Mexican Chicken & Cabbage Soup: Good for Your Body and Soul!

Two kids, forty-year old; Yeah I have done just about every fad diet one can research on the internet. I gained in excess of 60+ pounds with both my pregnancies. One hundred ten to 180+, yep I was a mini sumo wrestler!! That said being an athlete all my life, sports and exercise has been an integral part of me as cooking is.

Now that I am back in shape, I maintain myself by portion control and regular work-out (Shaun T’s Insanity Workout). Though once in a while, when I have over indulged myself with a holiday full of food and wine, to cleanse myself I will resort to a modified version of the cabbage soup diet. Basically a low-calorie diet, I consider it a jump-start into discipline. You can research the pros and cons of the cabbage soup diet online. I am here to simply share my version of a healthy yet flavorful chicken and cabbage soup I re-created from my original Mexican Tortilla Soup recipe. Just because we have to diet, doesn’t mean we should compromise on flavors. This soup is healthy, fresh, nutritious, and brimming with bold flavors.

This is the kind of chicken soup that my family loves and so would yours. It’s warm and comforting, with chunks of chicken and cabbage swimming in a light but flavorful broth. Be warned that this is not for the faint hearted, this soup is infused with the addictive aromas of star anise, cinnamon, and cumin. Fresh jalapeño peppers and cilantro leaves complete this assertive bowl of soup. The result is a soup that is the best chicken soup you would have with a kick from its sour/sweet/spicy flavors. The kind that burns your lips and warms your insides but you still can’t stop eating it.

I confess that I am guilty of using store-bought stock and on occasion even bullion’s to enhance the flavors. That said, chicken stock is the key ingredient in this soup, and nothing quite beats the flavors of real slowly simmered fresh stock. Not to mention the addition of different spices at this level add an extra kick to the entire process. Yes, it is time-consuming but if you plan ahead, it is easily doable and makes a bucket load.


Healthy Chicken & Cabbage Soup

With a good stock base and the chicken shredded, the rest of the soup comes together really quickly. Toasting the spices not only releases their aromas it also adds depth. The addition of cabbage renders it a healthier and gluten-free version that will please all your senses. This soul satisfying soup makes you long for winter even on a nice spring day.

If heat is not your cup of tea, then feel free to omit the jalapeno, with the addition of other spices, it is still warm and flavorful.

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For stock:

  • 3 carrots, chunks
  • 3 celery ribs, chunks
  • 2 onions, chunks
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds, fresh)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 1/2 quart cold water
  • 25 cilantro stems or culantaro
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

For Soup:

  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cloves or 1 black cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 jalapenos finely sliced
  • 2 limes juiced
  • handful of chopped cilantro
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 medium cabbage, sliced thin
  • Salt to taste

For Garnish (optional):

  • 2 firm-ripe avocados, cubed
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • chopped cilantro

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Make stock:

  1. Bring all stock ingredients to a boil with 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large pot, then skim foam. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, skimming foam occasionally for 2 hours.
  2. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, then pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids.
  3. Shred the chicken once cool removing the skin and bones.

Finish soup:

  1. Toast spices in a skillet shaking skillet occasionally, until it releases aroma & is a shade darker. Grind the spices in a spice grinder to powder.
  2.  Add ground spices, chipotles, and 1/4 cup stock and purée in a blender.
  3.  Saute onions till translucent in a large pot, add jalapeño and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add stock, pureed chilies, cabbage and bring to boil. Simmer covered, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check for seasonings.
  6. Serve hot with lime wedges, cilantro, and avocado at the table.


Chicken Stock  for me turned out to a be a versatile canvas to create multi-cuisine dishes.  Why not spice up the stock, adding another dimension to your end product? For example since I was making a Mexican inspired soup I added cilantro stems, bay leaves, and star anise to the stock. Enough chatting, try this recipe and do share with me your results. Until then, here’s to healthy eating and lifestyle!

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