After feasting on Thanksgiving leftovers all weekend, my palate was in need of some new and exciting flavors. I was also looking for a creative way to use up the turkey stock we made with our turkey carcass, and my mind immediately went to soup.
The hardest part of my culinary adventure was deciding which soup to make because the options are absolutely endless, but after giving it some thought, I landed on Mexican tortilla soup. I chose it because not only did I have everything on hand needed to make the soup, but its flavors really spoke to me. It’s bright and zesty with a silky, smooth texture, and most importantly it’s comforting and delicious. It also doesn’t take too long to make. It checked all the boxes!
While different examples of this soup are found in every region of Mexico, this version is made by simmering crispy corn tortillas in stock with tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeños, and spices. You finish the soup with chicken, a touch of lime juice to balance the flavors, and then garnish with anything you like such as crushed up tortilla chips, avocados, sliced jalapeños and cilantro. It’s kind of like the Mexican version of tomato soup, but in my opinion, greatly improved!
The first step is to get your chicken ready. Cut boneless, skinless breasts into 1-inch pieces, and toss with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while preparing the soup base. A note about the chicken… for a wonderful shortcut, use a rotisserie chicken! Shred the meat, and add it at the end once the soup has been pureed. You can also roast your chicken breasts or, if preferred, use chicken thighs. Once the chicken is cooked through, shred the meat and stir it into the soup after it’s been blended.
The next step is to cook your tortillas. Take your time here. You want the tortilla pieces to get golden brown and crispy without burning, so be sure to use enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan and stir frequently. It’s this step that’s going to make your kitchen smell amazing.
Once your corn tortillas are golden brown and crisp, add your onions and jalapeños, and cook until lightly caramelized.
Stir in the garlic, cumin and chili powder, and cook for an additional minute. As far as the spices go, be sure you’re using fresh spices and not ones that have been sitting in your pantry for years. At my house, we toast small batches of cumin seeds in a sauté pan until they are very aromatic. We then place them in a spice grinder just dedicated to grinding savory spices, and process them to a powder. If this is too much trouble, buy your spices in small quantities so they will always be fresh.
The next step is to add your chicken stock and tomatoes to the soup pot. I used turkey stock in mine, and as you can see from the picture, I had it frozen in pint containers.
Once the stock had finally melted, I let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes before blending it. You can transfer the soup to a blender, but I used an immersion blender, which is an awesome tool! It’s basically a small stick blender with the blade on the bottom, so you can puree soups and sauces right in their pots.
Once the soup had been blended, I added the seasoned chicken to the pot and allowed it to cook through at a gentle simmer, which took about 10 minutes. To put the finishing touches on things, I added a splash of lime juice, and seasoned it with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve the soup, I ladled it into bowls and garnished with a dollop of sour cream, crushed up tortilla chips, some fanned out avocado slices, cilantro and a slice of jalapeño.
To accompany our bowls of tortilla soup, my husband made quesadillas filled with strips roasted poblano peppers and gooey Chihuahua cheese. We dipped these into our soup like you would a grilled cheese, and it was heavenly!
I strongly suggest you try this at home, as it’s approachable for the whole family. My kids scarfed it down!
Mexican Tortilla Soup
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 35 minutes
Start to finish: 50 minutes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortilla chips, crushed for garnish
1 avocado, diced or sliced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, rough chopped
- Place the chicken in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while preparing the soup base.
- Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat, and add the oil. Sauté the tortilla pieces, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the jalapeño and onion, and gently sauté until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
- Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Return to the pot, if using a blender, and set over medium-low heat.
- Add the chicken to the soup, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add lime juice to taste, and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with crushed tortilla chips, avocados and cilantro.
Need to brush up on your soup making skills? Join us for our Virtual Soups and Stews Workshop on December 26th for a fun morning learning all of the skills and techniques needed to make excellent soup and stews all winter long. Our virtual workshops are intensively interactive 2-hour classes where our chef is with you every step of the way.