If there was ever a “soup for the soul,” this Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup would be it. With loads of spicy shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, black beans, and corn, it brings a healthy and hearty aspect to your table. A homemade recipe with a little kick to warm you up during these chilly evenings.
Boy, have I been on a soup kick lately. But of course, why wouldn’t I, since we’re in the dead of winter. Nothing comforts or satisfies like a nourishing bowl of homemade soup. There’s something so inviting about this quintessential winter dish especially when the gloomy sky holds back the long-anticipated sunlight through my windows.
But, I have to admit, I can appreciate an overcast sky if I can light a fire, put on a pot of “any kind of” soup, grab a good book and get lost in its characters. It doesn’t happen very often, but that’s when I need to practice what I preach and “linger” a bit.
Spicing up the Chicken and the Tortilla Strips
The spice blend is what invigorates this Chicken Tortilla Soup. The mixture of chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder, dried thyme and oregano along with salt and pepper gives a flavorful coating to the chicken before it goes in the oven. And this same blend is sprinkled on the homemade tortilla strips which brings some added heat to the final touch of the soup.
Although we are a sucker for really spicy foods around my house, I didn’t make this recipe for the blog with too much heat. If you prefer it “spicy,” add extra cayenne pepper to the mix. Once you combine all the ingredients, dip your finger into the spices and see if you want it hotter, leave it as is. That’s the beauty of this recipe – it can be customized to suit you.
You’ll want to divide the spice mixture and use half of it (probably five or six tablespoons) to coat the chicken while reserving the remaining spices for the tortilla strips and extra for the soup itself.
What internal temperature should the chicken be to remove it from the oven?
Brush your baking dish with a little bit of olive oil and place the coated chicken in the dish. Baking takes around 25-35 minutes depending on how big your chicken breasts are.
Since the chicken continues to cook after you remove it from the oven, it’s important to take it out just prior to an internal temperature of 165°F. The chicken will become dry and tough if cooked too long. Don’t wait for the temperature to reach that 165°F while it was still in the oven or on the grill. Pull it out anywhere from 155°F to 160°. This trick will, without fail, cause the chicken to come out perfectly juicy and tender every time.
One of My Most Valued Kitchen Gadgets – Instant-Read Digital Thermometer
If you don’t already have an instant-read digital thermometer, I would highly suggest that you invest in one. Cooking times vary in so many ways that you should not just go by time in the oven. With a thermometer, you never have to second guess yourself. It is definitely one of my most valued kitchen gadgets.
Shredding the Chicken for this Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
The best way to shred the chicken breasts is by using two forks. Hold one fork in each hand and with one hold the cooked chicken in place while using the other one to scrape and tear the meat into small shredded pieces. Once the fork gets full, use the other one to remove the shredded meat and start again. You can shred in large pieces or in small, whichever you prefer.
Throw the shredded chicken back in the pan, and stir it to soak up the juices that were left there from the chicken. This gives added flavor to the chicken and the soup itself. Set aside to add to the soup at a later time.
Chopping and Sautéeing Onions, Poblano and Jalepeño peppers and adding spices
While the chicken is baking, it’s a good time to start sautéeing the chopped peppers and onions. I used a large poblano pepper, which is mild but has a rich and somewhat earthy flavor to it. There’s a lot of “meat” on it, similar to a bell pepper so it adds a lot of substance to the soup.
Again depending on your preference for how much heat you want, you can either add an extra jalapeño pepper or take one away. Extra heat comes from the ribs and the seeds on the inside the pepper.
Be sure and use gloves if you have some, if not, wash your hands immediately after chopping the peppers and whatever you do don’t touch your face or eyes after the fact. Been there, done that, and it was not pretty.
Sautéeing only until slightly tender
Cook the onions, peppers, salt, cumin and coriander for 5-6 minutes, until they are slightly tender. Don’t cook them until they are completely tenderized because they continued to cook while the soup simmered. The veggies in this soup should be chunky, therefore chop the onions and peppers fairly coarse. This soup is best when there are lots of textures within.
Adding chopped garlic
Garlic – such a small package but carries with it a punch of intense flavor and aromatic pungency. Garlic is an essential ingredient in countless savory dishes. It’s one of those crucial staples that I have on hand continually.
The best way to store garlic, according to “thekitchn.com” is to avoid the refrigerator. They need a dry, dark place that has a lot of air circulation like a wire-mesh basket. Check out this link for more info on storing these little gems.
One thing about cooking garlic is not to overcook it otherwise it becomes bitter. It only takes about one minute of sautéeing. Chop them fairly coarse and add them at the end of cooking onions and peppers.
Adding Tomato Paste
Tomato paste – a super-concentrated cooked down tomato sauce that enriches sauces, soups, taco filling, meatloaf, with a list going on and on. Add two tablespoons of the paste after the garlic is sautéed, stir and cook for one more minute. This way, it enhances the depth of flavor with the onions, peppers and other spices before you start adding liquids to the mix.
- A little tip – buy the paste in a tube which is a convenient alternative to canned paste. Most recipes call for only one or two tablespoons, therefore much of the can goes to waste. With the tube, just twist the lid back on and store it in the refrigerator.
Adding Diced Tomatoes, Rotel Tomatoes and Chicken Broth to simmer
I used Petite Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (Glen Muir) because I love the added smokiness the fire-roasted gives. A can of Rotel with Cilantro and Lime Juice was added along with chicken broth and now all is ready to simmer for about 20 minutes.
At this stage, add some of the remaining Spice Mixture – one to two tablespoons or more depending on how spicy you like it. Make sure and give it time to simmer as this is where all of those flavors merge together to create the complexity of the soup.
Adding Black Beans, Frozen Corn and Spicy Shredded Chicken
Here is the stage where texture and substance become part of the show and the culmination of all the ingredients come together. A can of black beans (drained and rinsed), frozen corn (straight from the freezer) and the shredded chicken that’s been waiting for its entrance into this production ever since it emerged from the oven. Now, it’s as simple as stirring it all together.
Adding Cilantro and Lime Juice
The final touch before serving this heartwarming soup is chopped cilantro which adds a fresh citrusy aspect. Freshly squeezed lime juice brightens and balances out the salty, rich flavors of this dish.
Wait to add the cilantro and lime juice once you remove the pan from the stove. In this way, you will preserve the cilantro’s color, flavor, and texture. Also, the lime juice will become bitter if it is cooked in the soup that’s why it’s best to add it after the fact.
Freezing Chicken Tortilla Soup
I should probably warn you – this makes a huge amount of soup, actually about 6 quarts. You could easily half the recipe if you don’t want to make that much.
Another option is this soup freezes extremely well. If you choose to store some in your freezer, hold off on the cilantro and lime juice until you thaw it, heat it up and serve it. And of course, the tortilla strips always go in after you ladle the soup into bowls so they are nice and crispy when eaten.
Adding Homemade Spicy Tortilla Strips
The highlight of this soup is undeniably the spicy tortilla strips. You can buy a bag off the shelf and add it to the soup, but honestly, they take less than 10 minutes to make in your oven.
Purchase small, thinner corn tortillas, cut them in half and then cut them in about 1/2 inch strips. Throw ’em in a bowl, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, spread them out on a cooking sheet, sprinkle with some remaining spice mixture and bake at 400°F for 8-10 minutes until crispy. It’s super simple!
Bringing this Chicken Tortilla Soup all Together in a Bowl
Whatever you do, make sure you have some sour cream, shredded cheese and avocados on hand before serving this bowl of deliciousness. All of these ingredients make for an enticing Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe that is absolutely over-the-top AMAZING!! You’ll be so addicted once you put one spoonful of this soupy satisfaction to your mouth. I guarantee you’re gonna say MMmmmmm Good!! And it won’t be because of a can you just opened.
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Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
If there was ever a “soup for the soul,” this Chicken Tortilla Soup would be it. Loaded with depth of flavors, textures & a bit of spiciness to warm you up on a chilly evening.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 6 quarts 1x
- Category: Soups
- Method: Stovetop + Baking
- Cuisine: Mexican
Homemade Spice Recipe for Chicken and Tortilla Strips
- 2 tablespoon Chili Powder
- 4 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
- 1–2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 2 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Baked Spice Rubbed Chicken
- 1/2 of the (above) Homemade Spice Recipe
- 3 large Chicken Breast, boneless and skinless
Homemade Spicy Baked Tortilla Strips
- 8–10 Small Corn Tortillas
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 4 tablespoons (above) Homemade Spice Recipe
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 1 large Sweet Onion (coarsely chopped)
- 1 large Poblano Pepper (seeded and coarsely chopped)
- 2 large Jalapeño Peppers (seeded and coarsely chopped)
- 6 large Garlic Cloves (chopped)
- 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
- 2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
- 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 4 cups Chicken Stock
- 2 – 28-ounce cans Petite Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (I prefer Glen Muir)
- 1 can Rotel Tomatoes with Cilantro and Lime Juice
- 1 can Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 – 14 ounce package of Frozen Corn
- Spicy Shredded Chicken (above)
- Kosher Salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
- 1/2 large lime (freshly squeezed)
- Homemade Spicy Tortilla Strips (above)
- Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Diced Avocado – optional but recommended
For the Baked Spice Rubbed Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Combine the following ingredients: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 4 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons each garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme and dried oregano, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper.
- Pour half the above spice mixture (about 5-6 tablespoons) into a large shallow bowl and coat 3 large chicken breasts with the spices.
- Brush a large baking dish with olive oil and place the chicken breasts in the dish.
- Bake for about 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the breasts). Using an instant-read digital thermometer, cook the chicken until the internal temperature reach 155°F-160°F. Remove from the oven and tent with foil. The chicken will continue to cook to a 165°F temperature.
- Cool slightly.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken into small pieces. Set aside.
For the Chicken Tortilla Soup
- In a Dutch Oven (or another large heavy bottom pan), sauté for 5-6 minutes or until slightly tender 1 large sweet onion, 1 large poblano pepper and 2 large jalapeño pepper, all coarsely chopped.
- Add 6 cloves of garlic (chopped) and cook for 1 minute.
- Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add 4 cups of chicken stock, 2 – 28 ounce cans of petite diced fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 can rotel tomatoes with cilantro and lime juice.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 – 14 ounce package of frozen corn, and the shredded chicken. Stir until all is combined.
- At this point you may want to add extra kosher salt along with a tablespoon or two of leftover spice mixture, according to your taste preference.
- Remove the Dutch Oven from the stove and add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro and juice from 1/2 large lime.
- When ready to serve, laddle the soup out in a bowl, add a handful of homemade spicy tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese and sliced avocados.
- If you prefer it “spicy,” add extra cayenne pepper to the spice mix.
- Since the chicken continues to cook after you remove it from the oven, it’s important to take it out just prior to an internal temperature of 165°F. The chicken will become dry and tough if cooked too long.
- Cooking times vary in so many ways that you should not just go by time in the oven. Using an instant-read thermometer is the best practice for checking if the chicken is done.
- The best way to shred the chicken breasts is by using two forks. Hold one fork in each hand and with one hold the cooked chicken in place while using the other one to scrape and tear the meat into small shredded pieces.
- Depending on your preference for how much heat you want, you can either add an extra jalapeño pepper or take one away. Extra heat comes from the ribs and the seeds on the inside the pepper.
- If you have some, be sure and use gloves when chopping the jalapeños, if not, wash your hands immediately after chopping the peppers and whatever you do don’t touch your face or eyes after the fact.
- Cook the onions, peppers, salt, cumin and coriander for 5-6 minutes, until they are slightly tender., they will continue to cook while the soup simmers.
- Don’t overcook garlic, otherwise it becomes bitter. It only takes about one minute of sautéeing after the onions are done to be complete.
- Add both cilantro and lime juice once you remove the pan from the stove. This will preserve the cilantro color, flavor and texture and it won’t allow the lime juice to become bitter while cooking.
- You could easily half the recipe if you don’t want to make that much.
- This soup freezes extremely well. If you choose to store some in your freezer, hold off on the cilantro and lime juice until you thaw it, heat it up and serve it.
- The tortilla strips always go in after you ladle the soup into bowls so they are nice and crispy when eaten.
- Serving Size: 2 cups
- Calories: 327
- Sugar: 9 g
- Sodium: 1607 mg
- Fat: 7 g
- Saturated Fat: 1 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 4 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 44 g
- Fiber: 10 g
- Protein: 24 g
- Cholesterol: 45 mg
Keywords: Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chicken Soup, Mexican Dishes