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Yemenite Chicken Soup

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Editor's Note: This soup is something special. I tasted my first hot and spicy Yemenite chicken soup, featuring homemade z'hug, hilbe, and hawaij, at my friend Anita’s house. She had torn the recipe for us from the pages of a magazine. I lost the recipe a long time ago but still remember the earthy, robust, rustic soup with a kick, filled with fragrant herbs and spices—it’s simply unforgettable. Short of finding myself a Yemenite friend (I’m still looking if you know anyone!), I turned to Joan Nathan, the award-winning author of 10 cookbooks and largely considered the authority on Jewish cooking. She graciously agreed to share her authentic recipe with us. - Jamie Geller

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 6-8Servings


  • Chicken, 3-4 lbs., cut into 8 pieces     
  • 2 large onions
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large tomato, quartered but not cut all the way through
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1⁄4-inch rounds
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
  • 1⁄4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 bunch dill, finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 bunch cilantro,finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Jamie Geller Hawaij
  • 2 tablespoons z'hug
  • 1⁄3 cup hilbe 


 1. At least 2 hours before you begin cooking the soup, start soaking the fenugreek powder to make the hilbe (see step 6).

2. Then start making the soup: Put chicken in a large pot and cover with water by three inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off scum, and let it boil for 30 minutes.

3. While soup is boiling, make the hawayij: Pound peppercorns, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, turmeric, and (optional) saffron using a mortar and pestle, or use a small food processor or buy Jamie Geller Hawaij.

4. After soup has been boiling for 30 minutes, add onions, garlic, tomato, celery, salt, and hawayij. Simmer for another hour, until chicken is tender.

5. While soup is simmering, make the z'hug: Put peppers, garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, cardamom, and salt in a food processor. Begin processing and gradually add 1⁄4 cup olive oil, then puree. Adjust for seasonings, adding pepper seeds if you want more heat. Remove contents to a glass container and cover with olive oil. (This will keep for months in a refrigerator in an airtight jar.)

6. Now, make the hilbe: The pre-soaked fenugreek seed mixture should be gelatinous to start. Add z'hug, lemon juice, and salt, then beat until smooth using an electric hand mixer or whisk. Adjust seasonings. It should be very spicy.

7. After the soup has been simmering for an hour, add carrots, potatoes, and all but two tablespoons of the parsley, dill, and cilantro. Cook until vegetables are cooked through.

8. Stir in z'hug and hilbe, and serve as is, or over rice. Sprinkle remaining herbs on top.