Mexican Chicken Lime Soup (Sopa de Lima)

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.

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


  • 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 Dry tortillas in oven, cut into strips: 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 Fry tortilla strips in hot oil: 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 Sauté onions, add garlic, habanero, cinnamon, ground cloves: 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 tomatoes, stock, oregano, chicken, salt, then simmer: 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 chicken from pot, shred: Remove pot from the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot. Using two forks, shred the chicken.

6 Return shredded chicken to pot, add lime juice: 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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  • Chris Webb

    I made this with roitisary chicken. Too much chicken for soup, but it made the best tostada topping! It soaked up all the yummy flavor from the soup! This is definatly a keeper!

  • Steve

    Made it last night and it turned out really well! Smelled incredible whilst simmering away. Tasted bright and refreshing, nicely balanced with the addition of avocado and tortillas. Thanks for the recipe Elise!!

  • Grethel Antczak

    Question: how hot is it with the habanero? I have little ones that love soup but won’t eat spicy hot.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Grethel, the habanero is hot! I would leave it out if you are serving to anyone who doesn’t like spicy foods. That or only use a very small amount of the chile for seasoning.

  • Kate

    While lima does mean lime, this soup is made with the lima fruit from Yucatan, not a lime.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Kate, yep, though apparently lima fruit is a variety of lime, and since we cannot easily get lima here, lime will have to do. FYI, check out this article:

  • april

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Catherine O Mahoney

    I made this last night, this soup was delicious!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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