Melissa’s Spiced Chicken and Couscous Soup with Vegetables

Spiced Chicken and Couscous Soup with Vegetables 

In this complex, vegetable-rich chicken soup, an aromatic spice blend—either baharat or garam masala—adds a heady fragrance to the pot while the combination of cinnamon and tomato paste lends a subtle sweetness. You can make this as light and thin or as thick and hearty as you like; just keep adding stock or water until it’s the chicken soup of your dreams—sustaining, comforting, and profoundly flavorful.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

2 leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half moons

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves separated and chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons baharat or garam masala

½ cinnamon stick (about 1 inch)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into

¾-inch pieces

2 celery stalks or carrots, diced (or use both celery and carrots if you like)

1 small fennel bulb, diced

1 cup peeled and diced turnip or rutabaga

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup pearl couscous

Lime wedges, for serving

Urfa or Aleppo pepper, or hot paprika, for serving

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and sauté until they begin to brown, 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir the cilantro stems into the pot along with the garlic (save the cilantro leaves for later). Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, baharat, and the cinnamon stick and cook until the paste begins to caramelize, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. If the pot looks dry, drizzle in a little more oil. Stir in the chicken and a pinch of salt and sauté until the chicken starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the celery, fennel, turnip, and another pinch of salt and sauté until the vegetables start to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the stock, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are nearly soft, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Stir in the couscous and continue to simmer until it is tender, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

5. Taste and add a squeeze of lime juice and more salt, if needed. If the soup needs thinning out, stir in some more stock or water. Stir in the cilantro leaves and serve bowls of the soup topped with the Urfa pepper and lime wedges on the side for more squeezing.


This soup is a perfect place to add greens. Stir 4 to 5 ounces (4 to 5 cups) baby greens into the pot with the couscous in Step 4.

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