With its tantalizing aroma, vibrant-colored ingredients, and soupy goodness, there’s no wonder many are hooked with the classic Mexican chicken tortilla soup.
Mexico City, the home of tortilla soup, might be the only place where you can taste a legitimate tortilla soup but fret not because we’re here to share the best chicken tortilla soup recipes we’ve tried and thoroughly enjoyed slurping.
No soup can ever compare to the good, old Mexican soups. They’re savory, rich, and flavorful. In fact, you’ll know whether a certain soup is a Mexican dish or not. Simply look at the combination of the ethnic ingredients – beans, corn, peppers (a variety of it), and tomatoes.
Mexican soups also don’t emit that “sloppy aura” of a soup meant to be consumed by sick folks who can’t eat solids or those who’re just looking for soups to warm their bellies during cold months.
Mexican soups, especially the chicken tortilla soup, can be served as the main meal itself. It’s tasty, hearty, and healthy. With the combination of vegetables, meat, and a dozen seasonings, this particular dish is indeed one of the most flavorful and enjoyable soups ever created by man.
What’s In A Chicken Tortilla Soup?
Have you ever been to several Mexican restaurants in the upper West Side or New Jersey? Then you might think that their famous tortilla soups are authentically Mexican. Well, some of them may pass but most of them certainly won’t make the list.
If you’re planning to cook this hearty meal for your family or friends, take note of these ingredients which you can’t miss: tomatoes, black beans, onions, chicken, and crunchy tortillas.
The most basic chicken tortilla soup version starts with a chicken broth thickened with a puree of roasted tomatoes and onions then topped with shredded chicken meat and crunchy tortillas. However, no dish can ever be Mexican without a hint of spice! Make sure you throw in some spices, seasonings, and peppers in your soup too.
Canned tomatoes are fine but if you want to achieve that authentic taste, try roasting a few ripe tomatoes while the soup simmers for a smokier, richer, and deeper flavor and color.
Fresh corn isn’t always a staple in the soup, but you can always add some of it to impart a slightly sweet flavor into the spice-dominated soup.
Once the tomato-chicken-beans-chili-broth mixture is simmered, it's just a simple matter of sauteeing and adding a few more aromatics and spices. The last step in the process consists of garnishing the soup with diced avocado, baked tortilla strips, and cheese.
Ways Of Cooking Chicken Tortilla Soup
1. The Best Way: In the Stove Using A Dutch Oven
Since you’ll be mixing a lot of ingredients and you have to check the tenderness of the individual ingredients every few minutes, the best way of cooking the chicken tortilla soup is through the stovetop where you can monitor the cooking progress.
In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and set the stove to medium-high heat.
In a separate stockpot, simmer chicken breasts until the flesh no longer appears pink.
For skin-on chicken breasts, this may take about 15 to 20 minutes whereas, for skinless breasts, cooking time may range from 10 to 15 minutes.
While cooking the chicken breasts, prepare the soup.
Saute the onion, jalapeno, pepper, and garlic for about 5 to 7 minutes or until they soften up. Stir intermittently.
Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, cumin, paprika, black beans, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne powder (optional).
Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring occasionally to prevent burning any ingredients at the bottom.
If you want the outcome to be soupy or you prefer it to have more broth, just add 1 to 2 cups of water; you just have to adjust the salt and seasoning levels to match the taste.
Cell 5 / 2Add cilantro and let it boil for a minute. Add more salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste. By this time, the chicken breasts should be cooked. Remove breasts from the stockpot then let it cool for at least 10 minutes before shredding.
For the tortilla chips, preheat oven to 375 degrees F then loosely scatter the chips on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Evenly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and flip the chips using your hands to coat them evenly. Bake for at least 15 minutes or until they turn crisp and appear golden brown.
Ladle the soup into bowls then top it with chicken shreds and tortilla strips. You may garnish it with avocado, cheese, and/or sour cream. Serve warm.
The soup can also be preserved for days, up to a week. Just pour out the leftovers in an airtight container then store it in the fridge. Freezing the soup will extend its shelf life for up to 6 months.
2. The Speedy Way: Using A Microwave
If you don’t have much time on your hands to stay long enough in the kitchen and cook fabulous meals, the microwave can be your best friend. Microwaves aren’t just handy for reheating food – they’re good enough to cook meals as well.
For this method, you may use either fresh or canned ingredient. We’re assuming you don’t have much time to cook so we’ll be using canned ingredients in the following steps.
Open all cans and drain. For black beans, rinse it after draining.
Steam and shred raw chicken breasts. Place all the ingredients, including the broth, seasonings, and shredded chicken in a microwave-safe bowl then cover it with a cling wrapper.
Set the microwave on high and cook the soup for 18 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. After 20 minutes, check if the soup is thoroughly heated through.
If not, keep cooking until your desired tenderness and texture is reached. Also, you may add seasonings according to the taste you want to achieve.
Ladle the soup into bowls then top it with crunchy tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, and/or sour cream. Serve warm.
3. The Optional Way: Using The Slow Cooker
When using the slow cooker, none of the soup’s ingredients need to be pre-cooked. Just prepare and chop them then throw them right into the slow cooker.
If you have ample time, it’s worth looking for fire-roasted canned tomatoes to add a lightly charred flavour to the soup. Otherwise, use regular diced tomatoes instead.
Chop all the ingredients that need chopping – chicken breasts, corn, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. Drain canned beans and tomatoes (if using canned tomatoes)
Spray slow cooker with cooking spray or olive oil. Heat oil over medium-high heat.
Put chicken cuts into a skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 4 minutes while turning each side occasionally until they’re browned.
Put chicken into the slow cooker. Add in the remaining ingredients as well -- water, broth, tomatoes, corn, garlic, onion, beans, cumin, and chili powder.
Set the cooker on low heat. Cook for approximately 2 hours.
After the 2-hr period, check if the chicken is tender enough. If it is, remove it from the cooker then place it in a plate or any flat surface. Shred it using 2 forks then return it to the cooker.
Add in cilantro then let it simmer for another 30 minutes. Finally, ladle the soup then top each serving with crushed tortilla chips, avocado slices, and cheese/sour cream.
Bonus: Making Your Own Roasted Tomatoes With Garlic
An authentic Mexican tortilla soup uses roasted tomatoes. Nothing beats the charred, smoky taste it gives to any dish. Everyone will absolutely love it and will beg for more!
Aside from soups, roasted tomatoes also make a great addition to pasta and salads. So whether you’re not into soups, you can definitely use roasted tomatoes on other dishes.
Actually, roasting tomatoes is pretty easy. Ditch those canned tomatoes and do yourself a favor, roast your own tomatoes. Let us show you how!
What You’ll Need:
- 10 large tomatoes, halved
- ½ bunch thyme
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
Prep time: 10 mins.
Mix the tomatoes and garlic in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil, thyme, and vinegar. Toss until evenly coated.
Arrange the tomatoes evenly in a sheet pan. Position the cut sides up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oven to 160C/140C. Put the baking sheet inside then roast until the skins pop and they start to brown. This may take 15 to 20 minutes. After roasting, remove the sheet and set aside to cool.
Pro Tips From Other Bloggers
Be better at something by learning from the best. We’ve done the job of collecting top tips and tricks in making a delectable chicken tortilla soup from kitchen enthusiasts, chefs, and food bloggers.
Check out some of them below.
1. Delishably is a food blog that has everything home cooks and amateur chefs will ever need – from a selection of cooking equipment to make the best appetizers, desserts, and dishes.
Vespawoolf, one of Delishably’s contributor, is a baker and home chef specializing in Midwestern and South American dishes. She likes to make a pot of chicken tortilla soup at the start of the week and enjoy it for 3 to 4 days in a row.
She said that it’s best to switch up the toppings and serve the soup alternately with cornbread or warmed corn tortillas. Adding some green chiles on the succeeding days also gives the soup a Southwestern twist.
2. Heather, the brain behind Kitchen Concoctions, is a Texas gal with a degree in culinary arts and years of experience in the restaurant industry. Her food blog boasts all kinds of Mexican dishes that will make you drool just by looking at the thumbnails.
Most chicken tortilla soups are topped with baked, crunchy tortillas. Heather begs to differ by deep frying tortilla strips! She does this by cooking tortilla chips in vegetable oil in a large skillet and then transferring them to towel-lined plates to drain.
The tortilla strips are then placed at the bottom of every soup bowl just before ladling the soup.
3. Food & Wine is an online food magazine that goes beyond mere eating and drinking. Their site is full of food and drinks recipes, emerging cooking trends, new dining places, and much more.
Their chicken tortilla soup recipe has caught our attention because they added an exciting step in making the soup. After simmering the garlic, onion, and other spices and seasonings, you have to blend or puree the soup in batches before adding the chicken and simmering it again.
Perhaps, if you want to make a smooth soup, you should try this method. Only the chicken and avocado slices will give chunkiness to the dish.
4. Layla Pujol, the author of Laylita’s Recipes, adores traditional Ecuadorian and Mexican cuisines
Her version of the chicken tortilla soup recipe is like no other. Being a vegan herself, she upped the soup game by using fried assorted mushrooms instead of chicken. All you have to do is dice the mushrooms and brown it until tender.
5. Striving to provide meal solutions for families and those who want to expand their culinary horizons, Analida, the author, spent years teaching ethnic food classes and busying herself over her tiny restaurant.
We learned how to make creamy tortilla soup from her. In her recipe, she coats cheese with cornstarch then adds it to the chicken stock mixture ¼ cup at a time. Stir it well to make sure the cheese melts evenly before ladling the soup into bowls.
Correcting Common Problems
First time cooks wanting to impress their friends or family may experience several issues with cooking this dish. Your first try at making tortilla soup might not turn out as expected but don’t worry, we’ll correct those common mistakes in this section of the article.
We’ve summarized the issues in the three most common ones, with solutions for each.
1. Hard And Unchewy Chicken Strips
Steaming is a great way of cooking chicken without using oil, thereby eliminating excess calories and fat. It’s ideal to a steam chicken when you’re adding it to other recipes such as pasta and salads.
Without the added fat from oil, the chicken’s real taste can shine through.
Most people do not know how to steam chicken properly. Often, you just throw the bare meat into the steamer and come back to an overcooked meat.
To steam chicken breasts properly, cut it first into chunks. You can opt to season the meat with salt, pepper, herbs, and limes, or you can just leave it as it is.
Next, boil water just below the steamer basket. After the water has boiled, place the chunks in the basket then cover tightly for 10 to 15 minutes. For frozen chicken breast, do not peek until the 15-minute mark.
Avoid opening the lid constantly to check on the chicken as it will release the steam and prolong the process. Also, it will lead to drier chicken.
2. The Soup’s Too Spicy/ too Mild For Me. What Can I Substitute With Jalapeño?
Jalapeño peppers are everywhere. They are available in most supermarkets and stores. It’s unlikely that you’ll be needing a jalapeño substitute because you can’t find it in your nearest store.
But if you’re looking to step-up the heat of the soup or want a subtle spiciness, we have some substitutes here for you.
If your goal is to kick up spice, the Serrano and Fresno pepper are two of the most obvious substitutes. It’s surprisingly tough to tell them apart from jalapeno as they almost have the same profile.
They may look like jalapeño, but the difference is really in the heat. Serrano pepper is nine times spicier than jalapeño while Fresno pepper’s spice level is likely about two scales down compared to Serrano. Either way, both of them are hotter and spicier than jalapeño.
Is jalapeño a little too much for you? Step it down with Anaheim pepper. This pepper is about 16 times milder than jalapeño. Regarding the taste, it’s slightly sweeter and crisper.
3. Freezing Tortilla Soup
Most people fond of freeze cooking either have no time to prepare dinner, or they just want to preserve and enjoy all the summery flavors of the tortilla soup.
Well, freezing the soup is pretty self-explanatory. But for those who are clueless, let us teach you how. To freeze the soup, allow it to cool first then store it in a large freezer bag or airtight plastic container before putting it in the freezer (you can also put it in the fridge). And no, you can’t put the tortilla chips inside the same container as the soup.
To reheat it, take the soup out and let it thaw outside. If you’ve stored it in a microwave-safe container, you can use the thaw setting on the microwave. Once melted, heat the soup on the stovetop or microwave over medium heat. Stir it every 2-3 minutes, until cooked.
Top it again with crunchy tortilla strips, avocado slices, sour cream, cheese, and any toppings you’d like to add.
Best Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipes
After dealing with the various ways of cooking chicken tortilla soup and the most common problems associated with the cooking and preparation process, it’s time to reveal the best chicken tortilla soup recipes we’ve scouted.
There are dozens of recipes available. Some of them stick to the traditional way of cooking this soup while some add or replace ingredients to achieve a particular purpose.
Here are some of them that you should definitely try:
This recipe follows the traditional way of cooking chicken tortilla soup. It uses several seasonings, peppers, and of course, tomatoes.
It deviates a little from the traditional way as it adds a few tablespoons of tomato paste for a richer color and it also seasons chicken breasts with the same powders used for the soup.
Aren’t creamy soups the best? Especially those thickened by a generous serving of cheese!
This recipe is a must-try for everyone because it only takes 30 minutes to cook and it’s all made in one pot – no more baking chicken or mixing other ingredients in a separate cookware.
Apart from cheese, this recipe also calls for flour to help thicken the soup. If you are into the gluten-free trend, make sure that the flour you’re about to use is labeled as gluten-free; the same goes with the tortilla chips.
Spicy soups are the bomb during the winter season. A hearty and warm soup can lighten a spirit downed by a few days of gray clouds, cold, and snow. And hey, you can also enjoy it any time of the year, not just on winters!
This soup’s secret lies on enchilada sauce. As you all know, enchilada sauce is a concoction of red chilies, vinegar, and other seasonings. It can range from being mildly spicy to face-reddening spicy-- it all depends on the chili used.
You can buy or make your own enchilada sauce. When purchasing, make sure to grab the red sauce, rather than the green.
We know.. we’ve mentioned this recipe earlier in the Pro Tips section, but we just can’t get enough of it! This comforting tortilla soup recipe is made with assorted mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, spices, vegetable broth, and lime juice.
The mushrooms serve as chicken substitutes for a healthier option. It’s packed with protein just like any meat. They’re crispy and chewy as well. Top it off crunchy tortilla chips, crumbled cheese, creamy chunks of avocado, and you’re all set for dinner.
This recipe may seem just like any tortilla soup recipe, but it has a lot more to it. By “a lot”, I mean a bevy of vegetables.
Whether you’re a health buff or not, you know very well how vegetables can impact your health positively.
In this recipe, you will be adding bite-sized carrots, yellow squash, celery, and fennel. Add the vegetables at the same time you add in the onions. For a healthier meal, you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
There you have it, folks – the different ways of cooking chicken tortilla soup, some tips to perfect the cooking process from other pro food bloggers, solving common problems associated with cooking and preparation, and lastly, the best chicken tortilla soup recipes for your reference.
We’re now quite sure that you can make the most marvelous and delectable chicken tortilla soup with all this information! You can even make a healthier version of it. After all, these are just “guides”; you are free to make your own versions of the dish. Just use your creative juices!
We hope you find this definitive guide helpful. Make your own tortilla soup dinner tonight and post your pictures below. Don’t forget to share this post too. Cheers!