What is Mulligatawny Stew?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Mulligatawny stew or soup is a dish of Indian origin that once included cream, peppers, lamb, coconut milk, vegetables and curry. It became popular to the British during UK occupation of India. Recipes for mulligatawny were quickly brought back to England, where it remains a popular dish, though it has undergone many changes.

The name mulligatawny, derives from Tamil, a language from Southern India. Mulligatawny transliterates to pepper water or pepper soup. Modern versions of mulligatawny actually often omit hot peppers, allowing the curry to provide the heat for the dish.

Mulligatawny soup or stew is often confused with Mulligan stew, thought to be a version of Irish stew including beef and potatoes. Mulligatawny stew tends to be more like soup than stew, although the vegetables and meat do simmer and stew in the cooking process.

A recipe from the early 19th century shows how much mulligatawny has changed since it was initially brought to England. It calls for boiling a chicken, adding onions, ground pepper, and curry. The whole chicken is removed, diced, and fried, then added back to the broth.


A modern recipe might include tomatoes, diced chicken, chicken stock, green peppers, curry, cream, butter and milk, as well as salt and pepper. Neither version is close to the original version of the stew or soup. While chicken might be used, lamb was also a viable and often chosen alternative. As well, most often coconut milk would have been used which would have provided a more “eastern” flavor to the dish.

In old or new versions, mulligatawny soup or stew makes excellent comfort food. It can be served with warmed up pita bread or naan for a more traditional flavor. Alternately, one could serve mulligatawny with corn bread, which goes well with the curry, or with crusty French bread.

Vegetarian versions of mulligatawny might use lentils and vegetable stock in place of chicken stock and meat. Because of the spicing, the recipe hardly requires meat to provide a tasty meal. Vegans can use coconut milk and omit cream added to the recipe. Traditionally, rice may be added to mulligatawny, but some recipes call for potatoes instead. Either is acceptable and will make a delicious meal.


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Popularized by Seinfeld. Character, 'The Soup Nazi' made Mulligatawny.

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