Barbados Chicken and Dumplings Soup is a staple in every Bajan household, usually made on Saturdays. This is why it is sometimes referred to as “Saturday Soup”.
I (like many others) have fond memories of coming home to find a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove. It’s a comfort food, and even though it takes a couple of hours, it’s relatively simple to cook.
So buckle in folks, we’re in for a long (OK I’m exaggerating) ride!
Watch this video I made on how I make my soup.
Disclaimer: This is how my family likes it. Other households may have their own version/way of cooking soup. Take this as a “basic” recipe that you can make your own.
First, let’s start with the split peas. You can say split peas are an essential part of the soup as it gives it colour and flavour but most importantly, it’s also what helps make the soup filling. I like to use yellow split peas because honestly… that’s what my family has always used (I’ve also used lentils as they cook quicker).
Some peas can take a while to cook, so I like to get them on as soon as possible so I can start my other prep.
Once my peas are on, I move on to my veg. I like to keep it somewhat simple with veg using only potatoes, pumpkins and carrots but you can add whatever “ground provisions” you prefer. I know Jamaicans add corn to their soup and my family sometimes adds green banana, okras or other veg. It’s simply up to you.
Prep your veg by peeling and chopping . Set aside the onions, pumpkin and herbs in a separate bowl as you will be adding these at a different time.
Tip: You can substitute pumpkin for butternut squash. I personally prefer squash but traditionally we use pumpkin.
Add the onion, pumpkin and herbs when the peas are cooked. You can test the peas by pressing them against the side of the pot with a spoon. The peas are cooked when they yield easily.
For a quicker option, you can add the onions, pumpkin and herbs at the same time as the peas.
Chicken to use for your soup
The chicken you use is up to you. I normally use the back of a whole chicken. For example, whenever I cook a whole chicken, I cut off the back and put it in a zip lock bag in the freezer to save it for my soup; This is usually enough meat for me (note: the backs will produce a lot of bones). However, I don’t always have whole chicken so I would use two chicken thighs as thighs can handle heat for a long time without it going chewy. I honestly don’t like a meaty soup, so add as little or as much as you want. The only thing I would recommend is using meat with bone as this give it more flavour.
I believe some Bajans use salt beef in their soup as well. But I don’t really eat red meat and the soup would be fine without it.
Add the chicken, when you add your pumpkin and onions. You do not need to season at this point.
When the chicken is cooked, it should be falling off the bone/shredded. If it is cooked and this had not happened you can do so yourself by breaking it apart. This is optional, as it is likely it will do so on it’s own the longer it’s left in the pot.
Your pumpkin should also be cooked and falling apart in your soup. Again, if the pumpkin is still relatively whole you may smash it against the side of the pot with the wooden spoon. This will help break it up.
Add the remaining veg when cooked.
To me, dumplings are the most important part of my chicken soup. I’ve since crowned myself as the Dumpling Queen.
In Barbados, our dumplings are usually sweet (to be honest everything here is sweet) whereas, other islands have a more savoury dumpling. I like to add a lot more spices to my dumplings as I like the taste, but it’s up to you how much you add.
I also add oats to my dumplings to make them a bit more healthy. This started out as me substituting half of the plain flour for oat flour. Now I just chuck the oats in as is. This gives it a more “chewy” flavour that I enjoy.
I would say make your dumplings to your taste. Whether it be adding less/more sugar, or maybe adding whole wheat flour, this is up to you.
Honestly, every household cooks dumplings differently. Some add egg. Some don’t add butter. Some just flour, sugar, spices and water. Experiment to find how you like yours.
Once your dough is combined, roll your dumplings into the ball size that suits you (big or small), personally, I think small dumplings are a crime and have since banned my nan from making “bite sized” dumplings. *Shivers internally*
I like to put my dumplings on a plate and place them in the fridge until I’m ready for them.
Now return to your soup to season.
Seasoning your soup
You can now add your seasoning packet. I like to use half of the pumpkin packet and half of the chicken packet. You should be able to find these packets at your local Caribbean/African corner shop or in the “international” isle at your supermarket. I’ll have a look on amazon and see if I can find some for you.
I like the soup packets with little noodles in them as this gives the soup another element and more texture.
I also add in a stock cube at this point to give it more of a deeper flavour. You can use either a veg or chicken stock cube – completely up to you.
After seasoning add the dumplings. Dumplings normally take 15-20 minutes to cook. Once cooked you’ve now made you own Barbados Chicken and Dumplings soup! Go you!
A common Bajan saying is: “I never knew it could take so long for water to cook” or something to that effect. Isn’t it crazy that soup is really just boiled water with a bunch of things thrown in!
This is a hearty meal that can feed an entire family with left overs and seconds to dish out.
As I said before, this is a good recipe you can make your own. It could probably be made vegetarian by taking out/replacing certain ingredients.
Do as you wish with this recipe and let me know how it turns out! Tag me on instagram (@thefoodmashup) with pictures of your soup!
Here’s my plated and finished Barbados Chicken and Dumplings Saturday Soup.
I look forward to hearing how yours turned out and I really hope you enjoy a taste of Barbados!
Barbados Chicken Saturday Soup
- ¼ cup Split Peas
- 1 large onion Chopped in quarters (half and half again)
- mixed herbs (fresh) Couple of sprigs of margaram and thyme
- 1 Chicken back/breast/thigh
- 1 wedge medium sized pumpkin chopped into medium sized pieces If using squash, a whole small one will suffice
- 2 Sweet Potatoes I used two different types
- 3 English Potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 packet soup mix or 1/2 of two
- 1 stock cube
- boiled water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tsp mixed essence optional- vanilla extract may also work
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ cup milk evaporated milk is often used
- 1½ cup flour
- ½ cup oats
- Bring water to boil in large pot
- Wash and drain split peas and add to water. Once water starts to boil, lower to a medium heat to simmer and cover
- Peel and chop vegetables. I like to chop potatoes as big as possible so they do not fall apart in soup. Set aside until ready to add in soup.
- In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar and salt. You do not need to cream it, just be sure its well combined in.
- Add essence and mix again
- Add cinnamon and nutmeg and combine again
- Add milk. This will make you mixture look lumpy, but that's OK! It will come together it the end, just mix as best as you can.
- Add flour and oats and mix until combined into a rough dough (you may need to use your hands). If dough sticky add more flour. You can give it a taste but beware this is raw dough. I like to taste to see if I need more sugar, spices etc.
- Break off pieces of dough and using your hands roll into a ball. You can make them however big or small you like, but a medium sized ball should give you 9-10 dumplings.
Back to Soup
- When peas are cooked add your pumpkin, chicken, onion and herbs.
- Add the rest of vegetables when pumpkin and chicken are cooked.
- Add the soup packet and stock cube when the potatoes and carrots are cooked, then add your dumplings by dropping them in one by one. Your soup should be bumbling gently (with cover) so as to not destroy the dumpling/potatoes. Dumplings should take 15-20 minutes to cook. Once cooked you're done! You can give it a taste and add another stock cube if needed.