Chicken Tortilla Soup

by Amy on 21 February 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup | www.FearlessHomemaker.comOne of my favorite things to order at Mexican or Southwestern restaurants is chicken tortilla soup – I love the combination of savory, rich flavors paired with wonderfully fresh ingredients. However, until recently, I had never made it at home. I had a major hankering for it the other day, but wasn’t in the mood to go out to a restaurant, so it was time to give a homemade version a try. Conveniently, a local restaurant, Mas Tacos Por Favor, was recently written up in Bon Appetit, + had provided the recipe for their super-popular chicken tortilla soup, so I gathered up all the ingredients, + set about making it.

This soup turned out absolutely AMAZING – it truly is the tastiest chicken tortilla soup I’ve ever had. It does take a couple hours’-worth of cooking, but it’s completely worth the time. The scratch-made broth is the star of the dish – amazingly savory + full of flavor, with a wonderful spicy bite from the dried chiles. The tender shredded chicken, the sweet charred corn + the tangy queso fresco work beautifully against the rich avocado, the bite of the tomatoes, + the crunch of tortilla strips. Plus, this recipe makes quite a bit of soup, + like most soups/stews, the leftovers get even tastier after a day in the fridge. I will absolutely be making this amazing soup again soon!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

makes 6-8 servings, adapted from Mas Tacos Por Favor, as seen in Bon Appetit magazine


1 4-pound chicken, rinsed
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed
2 dried chipotle chiles
1 jalapeño (with seeds), halved lengthwise
7 cilantro sprigs
3 tablespoons (or more, to taste) fresh lime juice
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil (for frying)
5 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2′-thick strips
2 ears of husked corn, or 2 cups frozen, thawed corn kernels
For serving: chopped fresh cilantro, halved cherry tomatoes, avocado wedges, queso fresco or mild feta

special equipment: a deep-fry thermometer (for frying the tortilla strips)


Bring chicken, onion, carrot, garlic, chipotles, jalapeño, and 16 cups water to a boil in a large pot; skim foam from surface. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, skimming the surface frequently, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour.

Transfer chicken to a plate. Strain broth into another large pot. Return chiles to broth, if a spicier broth is desired; discard remaining solids. Shred chicken meat; discard skin and bones. Transfer chicken meat to a medium bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, set pot with strained broth over medium heat and add cilantro sprigs. Bring broth to a simmer; cook until reduced to 8 cups, about 1 hour. Discard sprigs and chiles, if using. Stir in 3 Tbsp. lime juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired. Add chicken to broth. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Attach deep-fry thermometer to the side of a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet. Pour oil into skillet to a depth of 1″. Heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°–360°. Working in batches, fry tortilla strips, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 2–3 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt.

Cook corn over a gas flame or under a broiler, turning occasionally, until charred in spots. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut kernels from cobs in strips. Discard cobs. (Alternatively, cook kernels in a large skillet over high heat until charred in spots.)

Rewarm broth with chicken. Divide soup among bowls. Top generously with corn, tortilla strips, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and crumbled queso fresco.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashley {Kitchen Meets Girl} February 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

Amy, this soup looks wonderful! We make chicken tortilla soup often; though I must admit I don’t make my own broth. This sounds (and looks) absolutely heavenly, so I’m going to try this version out next time!

2 amy February 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

you definitely should, ashley! i know you love spicy foods, so you can definitely return the dried chiles to the broth after straining out the solids – that’s what i did, per the recipe, + it gave a wonderful heat to the broth. i’m a huge fan of that rich/savory + spicy combo, + this soup captured it perfectly!

3 Caroline @ chocolate & carrots February 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

Mmm, I’m always buying chicken tortilla soup from a can and it’s about time that I make a homemade version. Homemade is always better and yours looks fantastic! 😀

4 amy February 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

you should definitely give it a try – even though it takes a little time, most of it is ‘hands-off’ simmering time, so it’s still pretty darn easy to make. it turned out just wonderful!

5 Steph@TheChickpeaChickadee February 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

YUM! Looks amazing. Love that you used dried chilies and made your broth from scratch.

6 amy February 21, 2012 at 9:02 am

the homemade broth with the dried chiles steeped in it makes such a huge difference. i almost skipped that step + used store-bought chicken broth instead, + am sooo glad i didn’t – it was worth every minute of cooking time!

7 kristen @ notsodomesticated February 21, 2012 at 9:13 am

I LOVE chicken tortilla soup, as well. It has so much flavor and is so warm and comforting. I could really go for some right now … husband and I are both sick, and we could use a little “kicked up” chicken soup!!

8 amy February 21, 2012 at 9:38 am

so true – all of my favorite chicken tortilla soups seem to pack so much flavor into one bowl. hope you + your husband feel better soon – if you lived closer, i’d drive some soup to you right now! =)

9 natalie (the sweets life) February 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

i don’t think i’ve ever had a chicken tortilla soup i didn’t like! this one sounds fabulous!

10 amy February 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

ditto, natalie. =) it’s one of my favorite soups + i love that i now can make it successfully at home!

11 Terry February 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

I love chicken tortilla soup but have never tried making it. This recipe looks yummy.

12 amy February 21, 2012 at 9:53 am

this was my first time making it, too, + i was so impressed with how it turned out. believe it or not, i actually liked it better than most of the restaurant versions i’ve had before. yup, it’s really that delicious!

13 Ally Garner February 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

Oh I absolutely love Chicken Tortilla Soup! Never made it from scratch though. So many things I love about this recipe… chilis & cilantro seasoning the broth = brilliant. But the charred corn & fried tortilla chips make this soup I bet. And I love the idea of topping it with fresh avocado. I’m on such a major avocado obsession right now! Delicious recipe, Amy!

14 amy February 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

you put it perfectly, ally – those little steps, like infusing the broth with the chiles + cilantro, frying up the tortilla strips fresh, + charring the corn, all add amazing layers of flavor that make this soup so incredibly flavorful + amazing. hope it turns out wonderfully for you if you try it!

15 danielle February 21, 2012 at 10:10 am

I earmarked this recipe in Bon Apetit too! Since it has your stamp of approval I think I definitely need to make it now.

16 amy February 21, 2012 at 10:18 am

yay, can’t wait to hear what you think about it! i only made two small tweaks to the original recipe, substituting canned diced tomatoes + frozen corn kernels since fresh tomatoes + corn aren’t currently in season. it still turned out amazingly delicious – hope it does for you, too!

17 elizabeth @ chronic venture February 21, 2012 at 10:25 am

yumm this looks simply delicious!

18 amy February 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

thanks so much, elizabeth! it absolutely was. =)

19 Kathryn February 21, 2012 at 11:08 am

Love chicken tortilla soup but I’ve never tried making it before – so keen to give it a go having seen this!

20 amy February 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

i had never tried making it before either + was so pleased with the results – hope you give it a try + it turns out fab for you!

21 Julie @ Table for Two February 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm

this looks DELICIOUS!! I love chicken tortilla soup at restaurants but they’re all always full of sodium and this homemade one looks perfect! I definitely need to make this sometime soon because I really love anything Mexican and this soup looks marvelous, Amy!

22 amy February 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm

thanks so much, julie! i love that about recipes like this, too – that you can control the sodium, fat, etc. since pretty much everything is being made from scratch, even the broth. hope this turns out wonderful for you when you make it!

23 Rachel @ Baked by Rachel February 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I’ve always loved the idea of this but couldn’t get over the fact that everyone adds avocados and tomatoes… guess I’ll just have to leave them out so I can see what all the fuss is about

24 amy February 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm

do you not like avocados/tomatoes? they both add something to the soup – the avocados add a lot of richness, while the tomatoes add some much-needed acid + some sweetness. if you’re going to leave them out, i’d up the cheese slightly to compensate for the missing avocados, + maybe add some diced roasted red peppers to sub for the tomatoes. just an idea! =)

25 angela@spinachtiger February 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Looks so good. Do I see avocado in there? I would love this soup; been a very long time since I’ve had a good bowl of chicken tortilla soup.

26 amy February 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

you sure do, angela! i added in some diced avocado along with some cotija cheese + fresh cilantro at the end. all of the flavors + textures just worked so wonderfully together – i’ll have to share some with you next time I make it!

27 Cassie February 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

lovin’ this, amy! i’m a huge fan of soup of any kind, but love it with lots of spices!

28 amy February 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm

me, too! i love any soup that has some heat + spice + this soup definitely delivers both – plus, it’s delicious!

29 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. February 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Yum! Bookmarked this one!

30 Marina February 22, 2012 at 1:45 am

I never tried anything like this and it looks amazing!!

31 amy February 22, 2012 at 7:05 am

i had never tried it, either, until a few years ago + i got hooked on it – it’s so flavorful, fresh, + delicious!

32 Kelly February 22, 2012 at 7:15 am

This looks so yummy and fresh. Thanks!

33 amy February 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

it really is, kelly – you’ll have to give it a try sometime!

34 sportsglutton February 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

I always enjoy a good bowl of tortilla soup…refuels the soul every time.

35 amy February 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

i feel that way about so many soups – they’re the ultimate comfort food/soul-refueling food for me. + if they’re homemade? even better!

36 Katia February 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

I’ve never had one, it looks such a comforting dish and, at the same time, it’s a different kind of meal for me and I’m very intrigued and curious!

37 amy February 22, 2012 at 11:53 am

i think it’s a dish that’s mostly common in the southwest + southern united states – i don’t remember seeing it on menus when i was growing up in Boston, + only first tried it down here in Nashville within the last few years. it’s basically a savory, slightly spicy chicken soup with lots of fresh garnishes – avocado, tomato, corn, cilantro, cheese, etc. it’s delicious!

38 Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts February 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm

This looks delicious! I love tortilla soup, but haven’t made it in forever. It is time to change that for sure!

39 amy February 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

it definitely is! whether you use this recipe or a different one, hope it turns out wonderful for you!

40 Jessica @ Cajunlicious February 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Yum, this is a favorite of mine when it’s chilly outside!

41 amy February 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

me, too, jessica. there’s nothing better than homemade soup on a chilly day, in my book!

42 Megan @ Culinary Chops February 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I’m so glad you posted this recipe! I’ve been looking for a great recipe for some time, so you can bet that I’m going to try this one!

Interestingly enough, I had a great tortilla soup on Monday at a cool Mexican place in San Fransisco. I’m currently scouring the web for any version of the recipe, but I’ll let you know if I find it!

43 amy February 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

you’ll definitely have to let me know how you like it! i really thought it was tastier than my favorite restaurant versions, which is saying a lot! oh, + if you find the recipe from the restaurant in San Francisco, please do send it my way – i’d love to try it!

44 Jen @ Juanita's Cocina February 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I’m making this this weekend. It’s a done deal. I shall report back and give you lots of praise.

45 amy February 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

woohoo! i’d love to hear how it is + what sort of interesting tweaks/adaptations you make to it. enjoy! =)

46 Jess February 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

YUM! Chicken Tortilla Soup is seriously one of my favorite things ever… except maybe Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup! yum yum!

47 amy February 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm

ooh, i’ve never had it. i’m going to make a note to get up there + try it soon. my husband loves their skillet queso so i know he’ll be up for a visit with me! =)

48 Jeff February 22, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I love the addition of the tortilla strips! It’s one of my favourite soup additives! Especially if they are fried up and crispy! You should go check out my blog as I have something nice there for you!

49 amy February 23, 2012 at 7:28 am

ooh, something for meeee? i’ll definitely go check it out ASAP. =) + yes – the freshly-fried tortilla strips added a lovely texture + a wonderful flavor to the soup, yum!

50 Renee February 23, 2012 at 8:16 am

I agree homemade stock makes all the difference in soups. This one looks like a good soup too – nice and spicy with the peppers. Yum!
ps. I love that blue platter…

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