Genius Recipes

This One-Pot Chicken Soup Will Do More Than Warm Your Soul

Comfort and energy in a bowl from Zoe Adjonyoh, starring the holy trinity of Ghanaian cuisine.

January 19, 2022

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

This overachiever is really two Genius recipes, and will revolutionize your cooking in so many ways. It will give you a freezable sauce that—in a single step (blend)—can instantly bring life to any dinner that needs it.

And it points to the place you’ll want to unleash that sauce first: a one-pot chicken soup that isn’t just brothy, restorative, and cold-curing in the ways that all good chicken soups are—but also has a feature others can’t claim: energizing.

Both come from chef Zoe Adjonyoh’s recently re-released cookbook Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen and reflect the ways she manifests Ghanaian cuisine in her own home cooking and career.

Zoe distilled the sauce, which she named Chalé, from her father’s everyday cooking routine. “He would whip this up and then literally throw in any type of meat, fish or protein,” Zoe writes in Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. The flavors of onion, ginger, and chiles, carried into a fiesty tomato sauce, are so foundational, Zoe refers to them as the Ghanaian holy trinity, and dispenses them similarly to Italian passata or Nigerian ata dindin.

But because Zoe ran a supper club and wrote a book for busy home cooks, instead of starting from scratch for every meal, she condensed and froze the first steps in time. By chucking all the ingredients into a blender and storing the deep red sauce in the fridge or freezer, she could be halfway to brightly flavored stews, pastas, and much more. “Use it for okra soup one day, the next time use it for meatballs, another time use it for moussaka or use it for jollof,” Zoe told me. The name Chalé is a nod to both her dad Charles and the Ga word for “friend.”

With Chalé Sauce tucked in the freezer, you have a sly shortcut to the bowl of comfort that is the Ghanaian stew nkrakra, or light soup. "All cultures have this healing, hot, light chicken soup that's economical to make and easy to bulk out," from matzo ball soup to caldo de pollo, Zoe said. "I love that about it—it shows people the connections we have in food culture."

Nkrakra will putter along all afternoon with little intervention from you, anytime you want to warm your belly, soul, and home. You won’t even need to brown the chicken, batch by batch, spattering everything within spatters’ reach—time (and Chalé Sauce) do the work.

When it’s done, the chicken will melt, and the broth will coax you to life. “It’s like you’ve just had a beautiful meditation, like ‘ooh all my energy’s refreshed now’—it’s not the kind of heat that is going to knock your palate out for three days,” Zoe told me. “It’s just a really beautiful, warming, slow-rising heat that’s perfect for winter.”

It's everything January, and especially January 2022, needs: Not just coziness and warmth and peace, but fire.

Got a Genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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  • marchhare
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  • arctic_nomad
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


marchhare January 20, 2022
I love the idea of this soup and want to make it, but I am vegetarian :-(. I can't figure out how it would work without meat. Is there a vegetarian version?
Kristen M. January 21, 2022
Hi marchhare, you could try it with any vegetarian protein you like (or even just more vegetables), with a shorter cook time—just to marry the flavors but you won't have to wait for chicken to melt. I think jackfruit in particular could bring some of that lovely shredded texture back, as in this recipe:
marchhare January 22, 2022
Oh wow! Great idea about jackfruit!
Beth T. January 20, 2022
I can only find guinea pepper "grains of paradise," I think they are the seeds. Can I use these, and if so, how many seeds?
Kristen M. January 21, 2022
Hi Beth, thanks for asking. Grains of paradise are a different, also delicious spice. Zoe sells guinea pepper (also called grains of selim) in her shop, Zoe's Ghana Kitchen—they're currently sold out but hopefully they'll have more soon:
arctic_nomad January 23, 2022
Thankyou for the link to her website. It appears that she's out of everything at the moment. So I'm going to try making a Midwest version of this using locally sourced ingredient from my co-op. But I love collecting spices so I signed up to receive emails from her. Chicken soup w/a tomato base sounds like heaven!