Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Chicken tortilla soup with incredible flavor! The bold seasonings, spicy chilis, fire-roasted tomatoes, and corn tortilla chips make this a deliciously satisfying dish.

Delicious chicken tortilla soup in a white bowl.
Table of Contents
  1. How to make chicken tortilla soup
  2. Making the soup spicier
  3. Thickening the soup
  4. Topping suggestions
  5. Serve this with
  6. FAQ
  7. Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

This chicken tortilla soup recipe is infused with Mexican-inspired flavors and a few extra pantry ingredients to elevate the taste. The combination of earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika, fresh and dried chilis, and charred tomatoes make this recipe better than restaurant quality. No fuss here. Just pan-sear the chicken and simmer everything in a big pot.

The shredded chicken, vegetables, black beans, and strips 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.

Two chicken breasts sauteing in a large blue pan.

How to make chicken tortilla soup

I recommend pan-searing the chicken breasts to add more flavor to the surface before shredding them. However, cutting up a rotisserie chicken also works nicely if you’re pinched for time. To boost the flavor of the dried spices, bloom them in olive oil and cook them with onions and garlic.

Canned chipotle peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and chopped jalapenos add smokiness and heat. Pieces of fresh corn, bell pepper, and black beans provide extra fiber and protein to each serving. Simmer the shredded chicken, vegetables, chilis, and tortillas in chicken stock until slightly thickened. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the flavors develop in the pot.

Recipe Resources

Making the soup spicier

The level of spiciness can be adjusted by adding one or two more tablespoons of chopped chipotle peppers. Start with a small amount, taste, then add more to allow the heat to build. I initially added double the amount and found that a little sour cream tamed the spice.

For my brave chili lovers, increase the spiciness to your liking! You can even experiment with adding green chilies to the mix.

Thickening the soup

This chicken tortilla soup recipe is thickened in two ways: concentrated tomato paste and corn tortillas. The paste contains a high amount of tomato solids, which increases the viscosity of the liquid. I use it to instantly thicken up a tomato sauce for dishes like spaghetti and meatballs.

The main contributor to thickening is thinly sliced tortillas. Cutting them into smaller pieces allows the chicken stock to absorb and soften the tortillas as it cooks. After 15 minutes of simmering, you’ll notice that most of the tortillas break down into the soup, naturally adding body and richness from the starches in the corn.

Tortilla strips and shredded chicken breast being mixed into a soup broth.

Topping suggestions

I like to serve this soup with a variety of toppings. Fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeno peppers, diced avocado, sour cream, radish, green onions, and homemade tortilla strips. Each ingredient adds vibrant colors and exciting textures. Shredded cheese or green chiles would work too. I can’t wait to hear what you think and what toppings you add in the comments section below!

Chicken tortilla soup simmering in a dutch oven.

Serve this with

FAQ

What is the difference between chicken tortilla soup and chicken enchilada soup?

The flavor profiles are similar, using a spicy red chili and tomato base. However, tortilla soup is not as thick because it is broth-based. Strips of tortillas are softened in the liquid to add body. Enchilada soup is thickened with finely ground masa or crushed tortilla chips to add a thicker consistency.

Can you make this recipe in a slow cooker?

Yes! Season the chicken, then add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker, mixing them together. Cover and cook for 3 to 3 ½ hours on the high setting or 5 to 5 ½ hours on low. Remove the cooked chicken, shred it, then stir in the chicken to warm. Keep on the warm setting until ready to serve.

How do I thicken chicken tortilla soup?

This recipe primarily uses tomato paste and corn tortillas for thickening, but alternatives include cornstarch, a roux, masa, or flours like arrowroot or tapioca. A portion of the soup could also be pureed to add thickness.

Chicken soup topped with tortillas, sour cream, and jalapeños.

Ways to ensure juicy and tender chicken

Chicken breasts can dry 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 medium-high heat so it doesn’t overcook. Chicken can also benefit from brining to increase moisture retention before cooking.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup on the stovetop in just minutes! Shredded white meat, bold seasonings, spicy chilis, fire roasted tomatoes, and corn tortillas.
Pin Print Review
4.98 from 660 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Servings 6 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions 

  • Season the Chicken – Lightly season both sides of the flattened chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 6 to 7 minutes. Flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C), about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Cool and Shred – Transfer chicken to a clean plate or cutting board. Cover and rest for 10 minutes. Shred into smaller pieces and set aside.
  • Cook the Seasonings – In the same pot used to cook the chicken, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for 1 minute. Add in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and 1 teaspoon paprika, continuously stirring for 30 seconds.
  • Cook the Vegetables – Saute the chopped chipotle chilis and jalapenos for 1 minute. Add in tomato paste, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add in bell pepper and corn, and saute for 1 minute.
  • Simmer the Soup – Stir in the black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, tortilla strips, and shredded chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tortillas are softened, about 15 minutes.
  • To Serve – Stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with desired toppings.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Portion out the soup in resealable plastic bags. Freeze the bag flat. Store for up to 6 months. Defrost before using. 
  • Topping Suggestions: Chips or homemade fried tortilla strips, sour cream, sliced jalapenos, lime wedges, green onions, avocado, radish.
  • Make it Spicy: Add 2 tablespoons of 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 tortillas into 1/4-inch thick, 2-inch long strips. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a small saute pan (about 6-inch diameter). Heat oil to 350 to 375°F (177 to 191ºC), and 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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Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 304 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 72mg24%
Sodium 830mg35%
Potassium 910mg26%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 1385IU28%
Vitamin C 30.1mg36%
Calcium 55mg6%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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108 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Michelle says

    I made this soup tonight! It was delicious and filling on a cold, rainy evening. The depth of flavor and spices was delicious! Thank you so much! I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers! xo

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback Michelle! Sounds so perfect on a chilly night. The leftovers are going to be even better 🙂

  2. Joseph says

    My recipe is very similar to yours Jessica.
    I add Hominy and I make a corn bread
    mix slurry to thicken my soup. Gives
    the soup a lil extra corn kick.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Lindsay- If you want to make is super easy, you could add everything in except the lime and cilantro (add before serving), and cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours on high setting, or 5 1/2 to 6 hours on low. To add more flavor, brown the outsides of the chicken and add into the crock pot. the saute all of the vegetables and peppers as directed in the instructions, and then add to the slow cooker.

  3. Camilla Davis says

    I made this soup tonight and never expected it to be soo delicious. Literally one of my favorite soups that I have made ! I barely added some sauce from the chipolte peppers and skipped the Jalapeño and it was still quite spicy !
    I will try more of your recipes ! Thanks so much !

  4. Jason says

    Made this for a big family dinner on Saturday and it was a hit! Left out some of the spicy stuff to appeal to the large crowd and it was still delish. I couldn’t wait to get back to the grocery store grocery to pick up the ingredients for a second batch. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Lisa- I would saute the chicken breasts from 3 minutes on each side in the instant pot. Remove the chicken and then saute the onions, garlic, spices, chilis, tomato paste, bell pepper, corn as directed using the instant pot. Add in the chicken breast, tomatoes, chicken stock, oregano, tortilla strips, cover and cook on manual high-pressure setting for 10 minutes. Naturally, release for 15 minutes, then depressurize completely. Press saute and add the beans, cook until warmed through. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro and adjust seasoning. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  5. Julie says

    Wow! This was absolutely amazing. I’ve never left a review for a recipe before but this was so good and full of flavor that couldn’t help it. I don’t like spicy stuff so I left out the chipotle chili (also because I couldn’t find it in the store). I also forgot to get paprika so I used a mixture of seasonings instead and it still turned out amazing. The only thing that I would change next time and to try and make the chicken a little less chewy when it gets in the soup. But it was still amazing!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much for your feedback Julie! Great way to substitute ingredients. I find the chipotle chili in a small can or jar in the latin aisle at the market.

  6. Russ Gladden says

    I am on WW and do best when I have some great soup in the refrigerator. This is KILLER Tortilla Soup. I had some leftover bone-in roast chicken breasts that I shredded instead sautéing fresh ones, and added it at the end. I am not a fan of coriander so I left that out. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. Delicious and so quick. I bet tomorrow it’s going to be even better. I tasted it before I added the chicken, and it’s delicious soup without the chicken too! WW SmartPoints = 2 per serving. Thank you Jessica Gavin! Oh, and DOUBLE THANK YOU for the metric measurements!! You’re the best.

  7. Angela Gibson says

    This was my very first try at chicken tortilla soup and only second time I’ve eaten it. I made this for my husband and it was so delicious!! He told me it was better than any restaurant he’s tried, and I agree. I’m not an onion fan so I used dried minced onions instead. Came out fine. We topped our soup with shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream and shredded tortilla strips. Thank you for a great recipe!!! I will be adding this to my arsenal of special dishes!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Kerry- I would cut them into strips, toss in a little bit of olive oil, and then bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Check in every 5 minutes and turn over to get both sides crisp.

  8. Barbara Young says

    I tried this recipe and since most things I try are a flop – I couldn’t believe how well this turned out! It was delicious! I decided to try it because I had a can of chipotle peppers in my pantry. I never thought I would use them, but I heard so much about them, I bought a can about 6 months ago. I had collected coriander seed from my plants last summer and had no idea what I would do with them either. I had to look up whether to crush them or put them in whole. Bottom line – I’m not a great cook, but this was easy and delicious. I sent some home to my son and his wife and they texted that the soup was awesome!
    Thank you – I have a go to recipe now!

  9. Amy says

    Hi, I just have to say that this looks and sounds amazing and I would really love to make this for my husband. The thing is that he refuses to eat anything spicy. How can I make this on the mild side for him? Is there seasoning that I should leave out or substitute? I don’t want to ruin the recipe at all but in order for me to make this I will have to make it mild. Please help!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Amy- The three things that make the soup spicy is the chipotle chilis, jalapenos, and chili powder. The chipotles are the spiciest but give that really nice earthy and smokey flavor. I would perhaps use half of that, and then gradually add the jalapenos and chili powder to the spiciness level your husband would like. If you have some smoked paprika, I would use that instead of the sweet paprika. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Leslie Sullivan says

    This amazing soup has become a staple in my house. So quick to make and SO flavorful! Filling, healthy and delicious!!

  11. Amanda says

    So this was my first time making chicken tortilla soup and I couldn’t get over how good this recipe was! I am always cooking and trying new things but this one is definitely one I am going to hold on to! I have never cooked with chipotle peppers before, and wow am I missing out! However, I must note that a do have a high spice tolerance. Also, I used homemade chicken broth and it really made this dish over the top good.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for making the recipe Amanda! Yes, the chipotle peppers are spicy, and I find that blending in some starches from the tortillas in the soup definitely helps tame that a bit. The homemade chicken broth sounds amazing!

  12. Taleen says

    Terrific recipe – came out delicious and tasting just like how I imagined it to be. Thank you for the great recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Kari- I have not yet tried it in the instant pot. I would cook all of the vegetables on saute mode, then add the chicken breasts and liquid, and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, then natural release for 10. I would then shred the chicken and cook the tortillas strips on saute mode.

  13. Amanda says

    I’ve made this three times already and it’s delicious. We are about to go on a trip and I’m thinking about making it ahead of time and freezing it. Does it freeze well?

  14. Soren says

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was excellent! I have been making a similar soup for years now. But I really enjoy Jessica’s tips. They certainly elevated my soup! I particularly appreciated the process for pounding out and searing the chicken breast.

  15. Mimila says

    Great recipe! Big hit with the fam. I’m swapping out my go-to tortilla soup recipe for this one! Will definitely make again ??

  16. Nikki says

    Wow I made this tonight with left over turkey breast and it was amazing! Just the right amount of heat! Added a dollop of sour cream and was terrific! My husband really liked it. So much better than the typical recipe out there.

  17. Shannon Nembach says

    So good! The whole family loved it. I fried tortilla chips and used them as a garnish on the side. Served it topped with cilantro, cotija cheese and sour cream. Thank you for the recipe. You always come up with winners. Also, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce freeze really well if you have extra for future use. ??

  18. Bobbi says

    I accidentally put the whole can of Chipotle peppers into it. I didn’t realize it said 1tbls until after it was done. WOW spicy!!! But it was so good we all still ate it. Just needed cornbread and milk to stop sweating. Lol

  19. Teresa says

    Hello, I made the chicken tortilla soup and it was so good will make it again. We loved it the only thing I did was add corn mill to thicken it a little more. This will be my go-to recipe for tortilla soup love it! Thank you for all the wonderful recipes.

  20. Karen Casey says

    I just made this and I cannot believe how delicious it is!! I pretty much stuck to the recipe. Definitely a keeper!!

  21. Kristina says

    After deliberating what to do with my leftover rotisserie chicken, I went with Chicken Tortilla Soup! I found your recipe on Pinterest, just had to do a few swaps to work with what I had on hand – I used the leftover rotisserie chicken for the meat, and made chicken bone broth from the carcass in my crockpot to use in the soup. I didn’t have a can of chipotle chili’s in adobo sauce, so I added red chili pepper flakes for some heat. I made my own tortilla strips by frying up thinly, sliced corn tortillas in a little vegetable oil to put on top of the soup!

    For serving, I put a slice of Monterrey jack cheese on the bottom of the bowl, ladled the soup on top, added some choppedcilantro, fresh lime juice, and sliced avocado on top.

    This was such a hearty, flavorful soup and is definitely going into our recipe rotation!

  22. Verena says

    Excellent!! This was so delicious and definitely a keeper!!!! Thank you. I tried it with some fried corn tortillas strips that I made in a pan with some oil and some not fried. Both very good with this soup.

  23. Jane says

    This is a go to dinner for me. My family loves it and I love making it! I like that you can mix it up a little. It is super easy and super tasty! Thank you Jessica!

  24. Jeff Eppinette says

    Hey, Jessica! Thank you for the recipe – it was delicious! Except for increasing some of your spices to suit my own taste, I followed your recipe closely. It was a hit with the family! It has a robust flavor that is is better than most of the restaurant versions I’ve tried.

  25. Stacy Bleiweis says

    This soup was so delish! My family raves about it and said to keep the recipe in the family favorites file. I added a 1/2 cup of sour cream to the soup before serving and it made it extra yummy ?

  26. Enelle B. says

    This was my first time making chicken tortilla soup and this recipe was perfection. I seasoned the chicken for an extra layer of flavor. Will definitely make this recipe often during the fall and winter seasons!

  27. Dorie says

    Jessica:

    I just made your Chicken Tortilla Soup and it was just delicious.

    I halved all the powder spices, because I know the tastes we like, but all the flavors in the soup were excellent !

  28. Yvonne says

    This soup is delicious! My daughter made it for dinner for the family and everyone loved it. Has anyone used the crockpot with this recipe? I would like to take it to work to share with co workers at lunch.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you, Yvonne! Sounds like you have an amazing chef at home. I think the easiest route would be to make the soup on the stovetop, let it cool down completely, refrigerate and then reheat it in the slow cooker at work so it’s nice and hot when you’re ready to serve. Let me know how it goes!

  29. Macy says

    SOOOOOO amazing. We absolutely loved all the flavors mixed together! Will definitely be making this on the regular. Thank you for sharing!

  30. Tiff says

    This recipe is perfection. Our taste buds were doing a dance at dinnertime. Thank you for sharing! I’m definitely going to follow your recipes!

  31. Jenny says

    Favorite recipe for chicken tortilla soup because the flavors are so bold. The smokiness from the chilies is in adobo sauce is what added the extra kick!

  32. Pamela says

    This soup is so tasty. It’s perfectly seasoned in this recipe. Alot of ingredients but easy to make. My family loved it!!!

  33. Brianne says

    I made this last night and it was delicious! Everyone in the house loved it & went back for more. Pot was empty after dinner time! Thanks for such a goodie

  34. Ronna says

    how would this taste without the chicken? Or is there a vegetarian version of this? This sounds absolutely delicious but we don’t eat meat.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think you could make the soup without chicken. However, if you want a heartier dish or more savory taste, perhaps saute some mushrooms, it gives a wonderful umami taste and meaty flavor, but vegetarian style!

  35. Pam says

    I just made this!!! It is SO yummy!! My family likes spice so I added a bit more jalapeño. Might have done a bit too much for my liking. Wish I would have stuck to the recipe for the spice. The herbs are spot on!!!! I added a few more veggies too…..Omg!! I can’t believe I made this!!!
    This will be my go to chicken tortilla soup recipe.
    THANK YOU for sharing!!!

  36. Rachel B. says

    Oh my. Soooo delicious. A new family favorite! I followed the recipe exactly besides the following: I didn’t have any of the chipotle chiles, I used a jar of pickled jalapeños rather than fresh, & a box of chicken broth plus one cup of water (rather than 5 cups of cb). For toppings I did crispy fried corn tortillas, scallions, cilantro, cheddar, sour cream, chopped pickled jalepeno (my son can’t get enough), & avocado. This was my first tortilla soup & I was thrilled that my six & nine-year-old loved it as much as my husband & I did.

  37. Brandy Johnson says

    Made this today 3/19/21 … substituted Leftover Turkey as that is what protein I was trying to repurpose and it was great . The spices and ease of Recipe was nice .. thanks … this is a keeper !

  38. Beth says

    WOW! This was so amazingly delicious! We did it in the instapot (used the saute mode to sear the chicken and then cook the onion and peppers, the 25 minutes on high pressure, didn’t have time to slow release so popped the valve immediately). The flavor is throughout the soup and just a bit of spice but not too much!! Pinning for later!

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