The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe!
The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup from Scratch
The first time I tasted Lupe's Mexican tortilla soup, I almost burst into song. How could soup be so satisfying? Thick, warming and more akin to a stew, it burst with flavor. Her secret? Aside from fresh ingredients and good quality stock, the key is in the seasoning. High-quality chili powder or dried chile peppers put this tortilla soup in a league of its own. You'll find more information on choosing chiles and chili powder in the tips section and at the bottom of the page.
This tortilla soup will scent your home with the fragrance of Mexican spices, satisfy your appetite with wholesome ingredients like black beans, sweet corn and red peppers and leave you and your guests clamoring for more. It can even be made with leftover turkey, offering a welcome reprieve from typical holiday fare.
Best of all, tortilla soup only improves as it rests. It's the perfect make-ahead meal that freezes well, too. We often throw together a pot of tortilla soup at the beginning of the week and enjoy it for 3 or 4 days in a row. Switch up the toppings and serve it with cornbread or warmed corn tortillas. Add some green chiles on the second day to give it a Southwestern twist.
If you are short on time, below (in the tips section) please find shortcuts for quick tortilla soup. Either way, we guarantee this is the tastiest tortilla soup that will ever touch your lips!
Table of Contents
Recipe: Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup
How to Make Chicken Stock
Chili Powder or Dried Chilies
How to Make Tortilla Soup from Leftover Turkey
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
More Mexican Recipes:
- The Best Homemade Mexican Salsa
- Authentic Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa)
- Mexican Guacamole
- How Do You Make Margaritas?
- Sweet & Smoky Mexican Mole
- Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Fried Ice Cream With Sopapillas & Pear-Honey Sauce
- Recipe Index: Vespa Woolf's Favorites
- Healthy Mexican Recipe: Easy Grilled Tostadas
- This soup is most delicious when made with homemade chicken or turkey stock.
- If you're in a hurry, purchase good quality chicken broth at your local grocery store.
- In the United States try 2 14-ounce bags of frozen Southwest vegetable mix with black beans and corn instead of frozen corn and canned beans. Omit the red bell pepper and use one green bell pepper only.
- Substitute canned hominy for the sweet corn for a flavor more akin to Mexican pozole.
- This soup is best if made several hours ahead of time, so flavors can marry.
- For lower fat soup, substitute milk or half-n-half for the cream.
- If lactose-intolerance is an issue, omit the cream or milk.
- The key to really flavorful soup is high quality chili powder or dried chiles. Please see box at bottom of page for more information.
- For mild Tortilla Soup choose Ancho or New Mexico chili powder, which is low on the Scoville Scale.
- For medium-spicy Tortilla Soup, add 1 Tablespoon of Chipotle chili powder.
- You can find masa harina on the ethnic aisle of your grocery store.
- If you don't want to use the masa harina or corn flour, dice six corn tortillas and add them to the soup with the veggies. The soup will thicken as the corn tortillas break down.
- If serving the soup to guests, I don't add the stringy chicken left from making stock and reserve it for another use.
- Serve with Mexican guacamole appetizer and Tex-Mex Margaritas for a special treat.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 3-4 chicken breasts, about two pounds total weight
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder (see tips)
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1/2 cup corn flour, masa harina or diced corn tortillas (see tips)
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups or 1 14-ounce bag frozen corn kernels
- 2 cups or 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 cups carrots, green beans and/or zucchini, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups or 1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream (optional)
- 10 cups (80 ounces) chicken broth or stock (see recipe below), homemade or store bought
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Drizzle one tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil into a large stock pot on medium heat. Rinse, dry and salt the chicken breasts. Saute them until cooked through.
- Take pot off the heat. Remove chicken breasts from pot and set aside to cool. Add one more tablespoon of oil. Saute the red and green bell peppers and garlic, scraping up brown bits left from chicken. Add spices and saute 5 minutes longer.
- Pour one cup of chicken broth into a blender container. Add 1/2 cup corn flour or masa harina and blend thoroughly.
- Pour all broth, including broth and corn flour mixture, into the stock pot with vegetables. Stir with a spatula or spoon.
- Simmer over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
- Chop or shred the chicken breasts. Add cream and chicken breasts to soup and simmer on low for 10 more minutes. At this point you can add the reserved chicken from the homemade stock, if desired.
Offer some of these garnishes for your hungry guests:
- grated cheddar cheese
- grated Monterrey jack cheese
- cilantro (coriander) leaves
- minced green onion
- diced red onion
- diced tomato
- crunchy tortilla chips or strips of Homemade Corn Tortilla
- a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt
- chopped or sliced avocado
- minced fresh or canned jalapenos
- fresh salsa or pico de gallo
- homemade Mexican salsa
- lime slices
- roasted red peppers, diced
- Add 1 4-ounce can of diced fire-roasted Hatch green chiles (drained)
- OR omit the diced tomatoes and substitute 2 10-ounce cans Rotel mild diced tomato & green chiles, drained.
How to Make Chicken Stock:
- 1 3-4 pound chicken fryer, cut up (set aside breasts)
- 12 cups cold water
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 medium onion, peeled
- Wash chicken and remove skin, if desired.
- Place ingredients in a large stock pot. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken falls off the bone.
- Strain broth and reserve the chicken. You should have about 10 cups of stock. If not, add enough water to equal 10 cups.
Chili Powder or Dried Chiles
For the most flavorful Tortilla Soup you've ever tasted, it's important to purchase good-quality chili powder or dried chiles. The Scoville chart will help you choose chiles by heat level. See Sweet & Smoky Mexican Mole for both the chart and information on buying dried chiles.
If you prefer chili powder, see the Amazon suggestions in the "tips" section (above). Try 1/2 Tablespoon Chipotle chili powder, 1/2 Tablespoon New Mexico chili powder and 1 Tablespoon Ancho chili powder for mildly spicy tortilla soup. Increase Chipotle chili powder for spicier Tortilla Soup.
If you'd like to use whole dried chiles instead of chili powder, we highly recommend Pasilla, Ancho and Mulato chiles. Considered the "holy trinity" of Mexican chiles, they produce unforgettable, low-spice Tortilla Soup. Chipotle chiles add spice and complex smoky flavor to Tortilla Soup.
You'll need to dry toast and rehydrate the chiles first to bring out maximum flavor. Do this in a skillet, watching them carefully so they don't burn. An easier method is to toast the chiles in a 350 F oven for several minutes until they puff up. Then you need to:
- Soak chiles in hot water for 15-20 minutes
- Throw away the soaking water
- Remove the stem and seeds
- Toss the chiles into a blender container on Step #3 of the Tortilla Soup recipe, along with masa harina and one cup of broth
- Blend well and proceed with the recipe
How to Make Tortilla Soup from Leftover Turkey
If you've just roasted a turkey, don't throw away that carcass! Turkey bones make great stock for tortilla soup.
- Remove any meat or skin from the turkey carcass. Reserve the meat for Tortilla Soup.
- Break up the turkey carcass so it fits in the stock pot.
- See above box "How to Make Chicken Stock". Substitute turkey carcass for whole chicken and follow instructions to make broth. Reduce salt to 1 teaspoon if the turkey has been brined. Simmer gently so the broth doesn't turn cloudy.
- Use turkey broth in place of chicken broth in Tortilla Soup recipe.
- If you don't have turkey broth, buy chicken broth from your local grocery store.
- Chop leftover turkey (2-3 cups) and add to Tortilla Soup in place of chicken breast meat.
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- Purchase good vegetable broth or make your own stock.
- Follow Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, replacing chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- Try 1 Tablespoon of Chipotle chili powder and 2 Tablespoons of Ancho for depth of flavor.
- Substitute 2 cups of kidney beans for the chopped chicken meat.