Chicken Tortilla Soup served with the soup base, chicken and toppings all separately to top as you’d like is perfect to serve a crowd!
Whether serving this tortilla soup recipe for dinner or for a large gathering, everyone will find something they love with this recipe.
Chicken tortilla soup recipe
Tortilla soup, or sopa de tortilla, is an authentic Mexican soup. The soup is made from charred tomatoes and tortillas blended with onion and spices like chile de arbol and epazote, a herb native to Central and South America.
Authentic chicken tortilla soup gets rich flavor and color from a heavy amount of chili powder and spices. This version relies on both high quality broth and tomato puree for a similar result in much less time.
It is believed that tortilla soup originated around the capital of Mexico City. And there are now versions of chicken tortilla soup all over central Mexico and southwest United States.
Chicken tortilla soup is similar to Azteca soup, made without chicken, and tarasca soup, thickened with beans. As well as taco soup, made with ground beef and served with tortilla chips on the side. And enchilada soup which is like a tomato heavy, cheesy, creamy tortilla soup.
Now typically served piled high with crunchy tortilla strips, cheese and all other sorts of tortilla soup toppings. Chicken tortilla soup is loaded with nutritious, healthy ingredients. It’s naturally gluten free and can be made to fit many different diets like dairy free, vegetarian, vegan and more. Making the popularity and range of appeal of this Mexican soup no surprise.
It’s a delicious quick and tortilla soup recipe that is also super filling and perfect to serve to one, two or a crowd!
- Chicken – this recipe has you cook the chicken in the same stock pot as the soup base. But if you have rotisserie chicken or other leftover chicken like boiled or poached chicken you can skip this step.
- Chicken broth – low sodium chicken broth adds lots of flavor in not a lot of time to this soup. Substitute any broth or simply use water if needed.
- Tomato sauce – Mexican chicken tortilla soup recipes call for charred tomatoes but this easy recipe relies on canned tomato sauce to get it on the table even faster. Commercially available fire roasted tomato sauce would be a great substitute. Or substitute charred tomatoes. To char tomatoes simply place under a broiler, over a flame or in a hot dry skillet until lightly blackened.
- Tortilla strips – fry corn tortilla or bake until crispy. You can also substitute purchased corn tortilla strips or chips.
- Spices – cumin and chili powder add the spices into this tortilla soup recipe. But you can make it with more traditional dried chilies like chili de arbol and herbs like epazote if available.
- Lime – juiced to season and brighten the soup base and also cut and served as a garnish.
- Optional – Made with a mix of smoky mild chili powders tortilla soup is not spicy. Add jalapeno to the onions and garlic to make a spicy chicken tortilla soup. You can also add rice, hominy or corn kernels to thicken tortilla soup and make it more filling.
Tortilla soup toppings
- Cheese – the best cheese for tortilla soup is a mild meltable Mexican cheese with great stretch like Queso Oaxaca. Queso panela, cubed queso blanco or shredded mozzarella cheese are all delicious as well. Or you can substitute shredded Monterey Jack, cheddar or queso fresco in tortilla soup. An aged Mexican cheese similar to parmesan, cotija cheese can be used in a pinch.
- Sour cream – adds a cool creamy contrast to the soup. If you can find Mexican crema it is a great substitution for sour cream. Or simply leave it out to make dairy free tortilla soup.
- Raw vegetables – raw onion, cilantro, shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage (red cabbage or green cabbage), avocado, radishes, diced tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno, etc.
Step by step instructions
- Fry corn tortilla strips in hot oil until crispy then set aside.
- Brown chicken in the same hot oil and set aside.
- Cook onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin in the same pot.
- Then stir in tomato puree and cook slightly before adding the chicken stock. Cooking the tomato sauce adds depth of flavor and lessens the raw tomato taste.
- Stir in chicken broth once tomato sauce is slightly thickened. And add chicken breasts back to the liquid along with any accumulated juices.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 5-10 minutes.
- Remove chicken and allow to cool, then shred or slice and set aside.
- Season chicken tortilla soup base with lime juice season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve tortilla soup with all ingredients separate.
- Then place shredded chicken in bowl, ladle broth over chicken and top with crispy tortilla strips and any other desired tortilla soup toppings.
This recipe yields roughly 8 servings with ½ pound of chicken and 1 cup of broth per serving. Simply cut the recipe in half to serve one or two people. Or double it to serve a crowd.
How to store
Chicken tortilla soup is good for 3 days when stored refrigerated with the soup base and toppings stored separately.
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts 4-6 breast pieces
- ¼ cup canola oil divided
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 3 tablespoons mild chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 14 ounces tomato sauce about 1 ½ cups, or 1 can
- 8 cups chicken stock or 64 ounces
- 1 small lime juiced
- 6 small corn tortillas cut into strips
- optional chicken tortilla soup toppings shredded lettuce, diced avocado, sliced radish, cilantro, diced tomatoes, onions, scallions, jalapeno, sour cream, cheese
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoon oil and heat until hot and shimmering. Add tortilla strips and fry until golden, about 4 minutes total. Remove strips to a towel lined plate to drain and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add chicken breasts to remaining oil, adding additional oil if necessary after the tortillas are fried. Cook chicken without disturbing until browned on one side, about 2 minutes, then flip and continue browning on other side, approximately another 2 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin to the pan over medium heat. Stir to coat onions with the flavorful spices and cook aromatics until soft, about 3 minutes.
- Then stir in tomato puree and cook slightly, about 1 minute, before adding the chicken stock. Once tomato sauce is thickened slightly stir in chicken broth and add chicken breasts back to the liquid along with any accumulated juices.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 5-10 minutes. Remove chicken all allow to cool, then shred with two forks or cut into slices.
- Add the juice of 1 lime to the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place shredded chicken in bowl and ladle over the flavorful tortilla soup broth then top with crispy tortilla strips and any other desired tortilla soup toppings.