Tinola is Filipino comfort food and perfect for cooler weather. This hearty chicken soup features a gingery broth that is so warming and smells amazing! Each bowl contains a whole piece of chicken and tender chunks of green papaya; a scoop of steamed rice is a must for a complete meal. Fresh, flavorful, and deeply savory and ready in under an hour.
Chicken soup is universal and this version hits all the right notes. It’s familiar, yet different. I would categorize this as a soup-stew. Traditionally, the chicken is left on the bone, which gives the broth additional flavor. It’s really essential in providing that rich deep flavor. The strong, assertive flavor of ginger is not only flavorful, but is also a key player in fighting germs and warding away colds. And the green papaya which many people may enjoy in salads, becomes a whole new vegetable when cooked. The papaya gives heft and some substance to the soup. Liking what you’re hearing? Well let’s get to it.
Prep the Tinola Ingredients
This is an easy and straightforward soup recipe. First I start by prepping the chicken and veggies.
The chicken for this dish is usually cut into small chunks, which makes it easier to eat, and also makes more economical servings because you can get divvy up the chicken between more people. However, it’s not as easy to buy your chicken cut up this way here in the US. If you are able to find it, buy all means, go ahead and get it. But for simplicity’s sake, I’m using chicken legs. First, cut through the joints to separate the legs into thighs and drumsticks. Next, cut off any excess fat. I do leave the skin on because a little chicken fat is nice to have in a chicken soup. Plus there’s something about naked chicken parts in soup that I find disturbing 😉
Next you’re going to prepare the green papaya. Cut the papaya in half (you may only use part of the papaya depending on the size) and peel it. Then scoop out the seeds, making sure to also scrape any of the spongy fiber. Finally cut it into thick wedges.
The last step before cooking is to prepare your aromatics. Slice up some onion and smash some cloves of garlic. Tinola is one chicken soup that does not shy away from ginger. After peeling, the ginger gets smashed with a wooden spoon to help release its flavor. This is also a really fun way to get out some aggression…
Now that all the ingredients are prepped, it’s time to start cooking. First the chicken gets browned, then the aromatics are added, and then we create the broth.
The most important part is to make sure that the papaya is fully cooked through. It should not be al dente with a core in the middle. Papaya is a very firm vegetable so cooking it well will not turn it to mush. Once the papaya is cooked, take out the pieces of ginger and discard it. Then, throw in your spinach, taste and adjust seasoning as needed, and it’s ready for the table. This soup is made to be served with rice and Filipinos add it right to the bowl. So the soup will probably be a little more salty than a typical chicken soup. If you’re not serving this with rice (really?), then be a little more conservative with the seasoning.
Ladle the tinola into serving bowls, placing one piece of chicken in each bowl with plenty of papaya. One bite and you’ll never look at chicken soup the same.
This is a family favorite during sweater weather; I hope you love it too. Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen- we love hearing from you!
- 2 chicken leg quarters
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- ½ small green papaya (approximately ¾ pounds)
- ½ large onion
- 1 large handful baby spinach (approximately 1 ounce)
- 1 piece of ginger about the size of your palm (about 5 ounces)
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt (if needed)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
- A couple pinches ground black pepper
- Cut the leg quarters at the joint so you have 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs. Trim any excess fat but do not peel the skin off. Set aside.
- Cut the papaya in half. Peel and seed the papaya, scraping out any of the spongy fibers under the seeds.
- Then cut the papaya lengthwise into 3 or 4 wedges. Cut across the papaya into thick wedges. Set aside.
- Peel the onion and slice into ½ inch pieces. Put the onion into a bowl.
- Cut the ginger into a couple of pieces.
- Peel the ginger and then cover with a kitchen towel and smack with a wooden spoon to smash it. Add the ginger to the onion.
- Smash the garlic and add it to the ginger bowl.
- Heat a large heavy bottom pan or dutch oven over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken skin side down.
- Cook the chicken undisturbed for 2 minutes to brown the skin, and then flip the chicken and cook the other side for another two minutes.
- Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and stir for 1 minute to combine.
- Pour in the chicken broth and add the papaya.
- Stir in the fish sauce, white, and black pepper.
- Bring the soup to a simmer over high heat.
- Cover with a lid, lower heat to medium low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the papaya is translucent and tender.
- After the first 10 minutes of cooking, taste the broth. It should be a little saltier than soup since it will be served with rice. Add the salt if needed.
- Remove the pieces of ginger from the soup and discard.
- Add the spinach and cook for a minute until it is wilted.
- Serve the tinola with steamed rice on the side.
*If you’re using water instead of stock, add 1 teaspoon salt when you add the fish sauce. Then after cooking the chicken for 10 minutes, taste it and adjust seasoning as needed.
Keywords: soup, chicken, filipino, tinola, comfort food, fall, winter, green papaya