Canja – Cape Verdean Chicken Soup Recipe

Overhead photo of Cape Verdean Canja in a bowl with a napkin and a cold beverage off to the side

5 from 17 reviews

Canja is the mother of Cape Verdean comfort food. It’s a thick, rich and delicious chicken soup that’s made with rice, vegetables and simple seasonings. 


  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 

  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar 

  • 1 juiced lemon

  • 2 teaspoons of salt, plus more to taste 

  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper 

  • 1 teaspoon of paprika 

  • 2 bay leaves 

  • 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic, divided

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced 

  • 1 quartered tomato

  • 8 cups of chicken broth, plus enough water to top the pot off

  • 2 bouillon cubes

  • 2 small carrots, diced 

  • 1-2 small potatoes, diced very small 

  • 1 and ½ cups of medium-grain rice 


  1. Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl. Use a spoon or spatula to rub the vinegar and lemon juice all over them. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the chicken, stir a few times and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Drain the water, rinse 1 or 2 times and drain again.
  2. Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, paprika, 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the bay leaves and cover the bowl in plastic wrap. Let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 1 hour (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an 8-quart stock pot. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs to the pot and make sure to reserve the bowl that you seasoned the chicken in. Brown the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side and then transfer the chicken thighs to a plate.
  4.  Add the quartered tomato, chopped onions and the reserved bay leaves to the pot. Saute everything until the onions are clear and the tomato cooks down. Add the chicken back to the pot.
  5. Add a splash of the chicken broth to the bowl that you used to season the chicken. Swirl the broth around in the bowl so that it loosens any seasonings that were left behind. Pour the seasoned broth into the pot and then add the remaining chicken broth. Top the pot off with enough tap water to fill the pot 3/4 of the way up. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the flame and let it simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Taste the broth and adjust the amount of salt and pepper to your liking. Remove the chicken from the soup and shred or break it up. 
  7. Add the chicken back to the pot, and add the rice and carrots.  Let the canja continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Add the potatoes to the canja and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
  9. Turn the flame off and stir the canja. Put the lid back on and let the canja sit for about 20-30 minutes.
  10. Ladle the canja into bowls and serve it with hot sauce and chopped parsley if desired. 


Make sure to stir the canja periodically so that the rice doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan

Try to maintain low heat or low flame so that the rice doesn’t burn

If you need to add more water to the canja at any point, make sure to only add boiling water and adjust the amount of seasoning


Keywords: Cape Verdean, Cape Verde, Canja, Portuguese, Brazilian, Brasil, Canja, Recipe, Authentic, traditional