Chicken Tortilla Soup

Soup and StewMexicanGluten-FreeChicken

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. Comfort food at its best.

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

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  • 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 canola oil, peanut oil, or other high smoke-point 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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66 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Robbie

    Great recipe. I never heard of frying the strips first to use the oil as a starting base. The only thing I feel is missing here is cumin. Cumin gives it its trademark flavor.

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Terry rosenthal

    Amazing soup! I have other tortilla soup recipes I like and this is now a fave! Nice consistency. Used pepper jack cheese and a whole jalapeño pepper, diced. The fresh tortilla strips are key. Used Trader Joe’s diced and fire roasted tomatoes and their chicken (shredded it) to make it easier. Yum!! Definitely will make this again. Husband is a big fan of this recipe … as am I.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Rmatousek

    Can of refried beans add to the soup????

    Show Replies (1)
  4. stephanie trevino

    I’m Hispanic and i approve this recipe lol no really tho super good thank you!! If ur not a big fan of the diced tomato I would blend it like someone mentioned I will probably do that next time. This is a good based recipe bc i didn’t have one… you can always add more stuff. Thank you again!

  5. Isaiah

    Pro Chef tip: before adding the chicken, add tomatillos, Goya seasoning, juice of 2 lime, tsp of ancho powder, tap of cayenne, and a bag of crushed tortilla chips to this soup then purée it. After purée is done, add the chicken, then serve a bowl with the garnish and a dollop of sour cream. You’ll love me for this.

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