Chicken Tortilla Soup

SoupMexicanChickenChicken Soup

The BEST chicken tortilla soup! It's made with crispy fried strips of corn tortillas in a tomato-based Mexican soup with chicken stock, chiles, avocado, Jack cheese, cilantro and lime.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Tortilla soup encompasses all the things I love best in Mexican cooking.

Do you like salsa? Avocado? Cilantro? Fresh hot tortilla chips? Tortilla soup is like a soup version of my favorite enchilada, with chicken, and tortilla chips. And avocado.

How to make the best chicken tortilla soup

The essential step that distinguishes tortilla soup from other Mexican soups is that you fry strips of corn tortillas in oil first, and then use the tortilla cooking oil to build the soup.

Tortillas chips aren’t merely a garnish for this soup. By using the tortilla frying oil as a base for the soup you infuse the whole soup with the warm flavor of toasted corn tortillas!

Tortilla Soup

What kind of tortillas to use for tortilla soup

The best tortillas to use for tortilla soup are stale yellow corn tortillas. Yellow corn tortillas are sturdier than white corn tortillas and have a richer flavor when cooked. Homemade is best, of course, but store-bought tortillas will also work for this recipe.

The tortillas should be a little stale, or dry; they’ll fry up more easily that way. My guess is that tortilla soup was first invented as a way to use leftover tortillas.

Since I don’t usually have dry tortillas sitting around, I put my fresh-from-the-fridge corn tortillas in a 200°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. That’s just enough heat to dry them sufficiently so they fry easily.

More Mexican soups to try

Recipe is adapted from one we found years ago on the website of Muir Glen, makers of organic canned tomatoes. Muir Glen makes a particularly good “fire-roasted” canned tomato, which is well suited to Mexican dishes.

Check out our Tortilla Soup video!

Updated February 7, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, preferably a little old and dried out
  • 1/4 cup corn oil, peanut oil, or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Anaheim, poblano or jalapeño chile, seeded, veins removed, chopped (Depending on the hotness and flavor desired. You can also mix chiles - 1 Anaheim and a half jalapeño.)
  • 4 cups chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or mild cheddar)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Method

1 Fry tortilla strips: If you are starting with somewhat old, dried out tortillas, great. If not and you are starting with relatively fresh tortillas, put them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 200°F for 10 to 15 minutes to dry them out a bit. It is best to start with tortillas that don't have a lot of moisture in them.

Cut the tortillas in half, and then cut the halves into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 3-quart pot. Working in three batches, fry the tortilla strips in the oil, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove the tortilla strips from the pan and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.

2 Sauté onions, chile, garlic: Add the chopped onions to the pan, cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped chile and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the onions and chiles have softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

3 Add broth, tomatoes, salt, chicken: Add the broth, tomatoes, and salt. Increase the heat to high, heat until the soup begins to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook until heated through.

4 Serve with tortilla strips and garnishes: To serve, pit, peel, and cut the avocado into 1-inch pieces. Divide half of the tortilla strips among 4 individual serving bowls; ladle in soup. Top with avocado and cheese; garnish with remaining tortilla strips and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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76 Comments / Reviews

No ImageChicken Tortilla Soup

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Duskkit

    I didn’t really follow the recipe so giving a five star rating might be misleading, but what I wound up with was very delicious and certainly deserving of that. I used bacon grease for making the chips, which I feared would wind up overwhelming but wasn’t really. The chips just tasted like tortilla chips, no bacon flavor that I noticed, and the tomato broth wound up with just the tiniest hint of bacon. A small can of tomato paste, chicken bullion, onion and garlic and paprika powders, a handful of grated cheese on top afterwards. I can only imagine how good it would have been with actual chicken broth and chopped garlic, because it was amazing as is. I was aiming for one meal for myself, but wound up with extra for tomorrow. If I had any shredded chicken, I might have added it, but I’m honestly glad I didn’t because there was plenty of soup without it.

  2. Adrienne

    Always love simply recipes and this chicken tortilla soup is amongst our favorites. Would love to see an instant pot variation though!

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Sherry

    I’ve been making this soup for 10 years and it’s my family’s favorite! I’ve tweaked it here and there and make 12 quarts at a time. I’ve found that starting off with a home made chicken stock adds even more flavor and is a cure for the common cold! Lol. I also add 3 bunches of organic cilantro to the broth while simmering, corn chips and lime for added flavor. A packet of Taco seasoning seems to be the perfect spice mixture with the fire roasted tomatoes.. I make a lot of this soup and it freezes really well. I stumbled upon this recipe after buying an untasty can of tortilla soup by a world renowned chef. I was so disappointed I thought to myself , “I can do better than this!” With this recipe, oh yes I can Thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Jackie

    Haven’t tried it but was wondering about the chilie’s I am not fond of really hot food, my tummy does not react well. Could I use chili powder instead and perhaps a small amount of Jalapeno pepper. This sounds good. my daughter makes it all the time and I don’t mind it if it is not to spicey.

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Mike

    Very good!!! Will make again.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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