Chicken Tortilla 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. Comfort food at its best.

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


  • 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


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.

Chopped Crispy Tortilla For Tortilla Soup

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.

tortilla strips frying in oil on stove top

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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  • 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.

  • Mike

    Very good!!! Will make again.


  • Sierra Myers

    Absolutely delicious! I made this last night and the only change I made was adding a cup of corn. My five year old wanted it in her lunchbox today. :) I’ll definitely make this again!


  • Cecile Mercer

    Great recipe! So much flavor. I added 1/2 cup black beans and 1/2 cup corn. Followed the recipe otherwise. I definitely will make again


  • 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.

  • 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.


  • Rmatousek

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Kristin M

      Hey there, curious, would you be so kind to reply your version of this recipe? It sounds great and I’ll admit I’m new to this…. also with your comment of changes was a bit vague for me, like which goya seasoning and measurement amounts…. I’d appreciate your Pro Chef version and tips :)

  • Caleb

    thanks for posting the recipe its so good when i made it every one said they liked it

  • David

    I add fresh roasted corn kernels. I also like to make my own stock for this soup using a roasted chicken bones (celery, carrots, onion) also add Bay leaf, dried Ancho pepper and bunch of cilantro stems. Makes the stock rich.

  • Melissa

    I made this last night for dinner tonight and it is soooo good! I roasted a can of corn and added that, and added a can of black beans. It was a hit with everyone. Will be making it again!

  • Brittany

    Oh, I also gave the tomatoes a quick blend in the vitamix because I prefer smaller chunks with a thicker base- especially when serving an almost 2 year old and a 4 year old.

  • Brittany

    I really enjoyed this. I took some of the others advice and added a few dashes of cumin- not so much because I felt the soup was missing something, but more because I LOVE cumin. I also added some black beans and I served it over rice because I didn’t add very much chicken. I made homemade chicken stock and I definately think that’s what put it over the top.


  • Dasha

    We really liked this soup. I made it with homemade chicken stock, cumin, and added corn and black beans. I used just a couple slices of jalapenos (2 small kids). I think those fire-roasted tomatoes made all the difference! We did not have avocados or tortillas, but I made corn bread and it went well with the soup! Excellent recipe, I will definitely make it again.

  • Dave

    Put this recipe over the top by grilling the chicken over mesquite charcoals!

  • P.Freeman

    I just made this for my family tonight and it was a HUGE HIT! I can’t even believe my picky 7 year old just said it was the best meal ever. I think it’s the textures and presentation on top of the flavor. I took the advice of a few others and added a little cilantro to the pot while cooking and I also added a little bit of Ground Cumin. We will definitely have this again!

  • Candice

    I love tortilla soup, I just got back from a month in Mexico and had no idea how sad an imitation I had been eating before! So looking for a good recipie I found yours. I made a few changes though. First I used 1 jalapeño in it, as well as some red chili flakes, with an extra jalapeño for garnish.I put half the soup and tomato mixture through the blender to smooth the texture. I use double the avacodo because we love it. I also used jalapeño havarti cheese instead. Top it all off with a dollop of sour cream, then have the lime, extra fine diced white onion, jalapeños, and cilantro for garnish.
    So yummy :)

  • megan

    I had a rotisserie chicken, some leftover taco shells, cheese and an avocado — this recipe looked like a good way to use all that up. I did not fry the tortillas (or in my case, taco shells), but toasted them in my toaster oven and cut them into strips as best I could. I also just tossed my cilantro into the soup with the chicken at the end. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. Really really good soup! I could see adding corn and winter squash, etc. Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Stephanie C

    I am a native Texan born and raised and like to consider myself as a tortilla soup connoisseur. This evening was my first attempt at making it myself however and I have to say I was a little skeptical on how it would turn out. However, my skepticism was unnecessary because this is by far some of the best tortilla soup I’ve had! I subbed out the can of tomatoes for 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles and added an extra jalapeno- perfect amount of heat! Thank you for the wonderful recipe, I will definitely be making it again!

  • legitimate beef

    I grabbed this recipe off my iphone while at the grocery, got what I needed and went home and made this soup. Like others have said it’s hard to believe just how awesomely tasty it turned out. I used a poblano pepper and also added a slight dash of chili powder and oregano to the sauteeing veg, and minced cilantro to the simmering soup. Oops and some fresh white corn kernels. Also cooked a few tortilla scraps into the soup for body and flavor, these tweaks aside I followed the recipe. This soup has it all–spicy, sweet, sour, savory, starch, meatiness, and like the author says, a great chicken enchilada vibe that cannot be resisted. Dang if this isn’t the most full-flavored zesty soup I ever made. Wonderfully simple and effective recipe.

  • Lori

    This soup is the best tasting Torilla Soup ever!! My husband is a very hard critic, and he loved it. Also, it is very simple to make. Reading it, it seems time consuming, but after you make it once, it is simple. I would recommend it to any cook. The home made torilla chips and cilantro made a huge difference!!

  • Mark

    This is the best soup I’ve ever made and it’s easy to make. An amazing combination. Everyone who tried the soup couldn’t believe how good it tasted. There wasn’t a drop left. I’m only an average cook so I have to give full credit to the recipe.

    I made a vegetable version of the soup by grilling three quartered red potatoes and a fresh ear of corn that I cut the kernels off of. I grilled that in a pan with the peanut oil recommended in the recipe and then added it into the broth right from the start instead of using chicken meat. This isn’t vegetarian because it’s still chicken broth but I preferred the vegetable to chicken meat for the soup.

    I also used soup broth I made the week before from a roasted chicken I made. I personally feel that taste better than broth purchased in the supermarket but either way you can’t go wrong.

  • Eleni

    I just made this soup for my family and it is great!
    I had had a tortilla soup at a restaurant in Houston, TX that was amazing and this is pretty close.

    I did add more chicken stock to stretch the quantity, about 1 1/4 cups more, and I also added an extra clove of garlic, a little pepper, sea salt, about a cup of zucchini and yellow squash (this was in the TX recipe) and used a bag of really nice tortilla chips to save me the trouble (I have two children).
    In the end I use more avocado, and a dollop of sour cream on top!

    I will read everyone’s entry to try and perfect this soup to my liking.

    But this is great. Thanks for another awesome recipe. This site is becoming my go to site for dishes.

  • Cooper

    WOW! This was amazing. I used one anaheim pepper. I added 1/4 tsp of both oregano and cumin to the broth as well as a handful of the cilantro. I baked the chicken, shredded it, and added with the broth. And finally a dash of Cholula chili garlic hot sauce at the end. This is one of the best soups I have ever had. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Mariam

    I’ve tried many recipes from this site, and this is hands down my favorite. Its so easy and delicious, and ideal for the pending Winter season; the ultimate comfort food. I grill my chicken first for a more smokey flavor, and don’t skip the squeeze of lime! It really makes a difference!


  • Beth

    I had tortilla soup at an On the Border the other night, it was pretty good. I wanted to try to make it at home. This recipe was amazing, it was easy to make and so delicious.

  • Mila

    This was perfect! Light and delish :)
    I just made it for my hubbers and mommy tonight and they LOVED it, I also used your recipe for chicken stock to really make it yummers. Thanks for the amazing recipe!

  • Scott

    I second the previous poster who recommends adding a dollop of sour cream at serving. My favorite restaurant has excellent tortilla soup and this recipe is very simular. I always add sour cream. It makes it so much smoother.

    Also, the cheese needs to be very good. I like to use a good queso chihuahua (also called queso menonita). If you can find any in the US, give it a try. I have a friend who brings me a kilo of it from a Mennonite farm north of Cuahtemoc, Chihuahua. There are a few commercial versions from the likes of El Mexicano (Marques Brothers) and V&S Supremo. The cheese melts and flows out very well, never clumpy or rubbery.

  • Alice

    Hello Elise!
    This was the first recipe I made from your site. I love how you tell a story with each recipe =)
    I made this for a Mexican Themed Potluck at work. It was a big hit! I used an anaheim pepper and 1/2 of a jalapeno. My co-worker said that there was just the right amount of heat to the soup. I didn’t add chicken but all of my co-workers still liked it! My local store doesn’t carry Muir Glen tomatoes so I just selected a fire-roasted version of the ones they had in stock. I couldn’t find grapseed oil either, but the peanut oil worked fine.
    I have seen other variations of tortilla soup with a long list of ingredients, and I love that this one has ingredients that I could easily find at the grocery store.

    Thanks for a wonderful recipe! I am excited to try try out more!

  • Lilia

    WONDERFUL SOUP! I am not a great cook, but damn this soup made me look good! :D


  • Tawana B.

    I like this recipe, almost close to mine, but I keep the jalapeno on the side, instead add adobe peppers in sauce to the broth and use queso fresco instead of monterey jack

  • Gayane


    For this recipe, would it be alright to substitute the fresh jalapenos with sliced jalapenos that come in jar?

    Yes, but just use a little bit for heat. ~Elise

  • phillippa

    I made this recipe on a ski vacation recently, for 5 not-very-food-adventurous french friends and it was a hit. Left out the chili because they don’t do the piment type of spice, and it was still delicious. Stopped by the site today for another look at the recipe as I’m making it again tonight for the family. Thank you for sharing!

  • Sheila

    Hi Elise, I love your recipe for Tortilla soup! I added 4 torn up white tortillas (uncooked) to the soup which thickened it somewhat. Also a small can of Mexi-corn and lots of extra Cilantro.
    We usually put crunched tortilla chips atop the soup with the cheese, etc. Delish!
    Such a simple, wholesome soup for a winters night.

  • Elisabeth

    Hi, Elise! I have recently moved from my dear California to Houston, Texas and I just wanted to thank you for providing a little California-style comfort.

    I added a bit of hominy to this recipe (which was fantastic on its own) and that gave it a little more texture…delish.

    Thanks, again!

    Oh, I bet this would be great with a little hominy. Like posole. ~Elise

  • caroline

    I made this vegetarian/vegan by substituting black beans for the chicken, and bulked up the soup with the addition of corn and diced zucchini. Instead of the chicken broth I used the water I’d cooked the beans in– this thickened the soup and made it “meatier”. I used hot sauce and some additional salt to boost the flavor.

    The soup was hearty and delicious and didn’t even need the cheese, in my opinion. My tortilla strips came out rather tough (possibly because I baked, instead of fried, them), but they softened up nicely in the soup.

  • Gayane

    Will olive-pomace oil work instead of the one suggested in this recipe?

    From what I understand, olive-pomace oil is a low quality olive oil that has been extracted using chemical solvents. I would not recommend it for cooking. ~Elise

  • Bramble

    I made this soup last night and it was amazing! I only did 3 little changes. I used 2 tortillas instead of 6, 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno, and 1 chopped shallot in place of the onion. This is definitely going into my book, with credit given of course. ^_____________^ Thank you for the recipe

  • bob

    I love this soup recipe.

  • Teri

    So, instead of drying out corn tortilla’s, can I just make use of regular old tortilla chips and eliminate the salt? Just curious if anyone has tried this route and if so, how it turned out.

  • MDavis

    Living in Dallas there is only one place to eat tortilla soup and that’s MIA’s on Lemmon Ave.

    I was shocked at how good this turned out…my boyfriend is a die-hard-fan of MIA’s going there for tortilla soup 3-4 times a week. I think it’s safe to say that he will be enjoying it now from home ;)


  • Iqbal Y.

    Elise, terrific recipes and site. I am itching to make this soup today. Quick question — should the chiles be fresh or dried. Tnx.

    Fresh chiles. ~Elise

  • arshia

    Grape seed oil can really make a difference to this recipe but is hard to find. I couldn’t find it in my local supermarkets but it is sold on ebay. GrapeOla is a good brand. Mmmm delicious soup.

  • Jennifer

    This was absolutely delish! I couldn’t believe the wonderful results from such simple ingredients and easy preparation.

    I added some fresh chopped cilantro during cooking because I love an intense cilantro flavor.

    Thanks, Elise! Your blog has been, by far, the best place for me to find fantastic recipes that makes sense, are simple to make, and have wholesome ingredients!

  • Sudu Roy

    This is such a great soup and so simple! absolutely loved it. Specially with this snow/rain here in the northeast- I made this last night to escape the cold and it worked perfectly!
    I left out the cheese (too heavy) and added a tomatillo (love them)- it was more tart and tasty (seriously you need to try it once with the tomatillo!)

  • Jennifer

    This is a great light and healthy meal. My husband is really picky , but this I found to be is his favorite. I also put black beans, and corn to give it a south western feel…Loved it. Whats so goog about this recipe is you can mix and match with ingrediants you like. FUN!

  • Drew D

    This was a tasty recipe; just like so many other soup recipes, it begs to be tweaked. I swapped out the peppers for some chipotle hot sauce I had around. I also added 1/8 tsp each of cumin and mexican oregano.

    I added some canned pinto beans (whole, not refried); I think they add to the texture of the soup. Here’s what I did–I bought a can that was seasoned (not the ones that are just in water with preservative, that wouldn’t be as good). I reserved about a quarter of the beans and then I mashed them up with the back of my chef’s knife and put them in the pot–later this helps thicken the soup just a bit and add mouthfeel. This is a variation of a trick I learned from a pro chef–he used leftover mashed potatoes to thicken some soups, rather than a roux. Both methods work well, and since my girlfriend is on a wheat-free diet, it is an added bonus.

    Best of luck!

  • max

    Delicious, thank you. Try it with a spoon full of sour cream before serving, not only does it add flavor but thickness.

  • Chris

    Just made this soup for the second time, loved it even better than the first! Since you have to boil the chicken anyhow to shred it, I use homemade stock with onions, garlic, and a bit of salt, strained before adding it to the soup. For a most consistent and thicker base, I usually stick blend the whole pot just before adding the chicken, including some more corn tortilla strips (not fried). I also agree that adding a bit of cumin at the very end really finishes it. Wonderful!

  • Tristan

    YUM! We made this last night and oooooh was it good. Note – Three slight changes – First, we grilled the chicken and then tore it apart. Second we grilled some extra chilies (poblano or other large mild ones) until the skin was black and the pepper soft (not dried out) and then de-seeded & de-skinned. It added a subtle tasty smoked pepper taste. Finally a bit of Cumin powder in step 2 before broth is added. Don’t add too much.

  • Cam

    LOVE IT! I just started making this in the past year after trying it at our favorite cafe. The gentleman who owns it gave me his recipe and his wife calls me when it is on the menu. Like Heather, my recipe contains cumino & oregano. Also, no tomatoes are used. Instead, I use fresh yellow squash, zucchini and a can of mixed vegetables that has been rinsed and drained. And, since I am not supposed to have a ton of carbs, I use baked tortilla chips instead of frying them. Not quite as tasty but, better for my heart. Otherwise, our recipe is basically the same.
    It is a full meal for me.


  • Theresa Dodge

    My daughter made this soup and I couldn’t get enough of it! What is the caloric value? Doesn’t matter, it has left me wanting more!! :)

  • Rachel

    I made this last night and it was AWESOME! My husband, who really doesn’t dig Mexican food very much, said it was “soup natzi good” :) Your recipes are always a hit in my house. Thanks for making such incredible food and sharing it with us.

  • Jake

    Holy smokes! that’s good soup. My wife was bothered by the texture, and thought she had done something wrong because it was mushy. I think that’s just how it’s supposed to be. I LOVE IT!

  • Angela

    This tortilla soup is so good!! My 1 1/2 year old picky eater daughter could not get enough of this soup. I ended up adding corn to this recipe, which I liked! Thank you! I love your website!

  • Heather

    I really didn’t enjoy this until I made some changes. I added another can of diced toms and before adding the chicken I took a few cups of this and ran it through the food processor. The most important chnages I made were adding cumin and oregano. This gave it the taste it needed. I also didn’t wait to add the cilantro as garnish. I added some during cooking. After the changes I really enjoyed the soup.

  • Elise Bauer

    Hi Elizabeth – you can use vegetable stock if you want, but you’ll miss out on a lot of the flavor that makes this soup so special.

  • Elizabeth

    Do you have to use chicken stock? What about Vegetable stock?

  • Jess

    This is the first SR that I ever read. The resulting Tortilla soup that I made was so delicous and I have enjoyed reading many more of your recipes. Keep up the good work!

  • Kevin

    WOW. This recipe is awesome. My girlfriend and I cooked it without chicken since she is a veggitarian and it was wonderfull. Highly recomended for two.

  • Nai

    I used Tofurky Deli Slices instead of chicken, veg stock, 2 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, and a handful of roasted corn kernels. Delicious!!! Thanks, Elise, for such a great recipe. I’ve tried your enchilada recipe too. My husband and I love it!


    This recipe is great! Another thing I like to do is add cooked (CUBED)butternut squash in place of the chicken. I roast the squash until it’s almost done and then toss it in with everything else. It’s a great vegetarian option if you sub the chicken base for vegetable too. Pacific makes a good one.

  • Lisa in Maryland

    I made this past weekend and it was wonderful! I couldn’t find the fire roasted tomatoes so I just used Rotelle’s green chili tomatoes. It was so good. I thought the broth was a bit thin, anyone add something like tomato paste to thicken it up a tad? I fried the old tortillas in the deep fryer for about 2 minutes and they came out just as beautiful. What little left over I had was gone by lunch the next day – I ate it.

  • beastmomma

    I made this for my parents and they both enjoyed it very much.

  • Traci in Texas

    Living in San Antonio, I can assure you that there are as many Tortilla Soup recipes as there are little, old ladies making it!

    Some of the ones I’ve eaten included corn, summer squashes, beans, etc. (in addition to the ingredients listed above) in various combinations. Some are tomato-based, and some are chicken-stock based.

    All of them are luscious!
    A friend of mine says she cleans out the fridge when she makes it! ;) Now that is authentic!

    My only suggestion would be to NOT substitute flour tortillas for the corn tortillas.