Make Ahead

Nkrakra (Light Soup With Chicken) From Zoe Adjonyoh

January 17, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This Genius recipe is actually a twofer: The fiery, freezable tomato base called Chalé Sauce that chef Zoe Adjonyoh created to distill the holy trinity of Ghanaian cuisine. (In one step, it will make everything from peanut stew to pasta instantly more delicious.) And the cozy one-pot chicken soup called nkrakra that you should make with it, anytime your belly, soul, and home need warming.

As Zoe writes in Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, “This light and spicy broth is so wholesome and warming. It’s my go-to dish on chilly winter days to stave off cold symptoms... and works every time!”

Of the Chalé Sauce, Zoe writes, “This basic recipe is based on my dad’s everyday cooking sauce. He would whip this up and then literally throw in any type of meat, fish or protein, but it was always tasty. It's my version of a Ghanaian passata and is in some ways similar to the Nigerian ata dindin. You can just blend the ingredients and store the uncooked sauce for later use, or cook it and then leave to cool—either way it saves time when making many of the recipes in this book. I make a big batch of this at least once a week—you can easily double the quantity if you want to make a bigger batch, although it’s not necessary to increase the Scotch bonnet unless you like it extra-extra hot!”

A few more tips: Sustainable red palm oil gives the stew much of its rich, bright red color and earthy flavor and is easy to order online. Guinea peppers, also called grains of Selim, add a woodsy, eucalyptus-like flavor—you can order them online, too, including from Zoe’s shop. Zoe says habanero chiles are a comparable substitute for the heat of Scotch bonnets. Both the Chalé Sauce and the final soup freeze beautifully in batches for future meals.

Recipe adapted very slightly from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen: An Introduction to New African Cuisine — From Ghana With Love (Voracious, October 2021).

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.

Hear more about this recipe from Zoe herself on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Nkrakra (Light Soup With Chicken) From Zoe Adjonyoh
  • *For the Nkrakra:*
  • 2 kilograms (4 pounds 8 ounces) or 8-10 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons sustainable red palm oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 20 grams (0.7 ounces) fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 to 5 Guinea peppers, cracked open
  • 1 teaspoon extra-hot chili powder
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, pierced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 300 milliliters (10 fluid ounces) Chalé Sauce (see below)
  • 750 milliliters to 1 liter (1 1/4 pints to 1 3/4 pints) good-quality chicken stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 inches (5 centimeters) grated fresh ginger
  • 250 grams (9 ounces) white cabbage, sliced (optional)
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) yam, peeled and diced (optional)
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) carrots, peeled and diced (optional)
  • Sprig of cilantro, to garnish (optional)
  • Slightly toasted sourdough bread or fufu, for serving (optional)
  • *For the Chalé Sauce:*
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) canned tomatoes or 300 grams (10 ounces) fresh tomatoes
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 small white onion, roughly diced
  • one 1-inch/2.5-centimeter piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 small red Scotch bonnet chile (use half and deseed if you have a low heat tolerance, or substitute 1/2 teaspoon cayenne for a milder heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon extra hot Madras curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra hot chili powder
  1. *For the Nkrakra:*
  2. Place the chicken in a large, heavy-based saucepan or Dutch oven with the sustainable red palm oil, onion, thyme, peppers, chili powder, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the sea salt. Cook together over a low heat, partially covered, until the juices start to run from the chicken.
  3. Pour the Chalé Sauce over the chicken mixture, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the chicken is tender. Season to taste with pepper.
  5. Add your choice of vegetables, if desired, and cook until tender (approximately 30 minutes). Remove the sprigs of thyme before serving.
  6. To serve: I love to serve this dish in a traditional Ghanaian asanka pot with a ball of fufu on the side, as it looks so inviting that way. You can also serve it on its own in a large bowl garnished with a sprig of cilantro, or with a slice of slightly toasted sourdough bread on the side.
  7. Tip: If you're happy to go low and slow while cooking, this dish is perfect for cheaper cuts of chicken such as from older hens or broiling hens—you get tons of extra flavor but need to slow cook for 3 to 4 hours over a low heat.
  1. *For the Chalé Sauce:*
  2. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend together until you have a fairly smooth paste.
  3. This is your Chalé Sauce. Throughout Zoe’s book there are references to adding Chalé Sauce, so she recommends making a big batch and freezing in smaller quantities to make many of the stew and sauces recipes much faster to re-create at home. Use straight away, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for future use.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Susan Feigon
    Susan Feigon
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Jane Wood
    Jane Wood
  • pinky
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

6 Reviews

Jane W. February 6, 2022
I have re-read the recipe multiple times, and watched the video thinking that would clarify but missed it there also: WHEN ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO ADD THE GINGER???? I noted that it was NOT added at the beginning, the way it is in most such recipes, but Kristen makes a point of NOT putting it in when she adds the onions, OR Chalé sauce. Should it be added with the stock? The veggies? What is the rationale for the delay? Thank you- this looks like a good one, but would love some clarification.....
Hope C. February 13, 2022
I'm guessing you add it with the cabbage, carrots, etc.
Susan F. February 3, 2022
It is fabulous! Easy to make…and the house smells wonderful. It is not hot at all….at least for my taste buds. Then again, I didn’t have hot curry or hot chili powder - I had medium. Next time!!
pinky February 2, 2022
Looks easy
ninadora January 19, 2022
I think there's an error in the serving size. I can't imagine that 4 lbs of chicken serves two people!
Kristen M. January 20, 2022
Thank you for noticing! I just updated it to 6 (or it could be 2, with lots of really good leftovers).