Overnight Yemenite Chicken Soup Recipe

Comforting, mildly spiced sunshine in a bowl.

This is the way my late mom, Steffi, used to cook her chicken soup: overnight for at least 12 hours, sometimes longer, until the soup turned golden, rich, and gorgeous.

The chicken, wrapped in cheesecloth, gives everything it has to the soup. It defies logic, but the meat, and even the whole vegetables that simmer alongside it, emerge in shockingly good shape. Since we kept Shabbat and had a low flame on our stove for warming food, the idea of going to sleep with a soup simmering away gives me great comfort; if it doesn’t inspire the same feelings in you (no judgment), start the soup early in the morning, turn it off before you go to bed, then let it cool overnight on the stovetop before refrigerating.

Since Yemenite hawaij — a spicy, turmeric-heavy spice blend traditionally stirred into soups that was introduced to the Israeli kitchen by Yemenite immigrants — improves everything, add some in the last few hours of cooking; it will lend the most wondrous mildly spicy flavor and sunshiny hue to your broth. 

Make sure to read more about this recipe and hawaij here.

Want more “Sababa” recipes? Check out Adeena’s Tahini and Olive Oil Granola.

Reprinted from Sababa by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Adeena Sussman. 

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Overnight Yemenite Chicken Soup

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Comforting, mildly spiced sunshine in a bowl.

  • Total Time: 13 hours
  • Yield: 10-12


For the soup:

  • 1 whole 3-4 ½ pound chicken
  • 6 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 large celery stalks, halved lengthwise
  • 2 medium onions, peeled but left whole
  • 1 medium parsnip, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 medium turnip, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 whole bunch fresh dill, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp hawaij
  • one 1-inch piece peeled ginger root
  • lachoh, for serving

For the hawaij:

  • ¼ cup whole black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 3 Tbsp ground turmeric


  1. In a very large (at least 8-quart) stockpot, arrange a large, overhanging double layer of cheesecloth. Place the chicken in the center of the cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth into a knot so the chicken is totally enclosed. 
  2. Add the carrots, celery, onion, parsnip, turnip and garlic, cover with 3 inches of cold water, bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, and boil, skimming and discarding any scum, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the dill and cook, checking every so often that the soup is moving with very small bubbles— almost like a tide washing in—but not boiling.
  4. After about 2 hours, add the salt. It should taste delicious and salty, like soup should taste.
  5. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for a total of 12 hours, either a whole waking day or overnight. Occasionally, skim off the fat from the top (it’s easy to do when the flame is so low; the fat pools on the top). Put that fat and broth with it in a bowl in the fridge; when it hardens, tip the bowl back into the soup; the broth slips out from underneath the disc of  fat, which I use as schmaltz.
  6. For homemade hawaij (optional): If using whole spices, in a large, dry skillet combine the peppercorns with the cumin, cardamom, and coriander. Toast over medium-low heat, stirring, until the seeds begin to pop and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Place the toasted spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add the turmeric and grind until fine. (If using dried spices, toast the ground pepper, cumin, cardamom, coriander, and turmeric in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring constantly until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a plate to cool.)
  7. Add the hawaij and ginger 2 hours before you’re done cooking the soup. 
  8. When ready to serve, remove and discard the dill. Remove the chicken to a bowl, cut the cheesecloth open to help it cool, then tip any broth back into the soup. Strip off and discard the skin and cheesecloth. Take all the meat off the bones. Discard the bones.
  9. Portion the meat out into bowls with the broth and vegetables (leave them whole, or cut them into large pieces if you like). Season with more salt if needed. Serve with lachoh.


  1. This recipes makes 3/4 cup hawaij, which can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  2. If you don’t have an 8-quart pot, use a 6-quart pot. Start with a 3-pound chicken and use 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk, and 1 medium onion.
  • Author: Adeena Sussman
  • Prep Time: 10-20 minutes
  • Cook Time: About 13 hours
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Soup
  • Cuisine: Yemenite Jewish


Leave a Comment

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  • Marilyn Warren

    I have tried many, many Jewish Penisillin recipes, so I was expecting another boring, tasteless entry. Boy, was I suprised. This was indeed a winner! The broth was not watery at all. It was chocked full of umamy. Every part sang in this choir. It was even better the next day. When I warmed it up in the micro wave, every wanted a taste an everyone loved it! Next time I will break out my 20 gallon stock pot, use two chickens and double the veggies and the spices. Since it freezes well. I will have all the Penisillin I will need to get me through this dreary winter colds. That is if my family leaves me any for the freezer!

  • Claudia Judelman

    This has become our family’s chicken soup. I’ve edited a few things and vary it sometimes. I cook it during the day rather than overnight, as we don’t care for the smell of food cooking while we sleep. The golden color, the tip about adding the spices over the course of the first few hours, the warm spices and savory broth are absolutely perfect. It requires very little else – It’s perfect as is.

  • Marg

    In my “fast”, 4 hours cooking with traditional ingredients but not hawaj spices, I add few full shiitakes for that umami flavour. Would it be too much for this recipe?

    • The Nosher

      Hi Lynn, we have not tested this recipe using a slow cooker but please let us know how it turns out if you try it. Rachel at The Nosher.

    • The Nosher

      Hi Elaine, we have not tested this recipe using a slow cooker but please let us know how it turns out if you try it. Rachel at The Nosher.

  • Susanne Skok

    Please do not leave a whole pot of chicken broth at room temperature overnight “to cool.” This is a food safety NIGHTMARE. To cool quickly: add cold water to your sink (below the level of the pot, of course), set the whole pot in the water. Add ice to the water and stir broth to encourage cooling. Soup should be cool within 15-20 minutes. Place in containers and refrigerate promptly.

  • Elizabeth Brett

    I’m running over to the Indian supermarket to pick up whole coriander seed and fresh turmeric to make this! I know it calls for dried turmeric but I need fresh everything for my horrid head cold! Thank you!

  • Leslie

    I have not made this yet but it sound yummy. However, what is lachoh? I assume it is some type of bread(?). Where can you find it or how do you make it?

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