Chicken tortilla soup from scratch on the stovetop in just 40 minutes! Tender sauteed chicken breast shredded and combined with bold seasonings, spicy chilis, fire-roasted tomatoes, and corn tortillas to create a hearty and satisfying dish.
Better than restaurant quality
This chicken tortilla soup recipe is infused with a bunch of Mexican-inspired flavors and a few extra common pantry ingredients. No-fuss here, just saute the chicken and simmer everything in a big pot. The authentic taste of this smokey tomato-based soup shines through with each spoonful.
What makes this recipe lip-smackingly good is the combination of earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika, fresh and dried chilis, and charred tomatoes. The shredded chicken, vegetables, beans, and strip of corn tortillas simmer in the aromatic base.
In just 15 minutes, the soup becomes slightly thickened and packed with savory and spicy notes. Customize each bowl with colorful, creamy, and crunchy toppings for a delectable experience.
How to make chicken tortilla soup
- Saute the chicken breasts in a pan to add more flavor and texture.
- Boost the flavor of the dried spices by blooming in olive oil and cooking with onions and garlic.
- Canned chipotle peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and chopped jalapenos add smokiness and heat.
- Thicken the soup with tomato paste and corn tortillas.
- Simmer shredded chicken, vegetables, chilis, and tortillas in the chicken stock until slightly thickened.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly the flavors develop in the pot. I highly recommend browning the chicken before shredding. However, if you’re pinched for time, cutting up a rotisserie chicken works nicely as well.
What’s your spice tolerance?
The level of spiciness can be adjusted by adding one or two more tablespoons of chopped chipotle peppers. Start off with a small amount, taste, then add more to allow the heat to build. I originally added double the amount and found that adding a little sour cream tamed the spice. For my brave chili lovers, increase the spiciness to your liking!
Thickening the soup
This chicken tortilla soup recipe is thickened in two ways, using some concentrated tomato paste and adding in corn tortillas into the chicken stock. The paste contains a high amount of tomato solids, which increases the viscosity of the liquid. I use it to instantly thicken up tomato sauce for dishes like spaghetti and meatballs.
The main contributor to thickening is thinly sliced tortillas. By cutting them into smaller pieces, it allows the stock to quickly absorb and soften the tortillas as it cooks. You’ll notice that after 15 minutes of simmering, most of the tortillas have broken up into the soup, naturally adding body and richness from the starches in the corn.
Easy to make and customize
This soup is a family favorite that I enjoy serving alongside taco night, or on more chilly evenings. The extra pieces of corn, bell pepper, and black beans provide extra fiber and protein to each serving. The great thing about the recipe is that it doesn’t require much effort to make or compromise on taste. All of the authentic flavors of a great chicken tortilla soup are created in one big pot.
I like to serve the soup with a lot of different toppings. Fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeno peppers, diced avocado, sour cream, radish, green onions, and crispy fried tortilla chips add vibrant colors and interesting textures to each bowl. I can’t wait to hear what you think and what toppings you add in the comments section below!
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Ways to ensure juicy and tender chicken
Chicken breasts can be prone to drying out when cooking as lean meat contains less fat. To minimize moisture loss a few techniques can be used. Flatten to an even thickness so the heat from the pan can distribute at the same rate. Add to a preheated pan with hot oil, and cook over a consistent medium heat so that it doesn’t overcook. Chicken can also benefit from brining to increase moisture retention before cooking.
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Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded to ¾-inch thick
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked, plus more as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup chopped white onion, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapenos
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¾ cup chopped red bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh, canned or frozen
- 1 cup black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
- 14.5 ounce canned diced fire roasted tomatoes, plus juice
- 5 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 cup sliced corn tortilla strips, ¼-inch thick, 2-inch long strips
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
- Lightly season chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Heat large saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, once hot cook the chicken on one side until lightly browned on the surface, 6 to 7 minutes.
- Flip and cook on the other side until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C), about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a clean plate and shred into smaller pieces once cooled, reserve.
- In the same pot heat over medium heat, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Once the oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic, saute for 1 minute.
- Add in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and 1 teaspoon paprika, continuously stirring for 30 seconds.
- Add chopped chipotle chilis and jalapenos, saute for 1 minute.
- Add in tomato paste and saute for 1 minute.
- Add in bell pepper and corn, saute for 1 minute.
- Add in the black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, oregano, salt, 1 cup tortilla strips, and shredded chicken, stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cook until tortillas are softened about 15 minutes.
- Stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup with desired toppings.
- Topping Suggestions: Chips or homemade fried tortilla strips, sour cream, sliced jalapenos, lime wedges, green onions, avocado, radish.
- Make it Spicy: Add 2 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, more if you like it really hot!
- Make it Faster: Precooked shredded meat like roasted, grilled, or baked chicken can be used to cut down on preparation time. Use 3 cups of shredded chicken.
- Homemade Crunchy Tortilla Strips: Cut corn tortilla strips into 1/4-inch thick, 2-inch long pieces. Heat 1/2-cup vegetable oil in a small saute pan (about 6-inch diameter). Heat oil to 350-375°F, fry tortillas in batches until crispy, about 60 to 90 seconds. Transfer strips to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain excess oil and salt strips.
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