Chicken tortilla soup with incredible flavor! The bold seasonings, spicy chilis, fire-roasted tomatoes, and corn tortilla chips make this a deliciously satisfying dish.
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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.
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.
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.
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!
Serve this with
- Grilled corn salad
- Crunchy coleslaw
- Mexican rice
- Steak fajitas
- Stuffed peppers
- Homemade churros
- Cadillac margarita
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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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