A Deliciously Tasty Belizean Chicken Soup Recipe

Chicken soup is the classic cure for what ails you. In the Midwestern U.S., chicken soup is a classic winter dish or a simple way to feel better when you’re sick. In Belize, spicy chicken soup is a way to cool down on a hot summer day, and yes, that does sound weird.

If your grandmother came from France or northern Europe, your thought of what chicken soup is will be influenced by that culinary tradition. It will be warm and herbaceous, lightly spiced if spiced at all, and be made with chicken breast or mixed chicken meat that has been finely chopped and mixed into broth, probably with spaetzle or egg noodles. This style of chicken soup is popular around the whole world.

Japanese and Chinese chicken soups are very similar to their European counterparts. The Japanese form of chicken soup has been exported in ready-to-eat form worldwide as the famous ramen noodles that are widely consumed by college students and those looking for some nostalgia for when they were college students.

In tropical Belize, however, chicken soup is a spicy, brothy concoction that will knock your Northern socks off. Belizean chicken soup has a savory mix of potatoes, chayote squash, and chicken legs (both thighs and drumsticks), simmered in a broth infused with spicy peppery goodness. The heat of the broth is controllable by deciding what kind of pepper you’re going to include, and it’s finished with cilantro, lime juice, and hot sauce.

Food Gets Spicier As You Get Closer To The Equator

Anyone who has compared global cuisines will notice that food starts relatively mild toward the poles and becomes spicier as you get closer to the equator. This is the opposite of what you might expect, but it makes more sense the more you look at it because spicy food makes people sweat more. Sweat cools you off. Therefore, to get cooler in a hot environment without air conditioning, the easiest way to do it is to make you sweat more.

Not coincidentally, this is also why coffee and alcohol tend to be popular in hot regions. Both act as vasodilators, and bring more blood to the skin where it can be cooled.

Some Belizean chicken soup recipes prefer habanero chilies for intense heat. This recipe is less specific about peppers. The heat is about the eater’s tolerance.

Scoville Heat Units

Any discussion of spicy foods is going to necessarily need a discussion of the Scoville heat unit. Invented by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, the Scoville heat unit test is a subjective test of the amount of capsaicin in a pepper or a preparation, measured by the amount of sugar water needed to dilute the capsaicin to the point that it can no longer be tasted.

So, a Scoville Heat Unit is a measure of how spicy a food feels, as described by a panel of people who ate spicy food and then told Dr. Scoville how many drops of sugar solution it took to stop the burning sensation on their tongues. One must hope that Dr. Scoville’s research assistants got properly compensated for their sacrifices in the name of science.

Belizean Chicken Soup Recipe

The familiar chicken soup to Americans is a savory, minimally spiced concoction of chicken broth seasoned mostly with salt and pepper and more herbs than spices, using classic French techniques like mirepoix, chopped poached chicken, and egg noodle pasta to deliver a soothing, mild, broth-based soup.

While this form of chicken soup is certainly a homey, soothing concoction with a lot going for it, it is the absolute opposite of the spicy chicken soup that is found in Belize. The Belizean chicken soup this recipe makes is a fiery broth that’s more likely to kick a cold in the head than to sooth it to sleep.

If that sounds enticing, read on.


  • 4 chicken legs, broken into drumsticks and thighs
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Chili powder to taste.
  • Garlic to taste, smashed and minced.
  • 8 quarts water plus more to keep the level up as it cooks down
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 1 chayote squash, peeled and roughly chopped.
  • 1 hot pepper. Pepper type can vary based on personal preference, but it should be a hot pepper.
  • Chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

Step 1: Breaking down and washing the chicken

While washing a chicken is not considered necessary for hygiene by modern dietitians, it’s a traditional part of the recipe. Feel free to skip this step if you want, but it’s not traditional. The chicken used for Belizean chicken soup is legs and thighs. In modern shops, you can find chicken thighs and legs in packages together.

Once the chicken is washed, it should be seasoned with salt and pepper. Chili powder is nontraditional and optional, but flavorful and can be included.

Step 2: Brown the chicken

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, brown the chicken with the minced garlic until it starts to brown and the skin begins to pull away from the meat. Once the chicken reaches a stage where the immediately visible flesh is no longer pink, and there’s good Maillard browning on the surface, move to the next step.

Step 3: Add water, potatoes, chayote squash, and onion

Small potatoes give this soup a unique character that is enhanced by minced onions. The whole idea of this soup is simple ingredients and simply presented. We also want the potatoes being peeled but not chopped into small pieces.  This is one of the distinguishing features of Belizean chicken soup compared to its French and Jewish counterparts. Chayote should be similarly chopped into rough pieces, rather than the fine mince used in French preparations.

Step 4: Add hot peppers and simmer

At this point, add the whole hot peppers and reduce to a simmer. Add water to keep the level up. Return to boil briefly after adding water before cutting back to a simmer again.


Serve the soup by itself or with rice, garnished with cilantro and lime wedges. The potatoes are soft and can be easily broken up with a spoon before eating. The chicken is easy to strip off the bone with a spoon. The soup can be served with white rice, which can either be dipped into the soup or have the soup spooned over it.

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