Jamaican Chicken and Pumpkin soup is aromatic, warming, and complex. The richness of coconut milk plays against the tang of lime, sweetness of the pumpkin, and spicy signature Jamaican curry powder in a way that feels autumnal but more balanced than other pumpkin-based soups. This is a one pot meal, although traditionally served with dumplings. We enjoyed ours with jalapeno focaccia, it was perfect for cleaning out the bottom of the bowl.
This recipe makes a lot of soup, so it’s great for freezing, batch cooking, or large family gatherings. I’ve included my recipe for homemade Jamaican curry powder without chilis, so that you can enjoy all the flavours of the curry without the heat. The scotch bonnets play an important role in the soup, but scotch bonnet hot sauce works perfectly well to heat up the individual bowls of those so inclined. My usual method is a bit of a compromise. I add the whole scotch bonnet to the soup at the very end for about 15 minutes, then remove it whole, careful not to break it open (if it does break open, just carefully scoop out the area of soup under where it broke, trying to get all the seeds and bits out before they get stirred in.)
Vegetables are the base of this soup, and we added tempeh croutons to take the role of “chicken” here- crunchy, salty and satisfying. You can omit them if you prefer, or swap for vegan “pulled chicken” or something else! There is a cup of red lentils in the stew, so it is not completely bereft of protein.
Go ahead and use plantain, chayote, okra, callaloo, or any other Caribbean veggies you like! The foundation vegetables I chose here are widely available year round in most places. I added tomatoes and red peppers towards the end, since it is summer here and they are abundant in the markets.
Vegan Jamaican Chicken and Pumpkin Soup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 stalks celery with leaves sliced about 1/2 cm thick
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced about 1/2 cm thick
- 2 inch knob of ginger peeled and grated
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and grated or minced
- 1 lime zest and juice
- 3 tablespoons Jamaican Curry Powder recipe below! you may used store-bought if you prefer, but it will be very hot, so you may want to use less.
- 2 tablespoons vegan broth powder chicken style is best
- 2 cups butternut squash or other winter pumpkin peeled and cubed about 1 inch wide
- 1 medium potato peeled and cubed about 1 inch wide
- 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cubed about 1 inch wide
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 head bok choy chopped
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar to taste, depending on how sweet the vegetables are
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce to taste
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/3 cup tempeh croutons recipe coming soon! any protein can be used here.
- 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds
- fresh cilantro, lime, and coconut milk to garnish
- Peel, chop, and grate all the vegetables as described above. Divide the vegetables into groups based on when they will be added to the pot, as shown below (Hint: the recipe lists the vegetables in the order they will be cooked.) Make sure your Jamaican curry powder is ready, and pour yourself a big glass of water. This first bit of prep takes up most of the time, but don't worry- the deliciousness is coming soon! You can save time and energy by buying pre-chopped vegetables, and I really recommend it for the pumpkin at least if you aren't sure of your abilities. It is worth learning how to prep a pumpkin, but there's no need to learn everything in a day. Shortcuts are totally acceptable and encouraged!
- Preheat a very large pot with the coconut oil until just starting to smoke. Add the carrots, onion and celery, stirring over the heat for about 3-5 minutes, until just starting to brown
- Quickly stir in the curry powder, broth powder ginger, garlic, and lime zest. (Save the lime juice until the end.)
- Immediate add the pumpkin, sweet potato, white potato, and red lentils.
- Fill the pot with water until the vegetables are almost covered. Bring to a boil, stirring once or twice, and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables and lentils are soft. Check one of each kind of vegetable, to be sure they are pretty much cooked through.
- Stir in the chopped bok choy, red peppers, and tomatoes. The soup should be quite thick and chunky at this point. Increase the heat to medium-high.
- Add the remaining ingredients all at once, stirring until it is well-incorporated. Be careful with the hot pepper, you want to leave it whole, so sort of stir around it. As it cooks it will soften and be very easy to break accidentally, so be careful! This stage should take about ten minutes, be careful not to leave the pepper in for longer unless you want a spicier soup.
- Scoop out the hot pepper and adjust the seasoning to your taste. The soup should taste spicy first, then sweet, then salty, then tangy/ sour (if you can handle the spice, that is- if not, no worries, just take the pepper out sooner!) Add more brown sugar, lime juice, or soy sauce to balance the flavours to your taste. Of course, leave the hot pepper in if you want it hotter, but I recommend removing it before storing your soup, as the heat will continue to build overnight.
- Serve your soup with the toppings you prefer. I recommend a side dish of bread or rice, to help soak up all the deliciousness and moderate spiciness for more sensitive diners.
Mild Jamaican Curry Powder
- A coffee grinder or small blender.. If not available, use powdered spices instead.
- 1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup dried thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 5 tablespoons ground turmeric
- Grind the spices all together in the grinder, stopping periodically to let the grinder cool and scrape down the sides if it gets too hot. This may take several minutes. When it is all ground to a fine powder, you're ready to store in an air tight container in the cupboard.