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.

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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. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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 !

  4. 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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