Chicken tortilla soup is a flavorful Mexican-inspired soup made with chicken, tomatoes, chilies, corn, beans, and tortilla strips. It’s a hearty and comforting soup that’s full of texture and spice. Some of the key ingredients in chicken tortilla soup include:
Chicken is the star ingredient in chicken tortilla soup. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are simmered in the broth to cook through and add protein. Shredded or chopped cooked chicken is then added back to the soup before serving.
Onion and Garlic
An onion and garlic base builds flavor in the soup. Onion and garlic are sautéed in oil first to soften them before the broth and tomatoes are added.
Tomatoes provide rich umami flavor, vitamin C, and thickness to the broth. Canned diced tomatoes work well as they break down into the soup. Tomato juice or sauce can also be used.
Chilies like jalapeño, serrano, or chipotle add heat and smokiness. They can be used whole, diced, or as a sauce like adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo. Use the amount to suit your desired spice level.
The broth provides the base flavor. Chicken broth is traditional, but vegetable or beef broth also work. Canned or homemade broth can be used.
Spices like cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, and coriander add layered Tex-Mex flavor. A blend like ancho chili powder is also nice. Add them while cooking the onion and garlic.
Corn, such as frozen or canned corn kernels, adds texture and sweetness. Hominy or pozole can also be used.
Beans like pinto, black, kidney, or navy beans add fiber, protein, and heartiness. Canned beans are convenient to use.
Corn or flour tortillas that are cut into strips and fried add crunch on top of the soup. Store-bought tortilla strips help save time.
Toppings like shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro, lime wedges, diced onion, sour cream, and crispy tortilla chips can be added on top for extra flavor and texture.
Oil such as canola, vegetable, or olive oil is used to sauté the aromatics and also blend into the soup in some recipes.
Some additional ingredients that can be used in chicken tortilla soup include:
- Diced zucchini or bell peppers for extra vegetables
- Nopales (cactus paddles) for a more authentic touch
- Roasted poblano peppers for an earthy flavor
- Fresh cilantro or epazote for fresh herb flavor
- Lime juice for brightness
- Monterey Jack or Mexican cheese blends for even more cheesiness
- Cream or half-and-half for added richness
Chicken Tortilla Soup Step-by-Step Recipe
Now that we’ve covered the key ingredients, here is a step-by-step recipe for how to make chicken tortilla soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
- 8 small (6 inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges, for serving
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute more until fragrant.
- Add the cumin, chili powder, crushed tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- While soup simmers, shred or chop the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Add to the soup and continue simmering until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Remove soup from heat. Stir in the black beans, corn, and tortilla strips.
- Ladle soup into bowls and top with avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve immediately.
That’s all it takes to make a hearty batch of chicken tortilla soup loaded with Tex-Mex flavors. The steps involve sautéing the aromatic veggies, simmering the broth, cooking the chicken, then adding the beans, corn, and tortilla strips just before serving.
One serving of chicken tortilla soup provides:
Chicken tortilla soup is high in protein from the chicken and beans. It also provides a good amount of fiber, iron, and vitamins A and C. The sodium is a bit high, mainly from the canned broth and tomatoes.
Substitutions and Variations
Chicken tortilla soup is highly customizable to work with the ingredients you have on hand. Here are some substitution ideas:
- Chicken: Swap boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the breasts. Shredded rotisserie chicken also works well.
- Broth: Replace chicken broth with vegetable or beef broth.
- Beans: Use any canned bean variety like pinto, kidney, cannellini, or navy beans.
- Corn: Substitute frozen corn kernels for the canned corn.
- Tortillas: Bake whole corn or flour tortillas into chips then break into pieces.
- Toppings: Customize with your favorite toppings like shredded cheese, diced avocado, cilantro, etc.
Some other ways to modify chicken tortilla soup:
- Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and substituting the chicken with beans, lentils, or soy protein crumbles.
- Add diced zucchini, bell peppers, or poblano peppers for extra vegetables.
- Use fire-roasted or diced tomatoes for more flavor.
- Add lime juice right before serving for brightness.
- Top with lime wedges, radish slices, crispy tortilla strips, or tortilla chips.
- Garnish with avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, or crema.
- Blend until smooth to make it a tortilla soup puree.
There are endless possibilities for customizing chicken tortilla soup to suit your taste and what you have in your pantry!
Can I make chicken tortilla soup in a slow cooker?
Yes, chicken tortilla soup adapts very well to being made in a slow cooker. Add all the ingredients except for the tortilla strips to a slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Shred the chicken and stir in the tortilla strips right before serving.
Can I freeze leftover chicken tortilla soup?
Leftover chicken tortilla soup freezes well for up to 3 months. Let it cool completely before transferring to freezer bags or containers. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop or microwave.
Is chicken tortilla soup spicy?
Chicken tortilla soup can be made as spicy or as mild as you prefer. The amount of jalapeño and chili powder used can be adjusted to suit your taste preferences. Start with less and add more if you want more heat.
What goes well with chicken tortilla soup?
Chicken tortilla soup pairs nicely with sides like lime or avocado salad, cornbread, warm flour tortillas, and chips and salsa. A light dessert like churros, sopapillas, or Mexican wedding cookies makes a great ending.
What can I do with leftover chicken tortilla soup?
There are plenty of tasty ways to repurpose leftover chicken tortilla soup:
- Add remaining soup to a casserole dish with rice or pasta and cheese then bake.
- Stir into scrambled eggs or a breakfast tacos filling.
- Fill burritos, wraps, or quesadillas with the soup.
- Top nachos or baked potatoes with the leftover soup.
- Eat it as is for an easy lunch or dinner the next day.
Chicken tortilla soup brings together tender chicken, vegetables, beans, and tortilla chips in a tomato-based Mexican-style broth. Onions, garlic, jalapeño, and spices like cumin and chili powder build the flavor base. Toppings like avocado, cheese, and cilantro add extra richness. While the ingredients list may seem long at first glance, the soup comes together easily by just sautéing the aromatics, simmering the broth and chicken, then adding the corn, beans, and tortilla strips at the end. Endlessly customizable, chicken tortilla soup is satisfying on its own or paired with sides like a fresh salad or warm tortillas.