Indian Mulligatawny Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mulligatawny soup

Mulligatawny soup, translated literally as "pepper water", is a classic spicy brothy concoction adapted by the English during the colonial period from the ever popular rasam enjoyed all year round in South Indian homes. I have tried various versions of mulligatawny soup throughout the years since I fell in love with Indian cuisine and I never tire of it.

It is especially nourishing and cleansing when served spicy hot. For years I have been trying to replicate a particularly fiery version that I am fortunately able to enjoy from a local restaurant, but there really is no comparison with homemade versions when you have control over the quality and quantity of the spices and ingredients simmered together on your stove top. Inspired by my recent success with dal makhani — another Indian classic — I must say that I have finally arrived at a close approximation to the model I was looking to imitate and was particularly delighted how many more layers of flavor mine consisted of. I leave it to my readers to determine the authenticity of this soup - okay, so dried mushrooms are likely not included in traditional versions — but authenticity aside, your taste buds will be panting with delight.

I've used homemade sambar powder in this soup as I always have some hand because it is a beautiful compliment to not only sambars, but also rasams and many other Indian curries. Opening up a jar of spices inspired by Indian culinary genius always inspires me in the kitchen. Commercial varieties are available at any Indian grocer, but you can find my recipe here.

Indian Mulligatawny SoupIndian Mulligatawny Soup
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on October 18, 2012

Earthy and spicy authentic flavored Mulligatawny soup with vegetables

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 55 to 60 minutes

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  • 1/3 cup toor dal, chana dal or yellow split peas
  • 7 to 8 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 oz (14 g) dried mixed mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1- to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 to 4 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • generous handful of dried curry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sambar powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • Rinse the dal or split peas and bring to a boil in 3 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are just tender — about 30 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water or vegetable stock to a gentle simmer in a saucepan and whisk in the tamarind paste. In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and chop.

  • When the dals or split peas are tender, pour in the tamarind water and stir in the mixed mushrooms, shallot, carrot, potato, ginger, tomato, parsley, chilies, curry leaves, sambar powder, asafetida, cayenne and salt. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes or until the dals or split peas are soft and the vegetables are tender, adding more water or vegetable stock as necessary to achieve your desired consistency. Partially purée the soup with an immersion blender or transfer a few cups to a food processor or countertop blender and process before returning to the pan. Stir in the lime juice and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.

  • Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds and stir and for 30 to 60 seconds or until they turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and continue to stir for another minute or until the seeds darken a few shades. Transfer to the cooked soup, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and ladle into bowls for serving.

Makes 6 servings

mulligatawny soup spicy Indian

More classic dal soups from Lisa's Spicy Vegetarian Kitchen:
Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup
Butternut Squash Sambar
Toor Dal Pumpkin Soup

Audio Accompaniment: Autechre


Priya Suresh said...

Its raining here, a prefect soup for me to enjoy without any hesitation.

Sriya said...

first time here ...glad to follow you ..very yummy and tempting
visit my blog

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks for visiting my blog Sriya!

Venera@veggykitchen said...

Looks great as usual Lisa! Nice dal soup.

Jiah said...

tempting your soup recipe..will try this today for dinner :)