Our Chicken Tortilla Soup is a balance of nutritional powerhouses like protein-rich chicken and beans along with healthy garnishes like avocado and cilantro. Don't forget about the crispy tortilla strips for crunch.
It's a balanced meal that satisfies without weighing you down, perfect for those looking for a healthy yet comforting option.
⬇️ Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
The soup of the day combines the warmth of the vibrant flavors of Mexico. This recipe is adored for its simplicity, making it accessible to cooks of all levels.
Tips For Tortilla Soup:
- Veggie Delight: Go wild with veggies! Bell peppers, zucchini, or kale can add a pop of color and nutrition.
- 🌶️ Find Your Spice: Tailor the heat to your liking with chili powder or chipotle pepper for that extra zing. Do you prefer it milder? Just dial back on the pepper.
- Tortilla Tricks: Crispy tortilla strips? Bake them for a healthier twist, and sprinkle them with salt while warm. No time? Store-bought chips are your best friend.
- 🍗 Chicken Choices: Use the all-so-convenient rotisserie chicken or poach your own.
- Broth Wisdom: The secret to a soul-warming soup is in the broth. Opt for a high-quality stock, homemade or store-bought, to ensure a rich base.
- 🧀 Say Cheese: A little shredded cheese can go a long way, melting into the soup for a creamy texture.
- Lime & Avocado Love: Remember a squeeze of fresh lime and a few slices of avocado for serving. They add a creamy, tangy kick that elevates the whole experience.
Authentic Chicken Tortilla Soup
For a complete list, please visit the recipe card below.
Chicken and Broth:
- 4-6 pound chicken (preferably without antibiotics or hormones)
- Carrots (unpeeled)
- Tomato paste (preferably without high fructose corn syrup)
- Himalayan sea salt (or sea salt)
- Garlic (adjust to taste preference)
- 8 cups of water
- Corn tortillas (for authenticity and texture)
For the Flavor Base:
- Onions (ensure the center is not green to avoid bitterness)
- Guajillo peppers (for a bit of heat)
- Ancho peppers (for sweetness)
- Orange bell pepper (for sweetness and color)
- Olive oil and canola oil (for baking or frying tortillas)
Seasonings and Additional Ingredients:
- Mirepoix (a combination of diced vegetables, typically includes onions, carrots, and celery)
- Any additional herbs or spices you prefer to enhance the broth
- Selection of peppers, like chipotles, in adobo sauce.
Prepare the Broth:
Start with a 4-6 pound chicken. Use one that's free from antibiotics and hormones for the best health benefits.
Place the chicken in a large pot or Instant Pot/pressure cooker.
Add unpeeled carrots (noting a trend away from peeling carrots in many recipes), onion, and celery, the essential mirepoix.
Include tomato paste for color and flavor. I recommend using brands without high fructose corn syrup.
Season with Himalayan sea salt or Celtic salt, noted for their health benefits and rich mineral content, and garlic according to your taste preference.
Add approximately 8 cups of water, ensuring all ingredients are covered, allowing them to cook thoroughly in the liquid.
For those using a traditional pot, cook the chicken and vegetables for about an hour, checking the chicken's internal temperature before proceeding.
Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker Method:
Safety Tip: Make sure the Instant Pot plastic ring is in position on the lid to ensure a proper seal.
Use the soup/broth setting for pressurized cooking, setting the timer for 40 minutes and setting it to normal (temperature).
Opt for corn tortillas over flour for authenticity and better texture when baked or fried.
How To Make Crispy Tortilla Chips
Cut the tortillas evenly lengthwise to ensure uniform cooking and presentation.
For baking, lightly coat the tortillas with olive or canola oil, then bake at 325°F for about 10 minutes until crispy.
Alternatively, shallow fry in a bit of oil on the stovetop, watching the temperature to avoid burning.
Creating the Soup Flavor Base:
Remove the green center from the onions before use to avoid bitterness.
Use two types of peppers: Guajillo for a bit of heat and Ancho for sweetness. Dry peppers tend to be sweeter and are not overly spicy.
Clean the peppers by removing the ribs and seeds, which can be bitter.
Include one orange bell pepper for sweetness and color. This choice enhances the base's flavor profile, complementing the dried peppers.
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.
Char these ingredients to add another level of flavor:
Next, we are going to charr the vegetables and chiles. I like using a Cart Iron skillet for this process. Cast iron skillets hold the heat extremely well and help even with cooking.
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 and 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.
Then, add the “Base” back into your cooker with the chicken broth/stock. We need to cut up a few vegetables. Cut up one large onion, one red bell pepper, one orange bell pepper, and one poblano pepper. The cut is up to you.
Think about the finished dish and how the pieces will feel in your guest’s mouth. The peppers will be cooked in the cooker along with the base and broth/stock. They will soften and add an additional layer of flavor.
Add the sliced peppers into your cooker, plus some fresh cilantro and the juice of one lime.
Watch How To Make
🥑 Avocado: Add slices of ripe avocado for creaminess and a touch of color.
Fresh Cilantro: Sprinkle chopped cilantro for a burst of freshness.
Lime Wedges: Serve with lime wedges on the side, allowing guests to add a tangy zest to their soup.
Sour Cream: A dollop of sour cream on top can add a cool, creamy contrast to the warm spices.
🧀 Shredded Cheese: Offer shredded cheese, such as cheddar or Monterey Jack, for a melty texture.
🍅 Diced Tomatoes: Fresh or fire-roasted diced tomato can add a juicy, tangy element.
Sliced Radishes: For a crunchy, peppery addition.
Cornbread: Serve with warm, buttery cornbread as a comforting side.
Spanish Rice: A side of Spanish rice can complement the flavors in the soup.
Salad: A light, crisp salad with a citrusy dressing balances the hearty soup.
Quesadillas: Cheese or chicken quesadillas make for a filling, satisfying side.
How To Store Leftovers
Cool the soup to room temperature for refrigeration, then store in airtight containers for 3-4 days. Portioning helps for easy reheating.
Freeze the soup in airtight, freezer-safe containers, leaving space for expansion for up to 4-6 months. Label with the date and freeze in portions for convenience. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave before reheating.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Cooking The Chicken
- 1 whole Chicken (4 to 6 pounds) Shredded
- 2 large Onions Chopped
- 3 stocks Celery
- Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Minced
- 8 cups Water Use enough to just cover everything.
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Tortilla Soup Broth Base
- 1 charred Onion Blender
- 1 charred Red Bell Pepper Blender
- 1 charred Orange Bell Pepper Blender
- 1 charred Tomato Blender
- charred Guajillo Pepper Blender
- 1 charred Ancho Chili Pepper Blender
- Chipotles Optional (to taste)
- 1 Orange Bell Pepper Chopped cooked in the broth
- 1 Poblano Pepper Chopped cooked in the broth
- 1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped in the broth) Chopped cooked in the broth
Garnish / Serving
- 1 ear Fresh Corn Canned works as well
- Avocado Sliced & served on the side
- Tortilla Strips / Crispy Corn Tortillas
- Mexican Cheese Blend Or favorite cheese
- Sour Cream
- Green Onion Sliced for presentation
- Cooking The Chicken:Place 4 to 6 pounds whole chicken in to large pot. or use an Instant Pot/pressure cooker. Add 2 onions, 2 carrots, 3 celery stalks. Roughly chop all of the vegetables, and into the pot.Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 large tablespoon of tomato paste. The tomato paste adds great flavor and helps color the soup base.Stovetop Method:Cover all ingredients, plus the chicken with water, around 8 cups. Cook on medium for around an hour.Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker:Set to Soup/Broth setting, Timer 40 minutes, normal temperature. Make sure the release valve is in the sealing position.
- After the timer goes off, release the pressure. Take the chicken out of the cooker to cool.Shred the chicken. Our chicken will be very moist and juicy and easy to shred.
- Preparing the Crispy Corn Tortilla Strips:Use 100% corn tortillas and slice them lengthwise, making even cuts for consistency and presentation.Oven Method:Place a small amount of oil on the cookie sheet to cover the tortilla strips lightly. Use less oil verse more. Bake for 10 minutes at 325.Stovetop Method:Shallow fry the sliced corn tortillas in heated oil until crispy.
- Prepare the Soup Broth Base:Take orange or red bell pepper, onion, guajillo, and ancho peppers and char them in a pan; cast iron works best. This process will develop a great depth of flavor.Next, place the charred dried peppers in water and microwave for 3 minutes. The peppers will be very soft at this point. Add both the peppers and the hot liquid to the blender.
- Place all charred ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.
- Finishing The Tortilla Soup Base:Combine the liquid the chicken cooked in (chicken broth) and the soup base we made in the blender. Mix well together and add in the chopped peppers, fresh juice of one lime, 2 tablespoons of Cilantro
- Plating and Garnishing the Chicken Tortilla Soup:Add the soup base to a bowl, add the chicken next. There are many options to include in your soup:Options:Fresh cornBlack beansCilantroMexican cheese blendGreen onion (sliced)LimeSliced avocadoAdd the crispy tortilla strips last to preserve the crunch factor.