Yemenite Chicken Soup

This soup has revolutionized my family. My children, former Ashkenazi chicken soup loving beings, have been converted. They ask for this soup. They beg for it! Who knew what a little Hawaij could do?! Yemenite chicken soup had been on my to do list for years. But I figured my kids wouldn't touch it (so wrong!) so what was the point and there were so many different versions of it out there and I wanted authentic. So I called a close friend who married a Yemenite guy and asked for her secrets. This is my version of what she told me her mother in law does. I love that there are potatoes in this soup. It literally makes it a one pot meal if need be. The backbone of this soup is Hawaij, a Yemenite blend of warm spices such as cumin, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, and cloves. It took me a while to find a blend I like and a blend with no added MSG in it but I finally did. I fell in love with Hawaij so much that I started sprinkling it on everything at one point, but that got old quick. Do not be scared of the amount of garlic in this soup. The whole cloves mellow and fall apart while cooking and if you're lucky enough to get a whole one it's like eating a piece of hawaij scented roasted garlic and its a real treat. Traditionally, this soup is served with two condiments- schug, a spicy hot pepper dip and Hilbeh a sourish fenugreek dip. I usually don't have those on hand so instead I serve it with a squeeze of lemon and lots of chili flakes and its just divine. Enjoy!

2 Tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 3lb whole chicken, cut into 8ths, or 3lb chicken thighs and legs
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp Hawaij (make sure its Hawaij for soup not Hawaij for coffee)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
15 cups water
4 stalks celery, quartered
5 medium carrots, quartered
1 large leek, cleaned and quartered
1 parsley root, peeled (optional)
2-3 large potatoes, cut into large chunks
15 cloves garlic
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 Tablespoons Hawaij
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
For Serving: Schug and Hilbeh or Red Chili flakes and Lemon

In a 8-10 quart soup pot, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper, Hawaij and turmeric and add it to the pot. Mix so the spices get incorporated into the onions and then let it sit two minutes so the spices start to toast.
Add the water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. Skim off any scum that rises to the top and then add the carrots, celery, leek, parsley root, garlic cloves, potatoes, tomato paste, and the rest of the seasonings. Bring back to a boil and cook over low-medium heat for another 40 or so minutes until the carrots are tender adding the cilantro in about half way through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hawaij, turmeric, and/or cumin as needed. Serve with a nice pinch of chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon in each bowl or with the more traditional accompaniments, schug and hilbeh. 


  1. Where do you buy the hawaij? We've been trying different ones but haven't found the one we like yet. Thanks.

    1. I've been buying the maimon brand which I get in Rami levi.

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