Chicken Tortilla Soup

My “gringo hubby” loves tortilla soup and one day he decided to make some for me. He knows a lot about grilling but not much about making soup so he asked me to help him out. We started out by making a list of all the flavors we love in tortilla soup and after several tries and lots of “so, so” versions, we finally got it right. Over the years he’s watched me cook countless meals, experiment with different ingredients and the one thing we both knew this soup had to have was roasted tomatoes and fried chiles. The combination of these two added a special kick. So for this recipe the secret technique is doing just that, roasting and a little frying. Best of all, I love that we created this recipe together, con mucho amor and lots of patience. Tortilla soup goes great with a tall mountain of homemade tortilla strips and an ice cold cerveza.

For a meat-free option use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and omit the chicken.

The caldero pictured above is from IMUSA cookware and is the perfect pot for this recipe. The quality is excellent and the price is a bargain. Thank you IMUSA for gifting this pot for us to try. It truly surpassed my expectations plus there are three sizes to choose from.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings


10 cups of water
2 chicken breasts
2 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons salt
4 medium tomatoes, roasted
½ medium yellow onion, rough chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
14 white or yellow corn tortillas sliced into ¼-inch-thick strips
1/3 cup canola oil, for frying tortilla strips
2 pasilla or ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into large pieces
Pepper to taste
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 limes cut into wedges
2 cups quesadilla or asadero cheese, shredded (optional)
Cabbage, shredded (optional)


In a caldero (stockpot), bring water to a boil. Add salt, chicken breasts, and chicken thighs and reduce the heat to simmer until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken, shred after it cools and set aside. Set aside the pot of chicken broth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat and fry the torn chile pieces quickly for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Careful not to burn the chile or it will have a bitter taste. Set aside.

Preheat the broiler and roast the tomatoes on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes, turn over after 10 minutes to get all sides. Tomatoes should be mushy and slightly charred when ready. Remove only the charred pieces of skin before blending the tomatoes.

Puree the tomatoes, chiles, onion, and garlic in a blender.

In a deep pot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat add the blended ingredients and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat and fry the tortilla strips until lightly browned around the edges, about 45 seconds. Transfer the strips to paper towels to drain.

In separate serving bowls set out the cubed avocadoes, cabbage, and lime wedges.

Ladle the soup into bowls with a handful of tortilla strips, cubed avocados, and a squeeze of lime juice.

If desired, add grated cheese and cabbage.

Photography by Jeanine Thurston

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  1. I will certainly try this! Tortilla soup is a huge fav of mine, and have had no luck making a kick ass version! Can’t wait to try this! Thanks!

    • Eydie: Feel free to make it and photograph it with your kick ass photography skills and post it on our FB page! Or any other Muy Bueno recipe — kinda hot for soup in TX right now 😉

  2. Funny you posted this recipe because I recently had tortilla soup at Islands Restaurant and was telling my husband how good it was and thinking to myself,”I have to make this at home” You read my mind. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    • Hola Leticia, Hope you had a chance to give this soup a try…Fall is just around the corner and there is truly nothing more comforting than a big bowl of one’s favorite soup. Let us know how your bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup turns out.

  3. The soup looks sooo good!!!! Can’t wait to get inspired and try making it. 🙂

  4. PS can u just put it in a can for me.. haha

  5. I have a recipe for tortilla soup that I used to make a lot and haven’t made in a long time. Your photos made me want to dust it off. YUM… or maybe I’ll give yours a try… if I can only convince my husband that soup is a meal though. He doesn’t think so. LOL.

    • Hola Tracy, maybe you can add chicken pieces and chunks to make it more hardy. Add a side of frijolitos de la olla on the side and a big pile or warm corn tortillas. I hope the weather cools off soon so you can try out our recipe. Provecho!

  6. WOW! That soup looks delicious and your pictures are simply gorgeous.

  7. I adore all the incarnations of tortilla soup and can’t wait to try this one. I like mine with corn or hominy and use chipotle chiles to give it the smokey effect. I’m with you – the avocado and fried tortillas atop make this an irresistible dish.

    Wish you had a bowl to send over this cold, rainy May day.

    • Andrea, I’m sending you some of this soup via cyberspace…LOL..don’t I wish. I know the weather is colder there in Colorado now, so no time like the present to try out our Tortilla Soup. Living here in Germany, it looks like we’ll be having lots of soup for dinner…mmmm, keeps me all warm and cozy inside. Besos, Veronica

  8. Oh man, this looks incredible! Great job on the photos- and the recipe sounds great!

  9. I love tortilla soup and this is very similar to my recipe. I use a little more oil to toast the chiles and then use that same oil to fry up the tortilla strips to give them a little spice!

    • Lori, I love the tortilla frying tip. I will have to try this for me and make some without the spicy oil for my kiddos. They love this soup, but would hate me if I added spice to their beloved mini tortilla strips. Licking my chops…just thinking about this nice small detail change…gracias for sharing.

  10. oh how i love me some corn tortilla soup!! que rico y super facil de hacer… no se si me gustaria durante los meses de tanto calor pero lo como muchisimo during otoño e invierno!

  11. Made this for dinner tonight! Very yummy! Didn’t have the chiles called for in the recipe, so I substituted a chile in adobo. I was a little scared of roasting tomatoes; so very easy and will definitely be doing it again. Great recipe, and I’ll will certainly be using this recipe again. Thank you for sharing!

  12. It looks so delish!!!! Can not wait for it to get a little cooler so that I can make it? Could you recommend a veggie to add to it so that my husband can get fool. Maybe zucchini or chayote? But I am def. going to make this.. Yummy!

    • Hola Marisela, this soup gets its unique flavor from the roasted tomatoes, tortillas and broth. However, as with all soups I love that you can always make it your own by adding whatever vegetables or meats you enjoy most. If you want to make it a little more filling try adding some calavacitas and maybe bigger chunks of chicken. Let us know what ingredients you used to give it the Marisela touch. Aprovecho!

  13. HOLY TIME CONSUMING! Delicious yes, but uses frying pans (for skillet roasting chilis AND blended toms/onions/garlic/chilis), soup pot, blender, cookie sheet (for roasting toms) so dish washing is LABOR INTENSIVE in addition to the simmering, roasting, chicken shredding by hand, blending, and pan-frying.

    I am going to freeze the broth and shredded chicken separately so my hope is that the 90 MINUTES it took to prepare this will pay off again. It is very DELICIOUS but be warned that it takes serious effort.

  14. Hola Marilyn, glad to read that you’re gave this recipe a try. I know the roasting and shredding of the chicken takes some time, and then there’s the frying of the tortillas. All we can say is, Gracias for giving our recipe a try. We applaud your efforts and hope the next time around it doesn’t take as long. We’re glad you enjoyed the work of your labor. Buen Provecho!

  15. My mouth is watering… I could have a big bowl of tortilla soup right now. Thanks for this delicious and homey recipe.

    • You are welcome! Soup season is definitely arrived and like you I can’t wait to make this again. A nice big pile of freshly made corn tortillas on the side would be great too don’t you think….of course a little salsita would be perfecto too.

  16. Last night I made the tortilla soup which is one of my favorites. When my husband walked in the house he shouted something smells good! We both loved the soup I was surprised he liked it so much since its something he would never order at a restaurant. I followed the recipe exactly the only thing I noticed I did not have the red color like in your photo, my chilis I used Pasilla made it look a greenish tone I noticed that so I thought maybe my tomatoes were not as large as you might have used so I roasted a couple of more threw them in the blender but it still did not get the same color. Have any idea where I went wrong, soup was delicious just did not have that color!

    • Hola Linda, I’m so glad you had the chance to make my husbands favorite soup. Everytime I talk about it I actually crave it so I’m glad you and your hubby liked it. As far as the color goes it may have a lot to do with the meatiness and ripeness of the tomatoes you used. I usually buy vine ripened tomatoes and keep them on my counter to allow them to continue to ripen. The more ripened the better.

  17. Made this…absolutely wonderful!!!!

  18. I just tried this recipe tonight. It was a big hit! The only thing I would change is not using so much salt in the water to boil the chicken. It was a little salty for my taste. I think 2 tablespoons would be sufficient. But other than that, the flavor was so good!

    • Yay Leila! Glad to hear you made it and it was a hit! Thanks for letting us know your feedback!

    • Hi Leila, I like food a little on the salty side so feel free to adjust the ingredients, that’s whats makes cooking so much fun….creating and recreating other recipes is always the fun part and delicious too. I’m so glad you like the soup too.

    I made it last night and it was FREAKIN AMAZEBALLS!!! LOL.
    My 2 year old literally swallowed it! Thank you so much for sharing

  20. Great blog. My mother came from Mexico and was a wonderful cook. Growing up, she would sometimes take me to a Mexican restaurant that would serve a tomato-based shrimp and nopales soup served on Friday during Lent. Are you familiar with this soup? Would you happen to have a recipe? Also, do you have recipe for traditional tamarindo agua?

  21. This is my all time favorite meal…

  22. I managed to make this while having fussy 3 month old twins with a small bit of help from my husband.  I actually ended up roasting the chile, onion, and garlic with the tomatoes and threw those in the food processor.  While the veggies roasted I browned the chicken with salt and pepper and a touch of cayenne (personal taste) and then deglazed the soup pot I used to cook the chicken in with the tomato based mixture from the food processor.  I then added the chicken stock.  It turned out really well and was very easy!  I was a little surprised when someone complained how long the recipe took because while it takes about an hour to make, it is very manageable even when you have too babies demanding your attention.  Next time I will actually follow the recipe a bit more closely but with any good recipe, I was able to make it my own.

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