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The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup

Updated on March 6, 2016
Melissa Althen profile image

Melissa is a certified food scientist with over 20 years in the food industry. New food development and matching are her specialities.

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5 stars from 2 ratings of Chicken Tortilla Soup

Making it from scratch - why this recipe is different.

Buying chicken bone-in and boiling it to make broth saves money and adds flavor. Incredibly easy, learning this skill empowers you to create your own broth out of whatever is left in the fridge.

Comfort food for any time of the year.
Comfort food for any time of the year.


  • 1 small Whole Chicken, Cut into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil, more for frying tortillas
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 4 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, diced
  • 1 Serrano Pepper, diced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can Fire Roasted Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Lime, wedged
  • 1 bunch Cilantro
  • 5 Corn or Wheat Tortillas, sliced into 1/2" strips
  • 1 Avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup Mild Cheddar and Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded

Warm Hearts

  1. Rinse your chicken and place in a large stock pot. Cover chicken with water (about 6 cups) and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for an hour. Remove the chicken and reserve your chicken broth. You might want to move the broth to a cool container, skim some fat, wash your stock pot, and return the broth to your pot. This step is optional.
  2. While your chicken cooks, prep your other ingredients. Chop the onion, and keep separate. Chop the peppers and garlic and place together in a small bowl. Bring 2 Tbsp vegetable oil to medium heat in a frying pan. Add your onions, spread evenly, and let caramelize. As the onions pick up some color, begin to stir them slowly to allow them to caramelize evenly. When they are almost translucent, add the peppers and garlic. Cook until the garlic releases its fragrance, approximately 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
  3. To your chicken broth in your large stock pot, add the can of tomatoes, the drained black beans, and the cooked vegetables. Remove the fat and bones from your chicken pieces, and shred the meat. Add to your stock pot of broth. Put on a low simmer while you fry your tortillas. You are marrying flavors now, so you can let the pot simmer 30 minutes or 2 hours, depending on how soon you want to eat.
  4. While your soup is getting happy, it's time to fry your tortillas. You are essentially making chips, but it's so very easy if you use minimal oil. Rinse and wipe dry the frying pan you used for the veggies. Cover the bottom of the pan in about 1/4-1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Heat to medium, and add your tortilla strips. Give these a minute, spread them out, but let them get brown on the side they are touching the pan before you give them a turn. Watch them, but there is no need to stir constantly. Meanwhile, place two paper towels on a plate to absorb the oil from the tortillas when you transfer them. Cook tortillas until golden brown. Transfer to the plate and immediately salt liberally. Fried food should be salted to taste immediately out of the frying pan to allow the salt to adhere.
  5. Taste your soup. This is the time to adjust salt. The main flavor in chicken broth is salt, so don't be shy unless you have a dietary restriction. I personally added a Tbsp of salt at this step. Salt to your taste.
  6. When you are ready to serve, use a soup ladel to transfer your soup to a large soup bowl. Pinch a mound of shredded cheese (experiment with cheeses you like) on top. Place your fried tortillas over the cheese. Add sliced avocado as desired. Pick cilantro leaves to taste and sprinkle over top. Place a wedge of lime on the side of the bowl. Just before eating, squeeze the lime juice into your soup.
  7. Note on cilantro: When I bring cut stemmed herbs home, I treat them like picked flowers. I place them in a small cup of water on the counter to keep them fresh and alive.
  8. Enjoy. I like to serve this soul good meal with Southern Cornbread.

Fire roasted tomatoes are great to keep on hand for a variety of dishes.

© 2015 Melissa Holton


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