If your neck of the woods is heading into cozy soup season then this Chicken Tortilla Soup wants to be on the menu.
It's a simple, authentic recipe that can provide incredible flavor from just a few key ingredients. It's surprisingly versatile too, and once the base is in place there are all sorts of ways to customize it.
In other words, it'll do just about anything to make its way into your kitchen, so how can you say no?
Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
You may have come across tortilla soup recipes that act as a pantry cleaner, loading up the soup with so many fixings that the essential flavor gets covered up.
This recipe is the opposite. When you combine roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic with a high-quality stock then everything else becomes a bonus because the flavor is already there. It's worth keeping this base in mind as you build your own personal version that suits your taste buds.
I know I harp on it all the time, but try to use some stock that you trust. I'm using homemade chicken stock from this recipe, but you don't need a homemade batch to make this recipe work.
Start by roasting 4-5 Roma tomatoes in a 400F oven.
In about 15-20 minutes they'll be roasted "enough".
In the meantime, saute 1.5 onions and 3 cloves of garlic in some oil over medium heat.
Once the onion starts to brown (approx. 10 minutes) then transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor along with the tomatoes and a single chipotle.
You can consider the chipotle optional. I think the soup tastes best without too much heat, but the chipotle does add a subtle smoky flavor that I like. You could always use half of a chipotle if you want an even milder version. (More info on working with chipotles in adobo here.)
Combine this mixture well and then cook it in some oil (or lard!) for 4-5 minutes until it reduces down a bit.
Add 2 quarts (8 cups) of the best stock you can get your hands on. We'll also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly cracked pepper.
Bring this to a boil over high heat and then add a single chicken breast. If you want a more hearty batch you can always add a second chicken breast.
Reduce heat to a simmer and let the chicken cook in the broth until it's no longer pink in the center, approximately 15-20 minutes.
I know what you're thinking! If we're cooking the chicken in the broth won't that kind of count as using stock? Well, kind of. I've done that before (using 8 cups of water) and while the results are still tasty I think you get a significant jump in quality if you simmer the chicken in stock.
(Note: if you're not adding chicken and want a vegetarian version instead, you'll still want to simmer the soup for at least 15-20 minutes.)
As the chicken simmers in the broth you'll have time to make the tortilla strips. Start by cutting 3-4 corn tortillas into thin strips:
Add a thin layer of oil to a pan on medium-high heat. I used canola oil, probably less than 1/4 cup. We're only going to cook a handful at a time so you really don't need as much oil as you would think.
Test the heat of the oil by dropping a strip into it. If it's already sizzling quite a bit then you are ready to go.
Add a handful of the tortilla strips to the oil.
They'll bubble furiously at first. Once they calm down (30-45 seconds) then use some tongs to remove them and set aside.
They'll continue to cook until the oil cools down, so you'll need to take them out a little earlier than you would think otherwise they'll burn.
Of course, you can always omit the frying step and use uncooked tortilla strips. You might miss the crunch but even the fried tortilla strips will soften a bit as they sit in the broth.
Once the chicken is cooked through you can remove it from the saucepan and shred it. For me the easiest way to shred it is using two forks.
Add the chicken back to the broth and allow it so simmer for another 5 minutes or so. You can also taste for seasoning at this point. I added another heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. (So that is approximately 3/4 teaspoon salt for the whole batch but keep in mind that salt amount will depend quite a bit on the stock that you use.)
Here's what your tortilla soup will look like before adding any garnishes:
Base. In. Place.
Gauging the flavor of this base will give you a good idea of how many fixings you want to add. If I'm using a fresh batch of stock then sometimes I don't take it much farther then the above pic as it's already beyond satisfying.
Of course, adding a layer of tortillas strips, freshly chopped cilantro, and a bit of Crema will make it even better.
That is some real deal Chicken Tortilla Soup and it will work wonders on rainy days, sour moods, or angry people.
I'm usually a fan of adding a final burst of acidity to soup but for some reason it doesn't seem to have the same impact on this soup. Maybe because of the tomatoes? Either way, you can experiment with adding a final squeeze of lime or hot sauce but it's not essential. The base is in place and that's all you really need!
This can easily be one of your go-to recipes for soup season so it's worth giving it a try if it appeals to you. Feel free to use the comments section below if you have any questions or you can always send me an email.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 4-5 Roma tomatoes
- 1.5 onions (small to medium)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 8 cups stock
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 chipotle in adobo
- 3-4 corn tortillas
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- cilantro (optional)
- Crema (optional)
- Roast the tomatoes in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes or so.
- Saute 1.5 roughly chopped onions and 3 whole, peeled garlic cloves in a dollop of oil over medium heat. When the onion starts to turn brown (approx. 6-8 minutes) add the mixture to a blender or food processor along with the roasted tomatoes and a single chipotle. Combine well.
- Saute the tomato-onion blender mixture in a dollop of oil over medium heat for a few minutes. Add 8 cups of broth along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly cracked pepper.
- Bring to a boil and add the chicken breast. Reduce heat to a simmer and let the chicken simmer in the broth until cooked all the way through and the center is no longer pink, approx. 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the chicken and shred it using two forks. Add the chicken back to the broth and let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes or so. Take a taste for seasoning at this point. I added another 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some more freshly cracked pepper.
- To make the tortilla strips, cut 3-4 corn tortillas into thin strips. Heat up a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat (I used approx. 1/4 cup canola oil). Once the oil is heated, add a handful of the tortilla strips and cook for 30-45 seconds or until they are just starting to turn golden brown. Cook the strips in 3 or 4 batches so that the oil remains at a constant temperature.
- To serve, add shredded chicken to a bowl and top with the broth. Garnish with your choice of tortilla strips, Crema, chopped cilantro, or avocado bits.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
We also use this tomato-based broth in our Albondigas Soup.
And our Sopa de Fideo.
Our latest recipe is a great batch of Chicken Tortas -- Mexican Chicken Sandwiches!
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This is delicious! I like a thicker, more intense broth so reduced the stock by about half. Worked great for my family. Also, if you need a veggie option with some bulk, simmering sliced mushrooms (I used white button ones) in the broth for 5-10 minutes worked well. Thanks so much—this will definitely be a go-to dish, even on busy weeknights!
Ahh great thanks much for mentioning your adjustments MaryEllen, very helpful for other peeps reading this 🙂 Cheers.
Love. Love. LOVE this soup. I’m one of those weird people who basically live on a diet of soup. I eat it Year round and anytime during the day. There’s a local Mexican restaurant I go to and always order a soup similar to this but we’re trying to save money so I scoured the internet looking for a recipe to replicate it. This one is even better than the restaurants. I’m slowly trying to eat vegetarian so I may try using black beans and extra avocado to fill up the soup. But anyway THANK YOU!!
Oh great, glad you found this recipe Katie! I'm a huge fan of the base of this soup (roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, stock) and I'm always amazed how much flavor you can get from it. Albondigas Soup uses the same base and is another good option to consider -- you could easily make a veggie version out of it. Cheers.
Hola Patrick -
Driving home in the first snow of our winter, I had tortilla soup on the brain. And it was spicy and delicious, thanks to your wonderful recipe and the chipotle pepper (a first for me). Added rice and some veg and topped it with diced avocado.
Ha awesome, sounds delish Mary!
I just wanna say thanks for posting these amazing Mexican recipes. Followed this recipe, for my first time making tortilla soup and it came out amazing!
Thanks Jackie! So glad the Tortilla Soup was a keeper for you -- I'm always amazed at how much flavor you can get from so few ingredients in that recipe. Cheers.
I have just made the broth from your recipe...it smells and tastes divine! I will cheat and add rotisserie chicken. I always read other cook's comments and will add the black beans...great idea!
Here are two tips from me 🌵😊🌵
I take the entire can of chipotle in adobo sauce & pulse it in my 3.5 cup mini food processor to a paste consistency. I then dole it out into clean soufflé cups (from take out Chinese food) and freeze it. It's easy enough to cut off an amount of frozen paste.
I do the same with extra chopped fresh cilantro...except I add a tiny bit of chicken broth, then freeze. It's fine for soup....wouldn't use it for salsa though.
Hola Stephanie, thanks so much for your note! I'm glad that broth is a keeper for you -- I'm always amazed at how much flavor it has from so few ingredients.
Those are some great tips! Never heard the cilantro one before -- I'll keep that in mind as I always find myself throwing out cilantro knowing that it goes bad so quickly in the fridge. Very helpful, cheers!
My family and I loved this! I doubled the recipe as well and used a whole rotisserie chicken. I also added some black beans, white rice and jalapeños! Sorry, I can NEVER stick to a recipe. This definitely gets added into our rotation!
Ha I am the same way -- those sound like great additions though. Thanks much for the feedback, so glad you enjoyed it!
This soup was so good! It was just what I was looking for. Thank you! I doubled it because we are a family of 6 and used a whole package of chicken thighs because I like the extra fat in the dark meat, and everyone just loves meat in my family. Definitely going in my recipe binder. Oh, the fried corn tortillas were just perfect too, so easy!
Awesome Kristi thanks much for the feedback, glad you found a keeper! Loading it up with a bit of extra fat from the chicken thighs sounds scrumptious...
Wonderful recipes !
Thanks Onetta! Now officially craving this soup heh.
Definitely must try this! We love tortilla soup!
Go for it Lori! Let me know if you have any questions along the way.
Most excellent. The single chipotle pepper gave it just the right amount of heat without being overpowering.
Thanks much for the feedback Mike! Yup I felt the same way, the soup really doesn't need much heat but a little zing in the background seems to work well.