One of the magical things about food is how it can transport you across the globe with a single bite. I think this is why we love to follow those travelers who explore the world through food, like Anthony Bourdain; it’s also part of the reason I personally love to travel and it inspires me when I come back home to work in the kitchen too.
Jamaican Chicken Soup is one of the many soups I’ve discovered that has that magical transportative power; this soup is traditional – but not in the Caribbean way you’re probably imagining of fruits and bright flavors. Instead, it features starchy ingredients, savory spices, and “lesser” chicken meat like thighs.
If you’re curious to try making Jamaican Chicken Soup at home and transporting yourself through time and space, read on. I’ll cover how to make Jamaican Chicken Soup in detail, and you can see a recipe card to help you make this soup easily too.
Making Jamaican Chicken Soup
Jamaican Chicken Soup starts with Kabocha squash. If you’ve never cooked with this squash before, don’t worry. You can handle it just like other squashes and it’s a simple preparation for this recipe. Start by cutting off the top, scooping the seeds, and then cutting the squash into large pieces. Peel the skin (the easiest way is to actually cut it off the back side of the meat), then cube the remaining squash. You only need two cups of squash, so put the rest aside for a future recipe.
Grab your favorite soup pot (we all have one, right?), add a few tablespoons of oil (any kind will do), and lightly brown the chicken thighs. Add the two cups of Kabocha squash, plus eight cups of chicken broth or stock. Bring the starter soup up to a boil and let the pot cook for 20-30 minutes.
Next, add the onion, potato, Thyme sprigs, carrots, and whole Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper. You can also add turnip too if you like that flavor (I personally don’t so made that optional in the recipe card). Leave the soup boiling while you make the dumplings for this soup.
Note: if you use a Scotch Bonnet pepper, I recommend tasting the soup every 10 minutes or so to ensure you don’t over-spice the soup. Simply remove the pepper when you’ve reached a heat level you’re happy with – and remember heat continues to build the longer any food is cooked, so you may want to be more conservative about when you remove the pepper.
While your soup is simmering away, it’s dumplin’ makin’ time! Grab a large bowl and add one cup of flour. Slowly add water, kneading the dough. You want to get a nice consistency where the dough is neither sticky nor dry; when you reach that point, roll the dough into small dumplings (1-1.5″ in diameter). They don’t have to be pretty – just delicious. Next, drop the dumplings into your soup and stir.
If you choose to use Allspice (Pimento) berries in your recipe, now’s the time to add them. Then cook the soup for another 20-25 minutes. You may want to salt and pepper the soup to your preference. After that, you’re ready to serve it up, with cilantro as an optional garnish. (Before serving, be sure to remove the pepper if you haven’t already!)
Jamaican Chicken Soup Recipe
- 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 2-3 pounds Chicken Thighs
- 2 cups Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
- 1 Onion, sliced or chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 1 Russet Potato, peeled and quartered
- 1 Turnip, cut and quartered (optional)
- 5 -6 springs Thyme (fresh)
- 2 medium Carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper (whole)
- 6 Allspice/Pimento berries (optional)
- 8 cups Chicken Stock/Broth
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro for garnish
- Cut, seed, and peel the Kabocha Squash. You will use only 2 cups of cubed Kabocha squash. Set aside.
- In a large pot, add a little oil, and lightly brown the chicken. Add the squash and 8 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes.
- Add onion, potato, garlic, Thyme sprigs, carrots, (turnips, optional), remaining chicken stock and Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper. Continue cooking while you make the flour dumplings.
- In a mixing bowl, add 1 cup flour and a little water at a time, to make the dough. Lightly knead the dough until the consistency is firm and not too sticky. If it's too sticky, add some more flour. Roll the dough in between your palms, to make the dumplings. Don't worry about how they look.
- Drop the dumplings into the soup and stir.
- Add the Allspice berries (optional).
- Cook the soup for another 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the pepper before serving. If you use a Scotch Bonnet pepper, I suggest occasionally tasting the soup, and remove the pepper at desired heat.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Dreaming of a trip to explore this other side of Jamaican culinary culture? This soup will surely become part of your ethnic soup rotation.
Have other questions about this Jamaican chicken soup recipe? Let me know in the comments!