Spicy Chicken and Rice Soup with Pumpkin


This soup uses rice as its thickening agent. It’s a genius technique that you’ll find used in many cuisines and cultures as an alternative to cornstarch, or roux. What’s great about using rice is that it imparts a delicious aromatic ricey flavor to the soup, all the while turning watery broth into thick, comforting porridge. Though this recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs, which cook in the broth as it thickens, you could absolutely swap in cooked and shredded turkey meat, if you’re looking for a non-sandwichy way to use up all of those leftovers. Use dark meat if you can, which won’t risk over cooking, and add it in when you add the rice. To that end, if you want to turn this vegetarian, you could omit the chicken all together. There is plenty of flavor thanks to smoky chipotle chilies, fresh ginger, and pumpkin, and I doubt you’d miss the chicken at all.

Active Time: 35 Mins

Total Time: 1 hrs



  • 2 white onions
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 1½-inch piece of ginger
  • 3 limes
  • Cilantro leaves and tender stems, for garnish


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (from one 7 ounce can)
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • ⅔ cup long grain white rice
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper


  • Sour cream, for serving


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1. Do some prep:

  • Season 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs all over with 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.


  • Cut 2 white onions in half, thinly slice one half until you have about ¼ cup of sliced onion. Cut those thin slices in half crosswise. Set these aside for garnish. Finely chop all of the remaining onions.


  • Lightly smash and peel 8 garlic cloves; thinly slice the garlic.


  • Finely chop one 1½-inch piece of ginger. Make sure this is super fine so you don’t encounter big chunks as you eat the soup. You could also microplane the ginger. (No need to peel it unless the skin is super tough and dirty.)


  • Make some room on your cutting board (it’s about to get a little messy). Crack open one 7-ounce can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Finely chop 2 chipotle peppers.

2. Build the soup:

  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, garlic, and ginger, season with ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and translucent but not browned, 4-5 minutes.


  • Stir in 1½ teaspoons ground cumin, chipotle chilies, and 2 bay leaves and cook to bloom the spices, 1 minute longer.


  • Stir in 1 cup of canned pumpkin puree, the chicken thighs, ⅔ cup of long grain white rice, 7 cups water, 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium high heat. Once it simmers, continue to cook, reducing the heat as needed to maintain a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, and the rice has begun to swell, about 15- 20 minutes.


  • Pluck out the chicken thighs, letting any liquid drip back into the pot; transfer them to a cutting board or medium bowl. Let cool slightly. Use two forks to shred the chicken meat into bite sized pieces.


  • Continue to simmer the soup--you can simmer it for just 15 minutes longer if you like a brothier soup, or continue to simmer it up for a total of up to 30 minutes longer for a thicker, more porridge-like texture (this is my preference). Totally up to you.


  • Add the shredded chicken back into the soup and stir for a minute or so to warm it through.

3. Finish:

  • Stir in the juice of 2 limes. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed.


  • Cut the remaining lime into wedges for serving.


  • Divide the soup among bowls. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream, some cilantro leaves, the reserved sliced white onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve lime wedges alongside.