Chicken Tortilla Soup comes from the South American city of Mexico City; a population of over 20 million. The exact origin of this South American comfort soup is unknown, but well documented originating in Mexico. The Mexican culture is full of amazing food, so bright, vibrant, organic, and healthy. The cooking techniques in South America is something worth studying. Culinary techniques spanning 1000’s years. One thing here in American food culture is we do not understand South American food very well. Most Americans understand Mexican food as what is honestly called Tex-Mex, not Mexican food.
What’s the Difference Between Tex-Mex and Mexican Food?
What makes this wonderful recipe you’ve found so special is the heart of the dish is what is truly called “Artisan”.
The soup is enriched by the use of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and dried chiles. The special part of Chicken Tortilla Soup is the tortillas, which are usually used as a crunchy topping.
WATCH Our How-To Video:
Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Ok, no problem, we all know that about the tortillas, but did you know we can use them to thicken the soup? The corn tortillas cook in the soup base offering an even deep flavor profile, working as a thickening agent to create a perfect instant pot chicken tortilla soup.
Traditional Ingredients Used In Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Vine Ripe Tomatoes
- Dried Chiles – ex: Guajillo – Ancho
- Red Bell Pepper
- Orange Bell Pepper
- Poblano Pepper
About The Ingredients In Artisan Chicken Tortilla Soup
Our next artisan technique that helps make this soup so good is the way we prepare the vegetables. Traditionally tomatoes, onions, garlic, and dry chiles get charred. This brings the smoky notes to the soup and a secret flavor weapon. Few things to consider.
- The tomatoes and onions actually get charred, blacken, almost burnt. #traditional
- The garlic can be tricky because it burns easily. With the garlic, be sure to keep each garlic clove inside its own paper wrapper. This helps it not burn. The garlic will become bitter if it gets too close to burnt. I elect to skip this step due to how easy it is to burn the garlic. I think it helps with a consistent Chicken Tortilla Soup over time.
- The key to charring the vegetables is using a cast-iron skillet. If you want to you could place a piece of aluminum foil in the cast iron skillet for easy cleaning afterward. With our recipe, we take things up a notch by adding more vegetables.
The ingredient worth our time. Choosing the right tomato or tomatoes for Chicken Tortilla soup is very important in my opinion. The tomatoes will be charred to create a deep depth of flavor to the soup.
Types of Tomatoes to shop for:
- Vine Ripened Tomatoes
- Greenhouse Tomatoes
- San Marzano Tomatoes (Not Traditional, but they are the very best tomatoes in the world) (Read about San Marzano tomatoes here)
- Please do NOT use Roma – Might surprise some of you to read that, but they are never the most flavorful tomatoes. Quite the opposite. They have their place in the culinary world, just not a good fit for this soup.
Onions: Two Choices - Which One To Choose?
- Spanish onion
- Has a sweeter flavor profile
- Not Onion flavor-forward
- Also known as Sweet onions
- Classic onion we find at the grocery store.
- Has a strong onion forward flavor profile
- Can make you cry, lol
- My selection for Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Reason — We want the onion flavor to be present.
- (nee, chile guajillo in Spanish) (meaning ‘big pod’) is the dried form of mirasol chili
- heat (rating 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville scale) is considered mild to medium
- Packed with flavor
- Works great in Salsa
- Dried Poblano Pepper
- Overall not very hot pepper. Has a sweet flavor and aroma
- A great addition to salsa
- Puree nicely when ground into a paste
The Step by Step Instructions For Making Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla SoupMaking The Chicken Tortilla Soup "Base" & Cooking The Chicken
Going to be covering two ways of making Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Instant Pot Method
- Slow Cooker Method
First, place the cold chicken into a bowl of warm water in the sink for about 7 minutes to help take the chill off the chicken. This helps with even cooking. If you’re going to use the slow cooker you can skip this step. The reason is the long cooking time.
Be sure to rinse the chicken off before placing it into the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker/Crockpot.
Never cook chicken without rinsing it off first.
Cut 1 large Onion into quarters. Cut 2 large carrot into 4 to 5 pieces ( No need to peel first ) Cut 3 stalks of celery into pieces. Place the chicken into the Instant Pot / Slow Cooker / Crockpot along with all the vegetables. Add 1 large teaspoon of sea salt, plus 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
Instant Pot Set the Instant Pot to Soup/Broth (Pressure cooker setting) Place on “Normal’ pressure and timer for 40 minutes. Be sure the top lid release valve is set to sealing. Slow Cooker / Crockpot The advantage of the slow cooker is you can set the timer and forget about it for hours.
Next, add the water, at least 8 cups. Add tomato paste and mix it in very well. Place the chicken in the middle of the slow cooker, add the vegetables plus one large teaspoon of Sea Salt. (Table salt = ¾ teaspoon) Cook on high for the first hour then turn down to low and cook until the chicken breast internal temperature reaches 158. Then remove the chicken and shred the chicken into bite-size pieces.
Making The Chicken Tortilla Soup “Base”
- Slice and clean onion large yellow onion
- Slice and remove the rib from one orange or red bell pepper
- Slice and remove the stem and devein one medium to large tomato.
- Two dried chiles – Guajillo & Ancho chiles – Remove all seeds and stem
Look at that “Base” Our Chicken Tortilla Soup is going to be beautiful and full of flavor. So healthy and bright and vibrant. At this point, the chicken is done. Remove the chicken, strain the broth/stock. Then shred the chicken while it is still hot. Once shredded add a little bit of the cooking liquid back into the shredded chicken. It helps keep the chicken nice and moist.
Optional: Corn tortillas can be used as a thickening agent. Take a few tortillas and wet them. Could use chicken broth or water. The idea is to soften them for the blender. Soak for about 90 seconds. Add them to the blender to get new and smooth.
We now have the “Base”, the chicken broth/stock, and sliced vegetable ready. Add all of them into your cooker plus some fresh cilantro and the juice of one lime. #freshnessSettings:
- For Instant Pot, set to Broth/Soup, on normal pressure and the timer for 10 to 15 minutes. Longer cook time softens more.
- For the crockpot about an additional 30 minutes. You don’t want to go any longer than this or the vegetable will become too soft.
Using a ladle add some of the chicken broth/stock to a bowl. Then add the shredded chicken in the middle. Be sure to add a good bit as you want your eaters to see the chicken in an abundance. You could add anything your heart desires now. I kept it a bit Tex-Mex and added black beans, corn, favorite cheese ( I used sharp Cheddar), the crunchy tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
The Crunchy Tortilla Strips
- Shallow fry them in a little bit of oil on the stovetop
- Or bake them in a 325 oven for about 10 minutes (Healthier Verison) (Be sure to check on them while they cook) add a small amount of oil to help them crisp up. About 2 to 3 teaspoons.
Making the Broth & Cooking The Chicken Ingredients
- 1 Organic Chicken / 4 to 6 pound
- 1 large Yellow Onion
- 2 Carrots
- 3 stalks Celery
- 2 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1.5 teaspoon Sea Salt / I used Himalayan Sea Salt
The Soup Base
- 1 large Vine Ripe Tomato / Sliced In Half & Cored
- 1 Orange Bell Pepper / Sliced In Half & Rib Removed
- 1 Red Bell Pepper / Sliced In Half & Rib Removed
- 1 Poblano Pepper / Sliced In Half & Rib Removed
- 1 Ancho Chile Pepper / Seeds Removed
- 1 Guajillo Pepper / Seeds Removed
Vegetables In Soup
- 1 Red Bell Pepper / Quartered & Rib Removed
- 1 Orange Bell Pepper / Quartered & Rib Removed
- 1 Poblano Pepper / Halved & Rib Removed
- 1 Large Vidalia Onion / Sliced (Julianne) Cut Lengthwise
- 1 can Black Beans / Rinsed & Drained
- 1 can Sweet Corn / Rinsed & Drained
- Favorite Cheese
- Green Onion / Sliced @ 45 degrees
- Crispy Corn Tortilla Strips
- 1 teaspoon Minced Garlic / Optional
Prep The Chicken
- Rinse the chicken off under warm water. Using the (Instant Pot) leave the chicken in a bowl with warm water for about 7 to 10 minutes to remove the chill. Slow Cooker = No need to remove the chill from the chicken
Cooking The Chicken & Making The Broth - Instant Pot Method
- Place the whole chicken into the middle of the Instant Pot or your Slow Cooker / CrockpotSlice the onion into 8 pieces ( Cut in half, then cut those pieces in half, then one more time. The creates more surface area to extract flavor from.Carrots - No need to peel - Chop Celery - Chop into pieces2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste1.5 Teaspoons of Sea Salt(Optional - 2 Bay Leaves )
- Instant Pot Settings -Broth/Soup Setting (Pressure Cooker) - Pressure on "Normal" the middle setting.-Time 40 MinutesThe chicken will be fall-apart goodness. You could just take the recipe to this point and have a wonderfully cooked chicken. Remember the Instant Pot takes a little time to pressurize before the timer begins to count down.
Slow Cooker / Crock Pot
- If you have the time. Set the heat to high for the first 30-to-45 minutes if you would like to cut down on the cooking time. Otherwise, use the low setting. The beauty of the slow cooker is you can set it and pretty much forget it. Cooking Time Range: Cook on low 4-6 hours
- Both Slow Cooker & Instant Pot Method - Remove the chicken - Strain the broth and add it back into your cooker. Look At That Color!!!
- Shred the chicken while it's hot, then add a little bit of the broth back on top of the shredded chicken to help keep it moist.
Making The Base
- Traditionally Tomatoes, Garlic & Dried Peppers get charred then blended together. Using Cast Iron is the key to getting nice charr.Slice one tomato in half and remove the stem - place face down in the skilletSlice one red bell pepper and one orange bell pepper in half and remove the stem and rib. ( The white stuff is bitter ) Add to skilletAdd one Dried Ancho & one Guajillo PepperI do not use garlic due to how easy it can burn. That would create a bitter flavor running throughout the entire dish. I simply skip this step for a more consistent product.
- Once charred, add the dried peppers to a glass full of water and microwave for 3 minutes. This will soften the dried peppers so they will blend together nicely in our base.
- Blend all charred ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, then add it to the chicken broth in your cooker.
- Onion, red & orange bell pepper, plus one poblano pepper.Slice into whichever shape you like. I demo this in the video below.Add into your cooker
Finishing - Instant Pot
- Place the cover back on securely. Make sure the vent is on sealing.Set to broth/soup ( Pressure Cooker) Normal pressure ( middle option)Set timer for 15 minutes.
Finishing - Slow Cooker
- Broth + Base + Sliced Vegetables - all in the slow cooker. Cook until the vegetable has softened.Why not add all of the vegetables into the broth in the first place?Answer: We are building a depth of flavor. Otherwise, the soup feels one-note.
- Add the broth to a bowl, then add the shredded chicken to the middle. Use enough to show off the chicken. Add corn, black beans, cilantro, cheese, tortillas, and finished with a squeeze of lime.