This might be a bold thing to say, but chicken tortilla soup might just be in the top 5 best soups… ever. I suppose it is all subjective, but if tortilla soup isn’t in your top 5, then you haven’t tried this one. This soup is a perfect marriage of flavors and textures, from the hearty chicken thighs to the salty crispy chips on top. With a plethora of herbs, spices, legumes, and vegetables, this tortilla soup comes together in under an hour, can feed the family, and is guaranteed to warm you from the inside.
I have been making this recipe for a long time—like just graduated college, cooking for my boyfriend in a small NYC apartment, long time. It has taken me a while, but the base of this soup has been perfected through years of trial and error. It is savory, spicy, and herbaceous, thanks to the handfuls of cilantro (if you aren’t a cilantro lover, I am sorry). With every spoonful, you get a ton of chicken, beans, corn, and peppers, but it is what goes on top that makes this soup truly special and truly customizable. For myself, I top this warm bowl of soup with tomatoes for coolness, avocado for a creamy consistency, more cilantro (because I have a problem), and endless crispy tortilla chips for crunch, texture, and, of course, flavor.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
Chicken Thighs – Boneless, skinless. I used to make this tortilla soup with bone-in, skin-on thighs, but towards the end, you need to shred the meat. The process took too long and was too messy. Buy boneless, skinless to make your life easier.
Onion – Yellow or Vidalias.
Bell Pepper – Green.
Garlic – Fresh only!
Cream of Chicken – I can’t tell you why I started adding this, but I like to think it is my secret ingredient, and 100% and completely necessary for this soup.
Black Beans – Canned, liquid and all.
Corn – Sweet canned corn, or even frozen corn works for this recipe. If opting for canned, drain the water before adding it to the soup.
Cilantro – I have made this recipe without cilantro before, and it just isn’t the same. Cilantro adds great brightness to the soup. When calling for cilantro, you cut both the leaves and the stems. Believe it or not, cilantro stems have more flavor than the leaves.
Chicken Broth – It is so important to use a flavorful chicken broth for this, and all soup recipes. I am personally against most box or can broths, I find that they have very little flavor. My go-to is always “Better than Bouillon”. This and all my other soup recipes follow the instructions on the back of the jar to make the broth however if you are used to this ingredients feel free to use it as you see fit.
Sazón – My go to sazón is the “con cilantro y achiote”. If you can only find the original sazón that works as well.
Chili Flakes – Optional but highly recommended.
Below are just some options, but feel free to add as much, as little, or additional toppings that are not on the list below.
Tortilla Chips – While most of these toppings can be seen as “optional” this one is not (hence the name of the soup). One upon a time, and still from time to time I would make my own tortilla chips for this soup. The process takes a while and hoenstly for the purpose of this soup, store bought works just fine. If possible avoid thin tortilla chips, they get soggy very fast.
Tomatoes – Any tomatoes work here, but if you want to reduce the work get grape or cherry tomatoes and quarter them.
Cheese – You have a few options. Cojita cheese is a great addition to this soup however if you are looking for a meltier cheese cheddar or a Mexican blend also works.
Large Pot – I use my 7qt dutch oven for this recipe. While this could probably fit in a 4.5 qt pot, it would be at the brim, and might flow over when simmering.
HOW TO MAKE TORTILLA SOUP
Season and Prep the Chicken – Remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs. In a bowl, combine the chicken thighs with half of the sazón packet, reserving the second half for later. Drizzle a little olive oil and mix to coat the chicken. *No additional salt is added here because sazón already contains salt.
Sear the Chicken – In your soup pot over medium heat, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, place the chicken in and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. Don’t worry about cooking the chicken through; that will be done later. Remove the chicken and place it in a clean bowl.
Assemble the Soup – Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Throw in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Toss in the beans with their juice, corn, cream of chicken, the remaining sazón, and cilantro. Mix to combine before adding the broth. Vigorously stir, working through any clumps.
Simmer – Add the chicken and any juices that pooled at the bottom of the bowl back into the pot. Simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes. Once done, remove the chicken and shred it. This is easier to do if you allow it to cool for a few minutes. Add the shredded chicken back into the pot and serve. Top this chicken tortilla soup with tortilla chips, and additional toppings such as tomatoes, avocado, jalapeños, and cheese.
Store chicken tortilla soup in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. When ready to reheat add the soup to a saucepan and heat on low until warmed throughout. Fun hack! Save the cylindrical takeout soup containers, these make amazing soup storage containers.
Can’t get enough of soup? I don’t blame you. Check out the recipes below.
This perfect marriage of flavors and textures, with hearty chicken thighs, salty crispy chips, a plethora of herbs, spices, legumes, and vegetables, this tortilla soup comes together in under an hour.
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Keyword Comfort Food, Soup
Prep Time 10 minutesmins
Cook Time 45 minutesmins
Total Time 55 minutesmins
5boneless skinless chicken thighsexcess fat cut off
1sazón packetcon cilantro y achiote is preferred
1mediumonion small diced
1green bell pepperdiced
1/4tspchili flakesadd 1/2 for more heat
1canblack beansjuice and all
1cansweet cornor sub out with 1 1/2 cups of frozen corn
110.5oz cancream of chicken soup
cheesecotija, cheddar, or Mexican blend
In a bowl, season the chicken with half a packet of sazón and one tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Save the remaining packet on the side for the soup.
In your soup pot over medium heat, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, place the chicken in and sear for 2-3minutes on each side. The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point, and that's okay. Remove it from the pot and place it in a clean bowl
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the diced onions, bell pepper, optional chili flakes, and a heavy pinch of salt approx. 1/4 tsp. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Throw in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Add the beans, corn, cream of chicken, remaining sazon, and chopped cilantro.
Add the broth and mix to combine. Return the chicken along with the juices that pooled in the bottom of the bowl. Salt to taste, I add approx. 1/2- 1 tsp of kosher salt (mortons) but depending on the broth you are using you might salt more or less. Place a lid on the pot, bring it to a simmer, and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes remove the chicken and shred on a cutting board or in a stand mixer. Return the shredded chicken to the pot. Serve with desired toppings and a ton of tortilla chips.