Janelle on February 12, 2021
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  • I enjoy serving this soup to my family and friends with home-made naan, also a recipe from your collection. Because it is easy to prepare in advance and to transport, it’s my “go to” comfort meal to give away, and many of those families have asked for the recipe. It’s a pleasure to recommend your site, Jenn!

    • — Laurel Manoles on January 30, 2021
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  • I love soup! This one is easy and has very unique flavors. My 3 kids gobble it up! Cilantro and fresh lime wedges are a must when serving.

    • — Myria Kniffen on January 28, 2021
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  • We absolutely LOVE this soup!! My husband asks for it regularly and I have served it for company a few times to rave reviews. The tip about using the food processor to chop the veggies is a good time saver, however I chopped the carrots separately because we love them and it makes a prettier soup. Jenn, you are a true treasure and I am so thankful to have found your site. We have tried about 15 of your recipes and every one is a keeper!

    • — Maryalice O'Brian on January 28, 2021
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  • Wonderful soup with incredible complex but not hot or super spicy flavor. Easy and relatively quick to make. Delicious the first day and even better the next!

    • — Catherine Carpenter on January 28, 2021
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  • I love making soups and this is my all time favorite and all time go to soup! The flavor is outstanding! I could never have come up with thus recipe on my own. I use muchi curry that has some added heat. Thank you!❤️

    • — T. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Wow, what a delicious, savory, flavorful soup! I love the texture of the lentils and veggies in this soup. I have made it several times and it has always turned out great. Most recently, I didn’t have any chicken so I simply left that out, and the soup was still amazing.

    • — Erin on January 28, 2021
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  • This soup was just what I needed when it’s -30! It came together so quickly and I love red lentils. I made only a couple small changes:
    – put in 3/4 cup of red lentils and 1/3 cup of arborio rice
    – added some garlic when I sauteed the veg
    – added some diced red peppers near the end
    I shared some with my parents and they immediately made it the next day as well! Thanks again Jen!

    • — Shannon on January 28, 2021
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  • Simply wonderful, complex flavor, made the whole house smell divine

    • — Cathy on January 21, 2021
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  • Delicious!

    • — Donna on December 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made this tonite with some rice and was so pleasantly surprised. The lime juice is a must, wonderful flavour. Added some okra cuz I love it. Will definitely make again. Thanx for the recipe! New to your site but will be a regular now.

    • — Angie on July 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can you make this in the instant pot? Ideas on how?

    • — Kirsten on June 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Kirsten, It may be doable but I don’t have enough experience with one to tell you confidently whether or not/how to convert a recipe to an instant pot, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on June 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • Is it possible to substitute a low fat coconut milk?

    • — diana hubbardreplyuk on June 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, it won’t be quite as creamy, but it will work. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • Jenn, once again you hit the mark! I followed your directions to the T with the exception of the chicken stock. I usually have homemade in the freezer and used it in place of store bought. This soup is so incredibly flavorful. Your recipes NEVER fail to deliver and are so easy! In fact, I have now canceled my ATK online subscription as your site gives me what I need!
    Thank-you once again! Is there a new book in the works?

    • — diana hubbardreplyuk on June 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Diana! ❤️
      And thanks for inquiring about a cookbook — I am in the process of working on a second one; it will be released in Fall 2021 — stay tuned!

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • I’m a big fan of this website and have loved every recipe I’ve cooked. I made the Indian Spiced Red Lentil & Chicken Soup a few nights ago. However, I realized at the last minute that I had no coconut milk, so I sent my husband a few miles down the road to see if he could find any at the “local” stores, which aren’t “grocery” stores. He found only heavy cream and almond milk so I suggested he buy both so that I could see which I wanted to substitute in the recipe. I was concerned about using the heavy cream with the lime juice, but I used the heavy cream and it worked great. The soup was just as creamy and great tasting as when I made it the first time using the coconut milk. I did discover, though, that I actually like almond milk. I had never before tasted almond milk, but it looked and tasted too thin for this recipe.

    • — JANICE on January 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • Jenn, do you have a video that shows how to chop veggies in the food processor? Or advice on doing so? I always think that I will puree it, so never use for chopping.
      Thanks, Lucky girl.

      • — Linda Irvin on March 16, 2020
      • Reply
      • Hi Linda, Unfortunately, I don’t have a video for that but the key to chopping veggies in a food processor is to use the “Pulse” button. It will allow you to keep an eye on the texture and help you to avoid overprocessing the vegetables. See a quick video here. Hope that helps!

        • — Jenn on March 16, 2020
        • Reply
      • I’ve made this soup several times since I discovered your recipe about a year ago! It is a HIT at our house- my husband, myself, my 4 year old, (which is saying something), and my 14 month old (who struggles with eating, also loves his which is puréed)! I often make it with a with can of coconut milk and whatever lentils I have on hand (if not red, will take longer to cook)- but no matter what, it turns out delicious. Thank you from one tired cooking mama to another!

        • — Rachel on September 17, 2020
        • Reply
  • Does this freeze well? I am often cooking for one and don’t enjoy eating the same thing multiple times a week

    • — Susan on January 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yes, Susan, you can freeze it. See the freezer-friendly instructions at the bottom of the recipe. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made her Potato & Leek soup last week. It was so good I had to find another soup recipe by Ms. Segal even tho I have her cookbook, these two recipes were not in it. Tonight I made this, it was absolutely delicious. I follow recipes exact and this one was very easy to put together. I didn’t add anything additional to the soup pot but to my bowl I did add some more lime & cayenne pepper along with the cilantro. My family loved the soup.
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful tasty recipes. You are our favorite chef!!!!
    Oh and I really like the step by step pictures because it helps to see what size those carrots, onions, celery and apples were suppose to look like in the pot. Thanks..

    • — Wannabe Cook on December 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Made this soup last night, delicious! Easy and full of flavor. Looking forward to leftovers!

  • Absolutely delightful aromatic flavorful soup. Made it just like the recipe but treated ourselves to homemade chicken stock. Sometimes coconut milk soups can be a little heavy but this soup was just right and not too rich. I trust your recipes so much that I doubled the recipe the first time. Once again a great family hit. So glad I doubled!

  • I came across this red lentil soup recipe by accident. It sounded so good that I ordered your cookbook a couple of days ago and set out to make this on my day off today.
    The soup is magnificent (I did add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes) and your beautiful cookbook arrived just as the soup was finishing up.
    What a perfect day off…thanks for all your very special recipes.

    • Glad you enjoyed the soup and thanks for purchasing the cookbook! 🙂

  • This soup was delicious and very easy! I served it with Naan bread and it was a quick and hearty meal that I will be making again.

  • This soup is so awesome — the flavors are absolutely delicious. I followed the recipe exactly to rave reviews from my family, with my 13 year old telling me to write “big winner” on the recipe so I would remember to make it again. I made the dinner rolls from your cookbook to go with it — those were also amazing — but took longer than I had anticipated (my fault for not reading the entire recipe before I got started), but the rolls themselves came out great! Thank you Jenn for more fantastic recipes!

  • Jenn, your Indian Spiced Red Lentil and Chicken Soup is AMAZING….as all of your recipes are that I have tried! Did not change anything except used Olive Oil instead of Vegetable Oil. You never steer me wrong and loved the idea of using my food processor for the veges and apple….so easy!! My husband raved and I said “Jenn does it again”! So excited to try even more of your recipes! I bought asparagus today to make your Asaragus Soup with Lemon and Parmesan for about the 15th time!!! Thanks for being that “go to chef”!! You make my life easy, yummy and no flops! Thanks again Jenn!

    • — Sharon Muilenburg
    • Reply

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