Mexican Chicken Soup with Lime (Sopa de Lima)
Chicken, corn tortillas, avocados, lime. These are ingredients that simply love each other. Pretty much anything you make with them is bound to be good. The following soup is a relatively easy version of “Sopa de Lima” or “Lime Soup”, a specialty of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. It’s a chicken soup flavored with fiery habanero, cinnamon, clove, and tangy limes. The limes that are used in the Yucatan are a slightly different variety than what is easily available here, but standard Persian limes will work fine. The soup is tangy from limes, smoothed with the buttery richness of avocados, and enjoys a little crunch from fried tortilla strips added for garnish. It’s reminiscent of both pozole and tortilla soup, but with somewhat different spices and a strong hit of lime. ¡Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We start by frying the tortilla strips so that you can use some of the tortilla infused oil in the preparation of the soup. If want to save time, you can fry the tortilla strips in a separate skillet while the soup is cooking instead of doing it ahead.
Habanero chiles are extremely hot. Handle them with care. Either wear gloves while prepping, or wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes.
We've called for boneless thighs in this recipe. You could easily use whole bone-in thighs, for a deeper flavor from the bones, just cook a little longer and remove the meat from the bones to shred.
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups canola or corn oil for frying
- 6 corn tortillas
- 1 1/4 cup chopped white onion
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 habanero chile, seeded and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1 pound tomatoes (2 large), cored, peeled, and chopped (or 1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes)
- 2 quarts of chicken stock (homemade is best)
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano if you have it)
- 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- 1 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer, we like the stronger taste of thighs), trimmed of excess fat, and cut in half crosswise
- 1/3 cup lime juice (from 2 to 4 limes, depending on the size)
- 1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (stems included) for garnish
- 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and roughly chopped for garnish
1 Heat oven to 350°F. Place tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping over after the first 5 minutes. (This will help dry out the tortillas a bit before frying.) Remove from oven. Cut the tortillas into 1/4-inch wide strips.
2 Pour oil into a large, thick-bottomed pot to 1/4-inch deep, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Heat the pot on medium high heat until the oil temperature reaches about 350°F or a small piece of tortilla place in the oil sizzles. Do not let the oil reach smoking point. Working in batches, gently scatter a handful of tortilla strips in the hot oil. Turn with metal tongs so that the tortilla strips are separated. Cook for a few minutes or until the strips just begin to color. Remove them to a paper towel lined plate. When I make these after I add the tortilla strips I increase the heat of the burner to compensate for the tortilla strips lowering the temperature of the oil. Once the tortilla strips start to color I lower the temperature to keep the oil from getting too hot.
3 Remove all but two tablespoons of the tortilla frying oil. Heat on medium high. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, minced habanero, cinnamon, and ground cloves and cook a few minutes longer.
4 Add the peeled chopped tomatoes to the onions. Add the stock, oregano, and chicken. Add one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.
5 Remove pot from the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot. Using two forks, shred the chicken.
6 Return the chicken to the soup. Stir in the lime juice. Add more salt, if needed, to taste.
Serve garnished with fried tortilla strips, chopped avocado, and cilantro.