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chicken tortilla soup

Here’s a soup that pleases crowds. Everyone in our family makes and serves this soup and everyone, from little kids to (occasionally) grumpy grandpas, loves it. A fairly long list of ingredients, but it’s a soup easily concocted, and easy to double or triple when entertaining bigger groups. If a soup can be casual and fun, this one is.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

(serves 6)

  • four 6-inch corn tortillas
  • about 2 teaspoons olive oil (to brush on tortillas) + 1 Tablespoon (to sauté vegetables with)
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans low sodium chicken broth (or 28 ounces of your very own!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 -14.5 ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with juice (or see photo for alternative)
  • 1 small can of green chiles, chopped (mild)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cream of corn (the only time I ever use this stuff!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped (1½ cups)
  • ½ red pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 generous Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 12 ounces chicken breast meat (from a grilled, roasted or rotisseried chicken) (see NOTE)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

(NOTE on the chicken: If you use an home-done oven-roasted chicken, save the juices from the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate and remove the fat from the top, and incorporate the tasty juices into your soup.)


  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips (Tostito lime chips are great here!)
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • sliced or chunked avocado
  • a drizzle of hot sauce of your choice – or a sprinkle of the seasoning blend of your choice (like the fabulous “Uncle Jim’s Secret Spice” – if you’re lucky enough to be Jim’s sister)

(Please imagine shredded cheddar on the bowl below.  Sadly, I forgot to add it before I grabbed my camera, so anxious to lift the spoon, I was!)

If you wanted to add rice, or zucchini, green beans,  mushrooms, or a little sweet potato, you could customize this soup entirely to suit your tastes. Didn’t I tell you it was fun?

The tortilla chips – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Brush both sides of the tortillas with oil and cut in half. Then cut those halves crosswise in ¼-inch wide strips. Bake on a baking sheet, 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Cool.

The soup – Combine the broth, water, tomatoes and their juice, the black beans (rinsed), the corn, the chopped green chilies, bay leaf, cumin and red pepper flakes in a large pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, sauté garlic, onion and red pepper in 2 Tbl. olive oil and add to the soup pot when softened. Once the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer. How much time do you have? Half an hour? Then allow the pot of soup to simply stay hot, or simmer ever-so gently for 30 minutes as the flavors meld. Got an hour? Better, but not necessary! (Minimum of 10 minutes to allow all the ingredients to impart some of their flavor to the soup.)

Then add the cooked chicken. Simmer 5 or 10 minutes, just enough to heat the chicken through.

Last of all, stir in tortillas you baked, the green onions, cilantro and lime juice. Season with kosher salt and pepper. (The amount of salt is entirely dependent on the sodium in the canned goods and stock you’re using, so use your taster.)

Now the really good part…

Serving – The secret to this soup may be in the delivery – add a large dollop of sour cream to the bottom of the bowl. Crush some of the bagged chips on top of the sour cream. Ladle the soup into the bowl, sprinkle grated cheddar on top, then garnish with avocado slices. How pretty. How delicious. How can you resist seconds?

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Canned Tomatoes: I’ve used both of these in this soup and they each work perfectly well for it.  ( Plain fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, without the chilies, would also work.)


And while we’re on the subject of canned goods, which, if you’ve been with me long, you know, I’m not overly fond of, but here’s the corn I use. It’s actually mostly corn, with whole, identifiable pieces. (I know!) And it tastes like corn, and creamed corn really is good in this recipe, so I’m all through bad-mouthing it.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Don #

    One of my all time favorite comfort foods! First time I remember having it was from Ali… Num!

    October 13, 2011
    • Ali #

      I love this soup! Love the first memories I have around it too-nothing beats good food with even greater family! 🙂 this always seems to be a crowd pleaser!

      October 18, 2011
  2. That photo is festive and snappy! I must remember the vividly-colored spirit in which to serve this delicious looking soup. Thank you, Spree! I know some hungry boys. 🙂

    October 13, 2011
  3. i keep staring at that positively numptious looking photo. You’re my kitchen consultant, Spree!

    October 13, 2011
  4. Ashley #

    That soup makes me happy. I think I’ve gotta make it this weekend. What a pretty fount of beat-the-blues color, too. xoxo

    October 13, 2011
  5. Sounds great. Nice photos. I’ve never tried tortilla soup before as it has never really appealed, but I think you just made it appealing.

    October 14, 2011
    • I’d love to hear if you give it a try! To my mind it’s a happy party in a pot. BUT (though I haven’t met him or her yet), it can’t possibly be that everyone would like it – right? I promise not to take it personally if that someone is you. : )

      October 14, 2011
  6. I was looking through the “tags” and came across your blog. You take great photos!! The image is what initially caught my eye and then reading the recipe – this sounds delicious. I’ve copied it down and will try it soon. Thanks so much for sharing! Great blog!

    October 14, 2011
  7. Thanks so much for coming by and for your kind comments!

    October 14, 2011

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