This is a simple, authentic recipe for a classic Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’m always amazed at how much flavor you can get from so few ingredients.
It’s surprisingly versatile too, so once the base is in place there are all sorts of ways to customize it.
Ready to make it?
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 some good 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.
Start by roasting 2-3 Roma tomatoes in a 400F oven. I used 3 smaller Romas. In about 15-20 minutes they’ll be roasted enough and will look something like this:
In the meantime, saute an onion and 3 cloves of garlic in some oil over medium heat.
Once the onion starts to brown (approx. 7-8 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 use half of a chipotle if you want an even milder version.
Combine this mixture well and then cook it in some oil 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 to 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. The recipe box is below.
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.