Tortilla soup is a delicious Mexican stew made with tomatoes, chicken broth, spices, and tortilla strips. While the broth is meant to be on the thinner side, sometimes you may want to thicken it up a bit to make it heartier or give it more body. There are several methods you can use to thicken up tortilla soup easily without sacrificing any flavor.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to thicken tortilla soup is by using cornstarch. Cornstarch is a thickening agent that is tasteless, gluten-free, and dissolves easily into soups and stews. Here is how to use cornstarch to thicken tortilla soup:
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water until smooth. This will create a slurry.
- Bring the soup to a gentle simmer. While stirring constantly, slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the soup.
- Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the soup has thickened to your desired consistency.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. The cornstarch should not alter the flavor.
The amount of cornstarch you use will depend on how much thickening you need. Start with 1 tablespoon and add more as needed. The soup will continue thickening slightly as it cools. Cornstarch is a great way to add body without making the tortilla soup gloopy or paste-like.
Pureeing Some of the Soup
Another way to thicken tortilla soup is by pureeing a portion of it. This will break down some of the vegetables and release starch, adding thickness and richness. Here’s how to do it:
- Remove about 2 cups of soup from the pot and transfer to a blender (be careful as hot liquids can splatter). Make sure to get a mix of broth, tomatoes, onions, etc.
- Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and stir to combine.
- Simmer for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld. The soup will be thicker from the pureed portion.
- Season to taste again with salt, peppers, etc. Add more pureed soup if a thicker consistency is desired.
This method infuses more body while keeping the chunky textures. You can puree as much or as little as needed based on your preferences.
Adding Instant Mashed Potatoes
Believe it or not, instant mashed potatoes can work wonders for thickening up soups like tortilla soup. Here are the steps:
- Prepare the instant mashed potatoes according to package directions using milk or water. Allow to cool slightly.
- Add a few spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes to the simmering soup. Stir well.
- Continue adding mashed potatoes until desired consistency is reached. Stop when the soup is slightly thinner than you want as it will thicken more upon standing.
- Let soup simmer for 10 minutes, allowing potato flakes to fully hydrate. Adjust seasonings to taste.
The starch from the potato flakes will act as a thickener. Start with a smaller amount and add more as needed. This gives great body while enhancing the potato flavor.
Adding Mexican Rice
Cooked Mexican or Spanish rice can also be used to thicken and add more texture to tortilla soup. Here is a simple process:
- Make a batch of Mexican rice, cooked per package directions.
- When rice is done, fold 1-2 cups of it (or more to taste) into the simmering soup.
- Allow soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes so flavors can fully incorporate.
- The starch from the rice will give the broth more body. Add more rice if a thicker consistency is still desired.
The rice gives the soup heartiness while also ramping up the Mexican flavors even more. Other types of rice can work too but may alter the flavor profile more.
Adding Lentils orBeans
Adding cooked lentils or beans is a great way to thicken tortilla soup while also boosting nutrition. Here’s how:
- Prepare about 1 cup of dried lentils or beans by cooking until very soft and mushy.
- Use a potato masher or fork to mash the lentils/beans to a paste-like consistency.
- Stir the mashed legumes into the hot soup until well combined.
- Simmer for 10 minutes so the starch can thicken the broth.
- Add more mashed legumes if needed. Season to taste.
Red or yellow lentils, white beans, or pinto beans work especially well. The beans add protein and fiber too. Just a small amount creates a noticeable thickening effect.
Adding Tortilla Strips or Chips
Since tortilla soup gets its name from crispy tortilla strips, you can use additional strips to make the broth thicker. Try this simple method:
- Prepare an extra batch of baked or fried tortilla strips, cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Add the fresh tortilla strips to the soup and stir to incorporate.
- Let soup simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the strips to soften and thicken the broth.
- For even more thickness, you can puree a portion of the soup and strips together.
The starch from the tortillas will infuse the broth with thickness. You can also crush up tortilla chips and stir them in. Add more for a thicker consistency.
For an unconventional but effective thickening option, try adding some cooked gnocchi to your tortilla soup. Here’s how:
- Cook about 1 cup of gnocchi per package instructions until soft.
- Drain the gnocchi and stir it into the hot soup until combined.
- Allow soup to simmer for 10 minutes so the gnocchi can absorb some broth and release its starch.
- The dense, doughy gnocchi will give the soup more body. Add more for an even thicker texture.
The gnocchi add great thickness and chewiness to balance the broth. Other small pasta shapes like ditalini can work too. This creates a more filling and stew-like tortilla soup.
Whisking in Heavy Cream
For a truly rich and creamy take on tortilla soup, you can stir in some heavy cream or crema. Here’s how to do it:
- Once soup is cooked, remove about 1 cup of hot broth to a bowl.
- Whisk in 2-4 tablespoons of heavy cream or Mexican crema.
- Gradually pour cream mixture back into the soup pot, whisking constantly.
- Bring back up to a simmer. The cream will create a silky thickness.
- Add more heavy cream or crema if desired thickness is not reached.
The fat in the cream or crema gives the broth a lush, creamy texture. Just a small amount creates noticeable thickness. This works best with reduced-sodium broth.
Making a Roux
A classic roux can be used to give tortilla soup a nice thickened consistency. A roux is made by cooking flour and fat together. Follow these steps:
- In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat.
- Whisk in 2-3 tbsp all-purpose flour until a paste forms.
- Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Slowly whisk about 1 cup of hot soup broth into the roux until smooth.
- Gradually pour roux mixture back into soup pot, continuing to whisk.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes to thicken. Add more roux if needed.
The roux gives great thickness and richness. Just be careful not to add too much, which can make the soup gloppy. Whisk well to prevent lumps.
Making a Beurre Manié
Similar to a roux, a beurre manié is another classic French thickening technique. It utilizes just butter and flour. Here is the process:
- Mash together 2 tbsp softened butter and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour until a smooth paste forms.
- Drop small pieces of the paste into the simmering tortilla soup.
- Whisk vigorously to melt the beurre manié into the broth and prevent lumps.
- Simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened to desired level.
- Add more beurre manié if needed. Season soup with salt and pepper.
The beurre manié adds great thickness and richness. Just make sure to whisk it in well so it fully melts and incorporates.
Adding Tomato Paste
Tomato paste can be used to add bold tomato flavor while also helping thicken up tortilla soup. Here’s how to do it:
- In a small bowl, whisk together 2-4 tablespoons of tomato paste with 2 tablespoons water until smooth.
- Pour tomato paste mixture into simmering soup.
- Whisk well to fully incorporate.
- Simmer soup for 5 minutes to allow tomato paste to thicken broth.
- Add more tomato paste mixture if needed. Season with salt, lime juice, etc.
The tomato paste gives great tomato richness. Just a small amount can create noticeable thickness. Add a little at a time to avoid making the broth too thick.
Adding Masa Harina
Masa harina, also called masa flour, can be used to give tortilla soup a thicker, heartier texture. Here’s how:
- In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons masa harina with 2 tablespoons water until smooth.
- Gradually stir masa harina slurry into simmering soup.
- Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.
- The masa harina will create a rich, corn-like thickness. Add more if desired.
Masa harina has a uniquely corny flavor that complements the tortilla soup well. It creates a pleasant thickness too. Just take care not to add too much or the soup can become overly thick.
Trying a Mix of Thickeners
For best results, you can use a combination of thickeners to really get the texture you want. Here are some mixes to try:
- Cornstarch + pureed soup
- Rice + beans
- Potato flakes + tortilla strips
- Heavy cream + gnocchi
- Tomato paste + masa harina
Using two thickeners together can create an extra lush, thick soup. The starchiness of rice or purees balances out richness from cream. You can experiment to find your favorite combinations.
Tips for Thickening Tortilla Soup
Here are some additional tips for successfully thickening tortilla soup:
- For smooth thickness, mix slurries and purees well before adding to soup.
- Bring soup to a simmer before adding thickeners so they activate properly.
- Add thickeners gradually and allow time for them to fully incorporate.
- Stir frequently to prevent scorching or sticking on the bottom.
- The soup will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.
- If soup gets too thick, thin it by stirring in additional broth or water.
With the right technique, you can customize the thickness of your tortilla soup. Try out different options to find your favorite.
Tortilla soup is meant to have a thinner, brothy consistency, but adding thickeners can transform it into a hearty stew-like dish. There are many simple, flavorful ways to achieve a thicker texture using ingredients like cornstarch, beans, rice, or heavy cream. Get creative with different starch sources, purees, and classic thickening methods. With the right balance, you can give your tortilla soup the perfect amount of body and richness.