Chicken Tortilla Soup

4.97 from 758 votes
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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.

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

Frequently asked questions

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.

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.
4.97 from 758 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
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

YouTube 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 ½ 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 304kcal (15%)Carbohydrates 22g (7%)Protein 32g (64%)Fat 9g (14%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Cholesterol 72mg (24%)Sodium 830mg (35%)Potassium 910mg (26%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 4g (4%)Vitamin A 1385IU (28%)Vitamin C 30.1mg (36%)Calcium 55mg (6%)Iron 3mg (17%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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Recipe Rating




127 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Janet says

    Wow, very good, great flavor. I didn’t have can of tomatoes so I used salsa and it was fine. Thank you, definitely will make often.

  2. Cindy Alexander says

    I followed the advice from another reviewer of using my instapot for cooking the chicken. It turned out so tender and perfect. This recipe is a keeper! So easy to make and the flavors are like effortless magic. I really recommend using tortilla strips or chips in your bowl along with the soup. It’s another level of delicious and texture.
    My husband was a fan also, so all around winner. Thank you for this recipe!

  3. Teresa Stauble says

    My family, who loves spicy, totally enjoyed this soup. They said, “This is the best you’ve made yet, Mom”! I said, “I have to thank the true artist – Chef Jessica Gavin.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Cheers to you, Mom! It’s always a high five moment when everyone on the family enjoys the meal.

  4. Elizabeth Schisler says

    This soup is amazing. It was an instant hit with the family and has been requested again for next week

  5. Mary says

    Oh my gosh was this AMAZING! Made this for my son who was feeling under the weather and this is what he wanted me to make. I doubled up the recipe and I’m so glad I did. Best recipe for this soup I that I have made yet. Definitely a keeper 🤤

  6. Emma says

    Had to use about 1/4 cup of sour cream for my personal bowl to cut the spice (because I’m a wuss) but this was super super good and full of flavor. Had a hard time shredding the chicken because ours was pre-sliced in half (each breast) so make sure you buy the thick breasts!

  7. Fabrizio Danova says

    Hi Jessica, I made this recipe last night and it was a big hit. The flavors are fantastic and the recipe instructions were easy to follow for a fully successful result. I’ve been following you for a while but this was the first of your recipes I have made. I’ll be hanging around your site for a while now discovering more of your delicious food.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the tortilla soup recipe! I can’t wait to hear what you make next!

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