Chicken Tortilla Soup

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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.

Video! How to make the best chicken tortilla soup

Don’t Skip Frying the Tortillas

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.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

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

This 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.

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.

Corn tortillas sliced into strips to make a tortilla soup recipe.

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.

Frying tortilla strips to make a chicken tortilla soup recipe.

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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81 Comments / Reviews

No ImageChicken Tortilla Soup

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Myrna Martinez

    I haven’t make the soup yet but I bought it at a Mexican restaurant and I really love it. For me is the best soup ever, they are really delicious

  2. Tina Powell

    First time making it here and it already makes the house smell amazing and tastes amazing too I put green enchilada sauce in it instead of the green chilies because I didn’t have any I forgot them at the store but it taste amazing I’m going to make cornbread and then dinner is served YUMMY

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Chi-town_gal

    I love tortilla soup and have never attempted to make it at home, tried this recipe following every step and it was so easy! Served as a starter for 10 people Mexican dish themed dinner (amuse-bouche portions) and it was a hit! Will definitely make it again as main course!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Mary

    I made this tonight. I usually made a first time recipe exactly but I am not eating fried tortillas so I baked mine with cooking spray and some chili powder then put garlic and cumin in the oil that I used for everything else. I liked it. I did puree the beans to make it creamy. I will make it again.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Leena

    This is my favorite Tortilla Soup recipe! It’s so delicious!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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Chicken taco soup in a bowl and topped with tortilla strips, cilantro and avocado.Chicken Tortilla Soup