How to Make Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny soup is a comforting dish that marries both Indian and British ingredients, and it's sure to tantalize your tastebuds. It's fragrant, creamy, mildly spicy and simply incredible.

If you’re looking for a soup that’s warm, comforting, fragrant and rich in flavors, Mulligatawny soup is all you need. Believe me, one sip of this fall soup and you’ll be making it every week.

After sampling many variations over the years, I finally have a recipe that hits the spot every single time.

What Is Mulligatawny Soup?

Mulligatawny soup originated in Southern India during the British Raj (the British rule of India). The soup was originally made of peppers, which led to the name: mulliga meaning pepper and tawny meaning water in the Tamil language. The British soldiers needed soup to begin their meal, so the locals watered down their staple “pepper water.” The British then asked the cooks to add mutton or chicken, and other ingredients like apples to suit their taste, and thus Mulligatawny soup was born.

These days, Mulligatawny soup is made with lentils and vegetables; mutton or chicken; a broth with coconut cream, onions, celery and apples; and garnished with rice.

How to Make Mulligatawny Soup from Scratch

Making Mulligatawny soup at home is easy, despite the long ingredients list. You can use any vegetables you have and it comes together pretty fast after everything is chopped and prepped. It’s the perfect one-pot meal!

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons split pigeon pea lentils
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium apples, cored, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind pulp or lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon cooked rice

Directions

Step 1: Prep the lentils and rice

Soak the lentils and rice in water.

Step 2: Make the curry paste

Grind garlic, ginger, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and peppercorns to make the curry paste.

Step 3: Temper the spices

Heat ghee or oil in an Instant Pot using the Saute mode. Add the bay leaf and chopped onions, then the ground curry paste. Learn more about tempering in our guide to Indian cooking techniques.

Step 4: Add the veggies

Saute for a minute on medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, apples and soaked lentils, then the vegetable broth and salt.

Step 5: Pressure cook

Cook the rice using the Pot in Pot method in the Instant Pot. Place a trivet in the pot. Then place the stainless steel container with rice on top. Cover the lid and pressure-cook for 6 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release.

Step 6: Whisk

Once done, open the lid of the Instant Pot, put the rice aside and remove the bay leaf. Quickly whisk the mixture, leaving a few chunks.

Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients

Add the tamarind pulp (or lemon juice) and coconut milk, then stir.

Step 8: Garnish

Garnish with garam masala powder, crushed peppercorns and a spoonful of rice. Serve hot.

Tips for Making Mulligatawny Soup

Can I use store-bought curry powder?

You can, but we recommend using the curry paste in the recipe to get the perfect flavor. Similarly, you don’t want to skip the apples if you want to get authentic Mulligatawny soup.

What kind of apples should I use?

It’s best to use Granny Smith apples for this recipe as they’re mildly tart and not too sweet. They add a nice tangy flavor to the soup.

What else can I add to the soup?

You can make the soup your own by adding some cilantro for garnish, which will enhance the flavors. If you’re finding it spicy, you can mellow the flavors with a dollop of yogurt or some sugar.

How can I make the soup thicker/thinner?

Adding carrots and apples will make the soup thicker, while adding coconut milk and yogurt will thin it out. You can also add some vegetable broth to this soup to thin it out further.

Don’t forget to make one of these Indian dessert recipes for later!

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Anvita Bhatnagar Mistry
Anvita is a co-founder, author, photographer and cook for the food blog TheBellyRulesTheMind.net. Her food philosophy is, you are what you eat, so eat healthy to whatever extent possible. Having lived in India, Australia, the United States and now Germany, Anvita has had the opportunity to appreciate food from different continents and build a diverse palate. She loves to travel and is currently exploring the food scene in Europe with her husband and son. For Anvita, comfort food is Indian food, as it takes her back to her roots.