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!

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup on Simply Recipes

Mexican Chicken Soup with Lime (Sopa de Lima) Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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18 Comments

  1. Grace @ Perpetual Nomming

    I love your bowl!! Also the contents in it (: If i ever do eat meat again, I will most certainly make this!

  2. Lucy

    Oh this sounds divine, I’m a big fan of Mexican flavours. Great dish too!

  3. Quinn Cooper

    This sounds amazing. Into anything Mexican at the moment. Especially because Cinco de Mayo is coming up.
    Can’t wait to make this.
    xo Quinn

  4. Sara

    This looks great, and very easy. Can’t wait to try it, as we love both habaneros and lime! Thanks for posting.

  5. Barb

    Elise you have some of the very best Mexican dishes. This is a favorite in the household Rich and tasty………I remembered to pin it. Thanks

  6. Katie | Healthnut Foodie

    Yum! I love soups with lime (or lemon)! This soup looks perfect for warmer days mixed with cooler nights.

  7. Mark Leonard

    Looks fantastic Elise! Have you tried using less oil to fry the tortilla strips? When I make them for tortilla soup I use about 1/3 of a cup in a small cast iron skillet over medium heat and turn them occasionally until crisp then remove with a slotted spoon. A little more work but you use much less oil.

  8. Julie

    This soup is simmering as I type this! It may be spring, but Denver does not realize that! It has been snowing all day and this soup will be warm and comforting.

    • Julie

      P.S. I appreciate the tip about drying the tortillas out a bit in the oven–no sputtering when I fired them up!

  9. Catherine O Mahoney

    I made this last night, this soup was delicious!

  10. Angela

    Mexican food is what I miss the most living here on the other side of the Pond….this looks truly delicious and I will have to try it, though not sure I’ll be able to get the true authentic flavours……

  11. Sherry in Union, KY

    This is simple and delicious. I seasoned and grilled the chicken breasts prior to adding them to the soup in order to add more flavor. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own tortilla strips, most grocers carry them. Thanks for the recipe, Elise. This soup made our Cinco de Mayo celebration more festive.

  12. Chris Schroeder

    We loved this soup! My wife would also like to know more about the beautiful bowl. Is it one of a kind or something I might be able to find for her for mothers day?

    • Elise

      That’s vintage Mexican pottery I inherited from my grandmother. If you do an image search in Google for Tonala Ken Edwards, you’ll find plenty.

      • Amanda

        Just a thought, but have you tested the bowl for lead? A lot of old Mexican pottery glazes contained lead. It can be a bad thing for your health and especially young children if you cook or eat out of lead glazed pots a lot.

        • Elise

          Hi Amanda, I do have some old terra-cotta Mexican pottery that I pretty much only use for display, that may have a lead issue. However, the piece shown in this recipe, although vintage, is not that old. It is from one of the most well known pottery houses in Mexico, which imports them now, to the U.S. Here’s more info on the El Palomar pottery company. Lead is not an issue in this case.

  13. John

    Another winner. Tonight we had the leftovers from the batch I made two days ago. Just as good, if not better.

    I followed the recipe as closely as I could. Except that I just couldn’t resist browning the thighs before adding them to the pot (force of habit, I guess), and I used only about 6 cups of broth instead of 8. Seemed like plenty to me.

    I used a habanero based hot sauce, since I had plenty on hand. I’ll try a fresh one next time. It can only be better.

    Thanks once again Elise, this is definitely a keeper.

  14. april

    delicious. reminded me of tlalpeno soup (a northern mexico favorite).

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