Mulligatawny Stew

5 from 1 vote
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This Mulligatawny Stew is a rich, heartwarming, one-pot soup loaded with chicken, veggies, lentils, coconut milk, and warm Indian spices. It’s quick and easy and sure to get your taste buds dancing. 

Mulligatawny stew in a bowl with a spoon and naan.


I love good, hearty stews. They come together so easily and warm you to the core. This mulligatawny stew is one of my favorites. Hearty lentils, fall-apart chicken, lots of veggies, a hint of sweetness from coconut milk, and a Honeycrisp apple all come together in this delicious one-pot meal. In just under an hour, you could be taking your senses on a trip to South India.

What Is Mulligatawny Stew?

Mulligatawny Stew, a robust South Indian dish, combines lentils, vegetables, warm spices like curry, and typically chicken as the protein, though mutton is also traditional. This recipe omits mutton for wider accessibility, but it’s a great addition if available. Interestingly, while Western adaptations often skip peppers, the original version included them, giving the stew its name – “pepper water.” The dish was introduced to the West by the East India Company in the late 18th century.

Labeled ingredients for mulligatawny stew separated into bowls.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs: Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken breasts too. You are also welcome to use a different protein, such as turkey or beef. Traditionally, mutton is a top protein choice in this hearty stew. If you can find it, stir it in with the chicken. 
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Onion, Celery, & Carrots: Or “mirepoix” (pronounced “meer-pwah”). This classic French blend is renowned for providing a flavorful foundation in many recipes.
  • Honeycrisp apple: Other apples will do. I suggest you choose one that is on the sweeter side. 
  • Garlic: I suggest using fresh garlic, but garlic powder can be used instead.
  • Turmeric: Adds a warm, earthy flavor and a vibrant yellow color.
  • Ground ginger: Offers a slightly spicy, sharp, and sweet taste.
  • Cardamom: Provides a sweet flavor with a hint of citrus.
  • Cumin: Contributes a nutty, slightly smoky flavor.
  • Curry powder: A popular blend that provides flavor with varying levels of heat and spice.
  • Tomato paste
  • Red lentils: Green or brown lentils are good alternatives, but different types of lentils may require adjustments in cooking time and liquid quantities.
  • Canned chickpeas: These are optional. They make for a much heartier stew.
  • Coconut milk: I prefer using full-fat coconut milk but low-fat will work as well.
  • Chicken stock: Select a quality stock. If you have time, make your own with this Chicken Broth recipe.
  • Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish: Or use chopped fresh parsley instead.
Mulligatawny stew in a bowl with a spoon and naan.

How to Make Mulligatawny Stew

This one-pot soup cooks up in under an hour. Pretty impressive considering the resulting depth of flavor. Here’s an overview of how to make chicken mulligatawny stew.

  • Brown the chicken. Heat some butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. 
  • Saute the veggies. Add the rest of the butter, the veggies, and the apple to the pot, season with salt, and sauté for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add the spices. Add the garlic, turmeric, ground ginger, cardamom, cumin, and curry powder and sauté until fragrant. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste. 
  • Add the rest. Add the red lentils, chickpeas, coconut milk, and chicken stock followed by the browned chicken and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. 
  • Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Chop the chicken on a cutting board and return it to the stew pot. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro. 
Overhead shot of Mulligatawny stew in a pot and garnished with fresh cilantro.

Recipe Tips And Variations

  • Use a heavy pot for even heat distribution and to avoid burning ingredients at the bottom.
  • Opt for quality stock, preferably boxed or homemade, as it’s crucial for flavor.
  • Simmer slowly to ensure tender chicken and perfectly cooked veggies, allowing the flavors to develop fully.
  • Season at the end; adjust with extra salt or black pepper after adding veggies and liquids.
  • For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with extra chickpeas, veggies, or bell peppers.
  • Feel free to substitute chicken with mutton, turkey, or beef for different protein options.
  • Adjust consistency by adding more stock for a soupier texture, or coconut milk for enhanced coconut flavor; remember to season accordingly.

Serving Suggestions

This meal will fill you up on its own but you could also transport yourself to India by serving this mulligatawny soup with my Naan Bread and Samosas. This Lemon Paprika Roasted Cauliflower Recipe would be great as a veggie side dish. Other options include Honey Garlic Butter Roasted Carrots Recipe, Garlic Butter Roasted Carrots, Oven Roasted Asparagus, and Sautéed Garlic Broccolini. Balance out this belly-warming stew with a light, fresh salad. I’ve been loving this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad and my Avocado and Feta Kale Salad.

Mulligatawny stew in a bowl with a spoon and naan.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

  • Unless you are feeding a large group, you will likely have leftovers here. Yay! Allow the stew to cool completely before sealing it in an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • When ready to enjoy, transfer the stew to a pot and heat over medium heat on the stovetop, stirring occasionally. You can also reheat it in an individual bowl in the microwave. Cover the bowl and heat for 30 seconds before stirring and heating for another 30 seconds.

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5 from 1 vote

Mulligatawny Stew

This mulligatawny stew is a simple, yet flavorful one-pot soup featuring chicken, vegetables, lentils, and coconut milk, all seasoned with warm Indian spices.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 servings


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  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot.
  • Add the chicken, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it for about 2 minutes on each side.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the rest of the butter to the pot along with the chopped onion, celery, carrots, and apple.
  • Season with sea salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  • Stir in the garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, ground ginger, and cardamom; sauté for about 20 more seconds.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Stir in the red lentils, chickpeas, coconut milk, and chicken stock.
  • Return the chicken to the pot and bring everything to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot and transfer it to a cutting board; chop it into bite-sized pieces and return it to the soup pot.
  • Give the stew a taste and, if desired, season with more salt and pepper.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
  • Serve warm.


  • Chicken: I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breasts instead of thighs. Traditionally this recipe is prepared with mutton, so if you can get your hands on that, go ahead and use that together with the chicken. If you want a vegetarian dish, please feel free to leave out the protein. 
  • Apples: Honeycrisp is a great choice, but you can also use whatever you have on hand. 
  • Coconut Milk: I suggest using one 14-ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk; full-fat or low-fat will work.
  • Sea Salt heightens the flavor of the dish, but if you don’t have sea salt, use regular table salt.
  • Season at the end. Before serving, give the stew a taste. There are lots of veggies and liquids here, so it’s always good to taste and adjust the seasonings at the end of the cooking process.
  • Storing: Transfer the cooled stew to an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze it for up to 3 months.


Serving: 1bowl | Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 784mg | Potassium: 822mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 4326IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Alison says:

    Do you think this could be made in the crockpot?

    1. Katerina says:

      Sure. Combine all the ingredients except the coconut cream in a 6 or 8-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Stir in the coconut cream, cover, and let cook for about 15 minutes, just to heat it through. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

  2. Jean says:

    Wonderful one pot meal. The spices were just right.