Sopa de Gallina (Salvadoran Chicken Soup)

A whole bird is cooked two ways in this beloved dish from El Salvador: it’s simmered to flavor the broth, then grilled as an accompaniment.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    1 hour 30 minutes


By Karla Tatiana Vasquez

Published on May 29, 2024

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As Karla Tatiana Vasquez says in her book, The SalviSoul Cookbook, soup is an event in the Salvadoran household, “a reason to call the family and have a get-together,” and everyone has their own favorite sopa. Unlike American chicken soup, in this dish the chicken is removed after boiling, basted in a flavorful sauce, and grilled. It’s then carved and served alongside the soup, accompanied by plenty of rice, tortillas, and a green salad. Though sopa de gallina is traditionally made with an older hen (gallina), which gives it a much stronger flavor, this adapted recipe uses chicken, resulting in a subtle, restorative dish that makes any day worthy of celebration.

Adapted from The SalviSoul Cookbook: Salvadoran Recipes and the Women Who Preserve Them by Karla Tatiana Vasquez. Copyright © 2024. Available from Ten Speed Press.

Featured in “This Salvadoran Cookbook Is Making History” by Jessica Carbone.


  • One 4–5 lb. whole chicken or gallina (hen)
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 medium tomato, halved
  • 3 medium chayotes, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 2 medium zucchini, peeled and cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 4 basil stems
  • 3 mint stems
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. adobo sauce


Step 1

Rub the chicken with salt. Set aside.

Step 2

To a large pot over medium-high heat, add the chicken, garlic, bay leaves, onion, tomato, and 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 50–60 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and set aside to cool.

Step 3

Turn the heat to medium, then add the chayotes, carrots, and potatoes to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue cooking until tender, about 7 minutes more. Stir in the basil and mint, then season to taste with salt and set aside.

Step 4

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, Worcestershire, and adobo sauce. Rub the mustard mixture all over the chicken.

Step 5

Place a comal, griddle, or large cast iron skillet over high heat. When it’s hot, place the chicken on the hottest part of the surface and cook just until the mustard mixture forms a crust, about 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until seared all over, 15–20 minutes. 

Step 6

Carve the chicken and serve with the soup.

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