Chicken stew with warm, wintry spices

A bowl of chicken stew with warm, wintry spices, chunks of golden-skinned potatoes, chicken, carrot, and green beans bobbing in an orange-brown broth. A stainless steel spoon handle catches the light, and a scattering of crushed tortilla chips garnishes the bowl. In the background, a dark blue serving bowl awaits.

I don’t think my dad reads this blog very much, but in case he sees this post — or in case some of his co-ideologues are reading this — yes, Dad, a chicken stew. It’s a thing. Even though there was that one time years ago when you asked what I was making for dinner, that time when you were visiting, and when I said “chicken stew,” you scoffed, because “there’s no such thing as chicken stew.” Not that I hold a culinary grudge. But I’m fair: as happened then, you and those who feel the same way can enjoy a thick-and-hearty chicken soup, and I’ll serve my chicken stew… from the same pot.

Bowl of chopped vegetables -- onions, carrots, celery, green beans -- sit on a counter alongside a bowl of flour spotted with small hillocks of spices, as well as a large styrofoam package of chicken thighs, all in front of a wall of spice jars and bags.

Overhead view of potato preparation: a russet potato, half chopped, rests on a cutting board next to a large glass measuring  cup mostly filled with cubed potatoes. In the background, a bowl of onions and a bowl of flour-coated chicken pieces crowds the cutting board.

And what I wouldn’t give to be able to ladle some out right now! Jarod and I finished eating this stew a good while back, and it’s a real shame, because damn would it be nice to have at the moment. When I left the house this morning, it was all of 3 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s -16°C to the rest of the world), and this would be perfect. It has all the stew basics: meat, potatoes, carrots/celery/onion, some herbs. It’s thick and hearty (see, Dad?), a good stick-to-your-ribs meal that will keep you fueled for the frigid 2-mile walk home.

A large, dark blue serving bowl full of chicken stew sits on a wooden table. It almost looks like a single-serving bowl of soup, until you realize the scale: what appears to be a stainless steel spoon is actually a large stainless steel ladle.

But beyond that, there’s the spicing. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t so much design this flavor profile as I got antsy in the kitchen one day, wandering about muttering “I just want it to taste warm, dammit” as I grabbed an assortment of jars off the shelves and sprinkled them haphazardly into a bag of flour. (That was a real treat to recreate, let me tell you.) But the result is simply marvelous.

A tumble of white onions cascades from a prep bowl into a large pot, the falling ones a blur.

You get the savory chicken flavors first, rich and a little salty. Then there’s the tomatoes cutting through, adding just a hint of tartness to balance the heaviness of the salt and flour. But then comes this wash of warm spices, riding the line between comfortingly familiar and excitingly different from your typical US-Midwestern stew.

A soup spoon rest on the rim of a bowl of stew, its bowl barely floating at the surface, laden with potato and chicken.

I hadn’t even intended this to be a blog recipe at first; I was just throwing together dinner one night. But I liked it so much that I immediately began planning to make it again, even before we’d made a dent in the first big batch. And now that the winter’s coming in with a fierceness, I think it’s time to bring it back to our fridge for the third time. Maybe I’ll even make it for the family over holidays; whether Dad accepts the reality of chicken stew or chooses to enjoy this thick-and-hearty chicken soup, I predict a lot of very happy bellies.

A bowl of chicken stew on a wooden table. Tucked into the edge of the bowl are a pair of tortilla chips, which is somewhat ridiculous from a logistical standpoint, since they'll just get mushy, but it looks nice.

Chicken stew with warm, wintry spices

  • Servings: 8-10
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This chicken stew rides the line between happily familiar and excitingly different from a typical US-Midwestern stew: tender, flavorful chicken jostles with potatoes and carrots, while green beans and tomatoes pop up with bursts of fresh flavor, and the whole thing swims in a thick broth of soft, comforting spices. I’m pretty fond of it, honestly.


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
4 c diced potatoes
1 c green beans, snapped to 1″ pieces
3-4 c chicken stock
(1 tsp kosher salt, if your stock is unsalted)
2 tsp dried thyme

Crackers or tortilla chips, to serve


In a bag or bowl, combine flour and pepper, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, allspice and cumin. Toss chicken with seasoned flour till thoroughly coated.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned. (You will likely need to do this in batches.)

Remove the chicken and reserve, and add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery have softened slightly, around five minutes. (Two notes: you may need to add a smidgen of oil, and if the flour remaining in the pot threatens to burn, you may need to turn down the heat a bit — the flour should be nice and dark brown, but not actually burning!)

Pour in the can of tomatoes and stir, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the reserved chicken, potatoes, green beans, and thyme. Pour in stock (and optional salt, if necessary) until the ingredients are just covered and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are completely tender. Adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve with crackers or tortilla chips; I like them crushed and sprinkled on.


If you’d like to add some leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc.), add them once the potatoes are tender, and cook briefly until wilted. You may need to add a touch more liquid, depending on how many greens you add.

Pork would be a nice swap for chicken here; I like a fatty rib cut for stews, but almost anything other than a loin cut would be fine. It may need a bit longer to become tender, which is just the way of stews.

While this is very spiced, it’s not very spicy. Add some hot sauce to serve, or some chili-garlic paste in the broth — or both — to satisfy your hot tooth.


4 responses to “Chicken stew with warm, wintry spices

  1. Hi Mike! I found your site from some astute and witty comments you made on another food site I read so I had to come check out Optional Kitchen. This stew is outstanding! We enjoyed it last night and it’s exactly as you described – warming and hearty but not heavy. Spouse agrees this is a “repeat.” Thanks for sharing it.

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