Padma Lakshmi’s Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash and Spinach

Winnie Abramson, ND

By Winnie Abramson, ND

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Every so often, I like to stack up a bunch of the cookbooks I haven’t looked through in a while, plop down on the couch, and reacquaint myself with each one.

Last week when I did just that, I re-discovered Padma Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day.

I really don’t know why I haven’t cooked much from this book- the recipes and the photos are absolutely lovely- so I decided I had to make something, and chose the Chicken Soup with Cumin and Lemongrass on page 68.

I am so glad that I did.

I changed up the recipe a bit by substituting some of my compost-grown butternut squash for the potato; I also threw in some spinach toward the end instead of celery. I was pretty sure I’d like this Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash- the fusion of Indian and Thai flavors was so appealing- but I was not at all prepared to fall head over heels in love with it. It’s very beautiful, healthy and so tasty, though…I’m pretty sure you’ll adore it, too.

I used homegrown fresh lemongrass and I purchased my dried kaffir lime leaves at Kalystyans in NYC. The soup won’t quite be the same without these, so do try to find them if you can (many Asian markets carry both, I believe).

I chose to use 8 cups liquid total (half stock and half water: bit less liquid than the original recipe calls for) and my soup ended up pretty thick, almost like a stew. If you want the broth to be thinner, use additional stock or water. Serve with naan bread and you’re all set with one delicious meal.

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More lovely soups and stews I’ve spotted lately:
Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot, and Ginger Soup from With Style and Grace
Apple Chicken Stew from My Man’s Belly
Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa from Cookin’ Canuck
Pumpkin, Coconut and Lime Soup from Verses from my Kitchen
Coconut Soup with Red Kuri Squash and Shrimp from Tartelette

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Indian-Thai Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash and Spinach

Servings: 6 -8 servings


  • *1 whole chicken approximately 3-4 pounds, preferably organic/free-range
  • *3 tablespoons olive oil
  • *1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • *1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • *4 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
  • *2 stalks lemongrass chopped into 4-5 pieces and sliced down the middle
  • *2 green or red chiles sliced
  • *2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • *5 kaffir lime leaves
  • *3 large organic carrots peeled and chopped
  • *approximately 3 cups of chopped butternut squash
  • *4 cups of organic chicken stock preferably homemade
  • *4 cups of water plus more if necessary
  • *approximately 4 large handfuls of spinach
  • *2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  • *sriracha or your favorite hot sauce; I used my homemade chile garlic sauce- to taste
  • *minced cilantro for garnish- to taste


  • 1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. When it is hot, add cumin seeds and stir around for 1-2 minutes. Place chicken in the pot and allow to sear for a minute or so on each side. Add a little water if necessary to prevent the chicken and cumin seeds from burning.
  • 2. Add chopped onion and cook for several minutes, moving the chicken around, again adding a little water to prevent burning.
  • 3. Add the rest of the ingredients through the butternut squash, then add stock and water. Bring to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 60-70 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken over in the stew every now and then.
  • 4. Carefully remove the chicken and allow to cool in a separate bowl. Chop or shred into bite-size pieces.
  • 5. Add spinach and sea salt to the stew, and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Remove lemongrass and lime leaves, douse with chile sauce or sriracha, and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

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