Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup Recipe

I have no idea what to write about this chicken tortilla soup recipe except that it’s the best in the world and you must believe me.

Please, do not turn your ear away from the apparent arrogance in my self-serving claim of it being the best chicken tortilla soup recipe in the world and just listen to this story that will prove it:

When I was vegetarian, I used to make this without the chicken and it was still good.

Really. I took out the number one ingredient – the ingredient for which the recipe is named – and it was still delightful. I think that is pretty significant.

I have a shortcut here with the broth that gives a rich flavor without requiring a million hours of simmering and straining. To try it is to love it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup Video

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe – Printable card!


Chicken Tortilla Soup

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 guajillo chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots and celery, each
  • 1 zucchini, cut into thick half-circles
  • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • For serving: tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, sour cream, diced onion, Spanish rice, lime wedges


  1. Toast the guajillo pepper over a flame or a dry skillet for a few seconds. (Substitute an ancho chile or 1 teaspoon of chile powder.)
  2. Combine tomato, onion, garlic, spices, chile in a blender with a little water – maybe 1/2 cup – to make a smooth paste.
  3. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and add tomato sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes, until it turns a darker shade of red.
  4. Add chicken stock, salt, chicken, and vegetables through poblano.
  5. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  6. Add a handful of tortillas strips and simmer a minute longer to thicken the soup.
  7. Add cilantro.
  8. Serve topped with tortilla strips and whatever other garnishes you like. (But lime wedges are very important!)


To make fat-free tortilla strips in the oven, slice corn tortillas into 1/4″ strips and put in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 15 minutes, shaking every 5 minutes, until dry and crispy.


To make this recipe with fresh chicken, poach two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in the broth mixture for 10 minutes before adding vegetables. Remove and let cool, then shred. Recombine in the pot with the vegetables and continue as directed.

To make vegetarian tortilla soup, substitute a cup or two of cooked black or pinto beans for the chicken and vegetable stock for chicken stock.

Other vegetables you might like in this are green beans, cabbage, and corn.

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P.S. Here’s a recipe for Spanish rice if you don’t have one. It really is nice served under the soup, especially if you’ve made the soup without the chicken: Spanish Rice
And also, How to Make Chicken Stock.


  1. Bev Weidner on January 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I’m SOLD.

    • Hilah on January 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

      I thought you would be.

  2. Rachael Macry on January 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I’m totally printing this recipe and I will totally make this soup… btw, you and PW are going back and forth at the top of my list of internet cooks whose recipes I actually make and love. I made her Tuscan Bean soup with Kale and Shrimp over the weekend, omg nom! I am pretty sure I will feel the same way about this one here. Thanks!!

    • Hilah on January 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Awesome, Rachael! So glad you like my recipes! Who is PW? sounds like I need to check that out.

  3. Rachael Macry on January 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. I chose the recipe I mentioned in my first comment just for grins but do browse through her stuff. I love her and you will too!!

    • Hilah on January 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Oh, of course! Her recipes are great. I love her writing, too.

  4. Mazz on January 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I can’t make and eat these things as quick as you are putting out videos…

    • Hilah on January 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Ha! Sorry about that, Mazz. 😉 I’m glad to know you are trying all of the recipes, though!

  5. Great Stone Face on January 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    What’s your chicken stock recipe?

    • Hilah on January 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Whoops! I added a link at the bottom of this post.
      But in a nutshell, I just cover the carcass with water and cook it an hour at a strong simmer. Sometimes I add more vegetables or herbs like thyme and a bay leaf, but usually I just make it with the chicken so I don’t have to worry about any flavors interfering with whatever dish I might use it for.
      Also, a lot of times I’ll use my pressure cooker. Bring to full pressure and let it go for just 15 minutes.
      And I usually leave most of the fat in the stock, instead of removing it after cooling. But that’s just my preference.

  6. Great Stone Face on January 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for the stock link! Your technique at the start of the recipe is similar to the “pestata” technique I used this week to start a Lydia Bastianich meatballs recipe (chopped carrot, onion, and celery in a food processor, then mixed in the meat).

  7. Great Stone Face on January 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    It’s January, so Happy National Soup Month!

    • Hilah on January 15, 2012 at 11:24 am


  8. Diane on January 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I want the vegetarian (or seafood) version of this RIGHT NOW!!!! I think it would cure my cedar allergies. Will you bring me some?

    • Hilah on January 15, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Ooh, seafood version?! You’ve got my brain ticking. Hope your allergies are better!

  9. John D. on January 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Hey! I’m a guy and I loves me some Tortilla Soup. Wait… does that say something about me? I swear I’m not old! This looks really great, gonna try it. 🙂

    • Hilah on January 17, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Hey John! I should have said “chicks and old people and AWESOME people”. Excuse me! 😉 Hope you try it!

  10. Randy on January 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Well, I can certainly personally verify the old demographic’s love of chicken tortilla soup. I love your idea of adding vegetables and can’t wait to try this recipe. Also, poaching the chicken in the broth is genius!

    Lately, I’ve started making stock again. For quite a while, I felt like it was more trouble than it was worth. Anything that essentially chained me to home for several hours got to be intolerable. Thanks to, I found a technique that suits me. Bring the stock to a simmer on the stovetop, skim off the scum and then put the stock pot into the oven at 200 degrees for 8 to 12 hours. Besides be convenient (in that you can start it in the evening and forget about it until you get up the next morning), it results in a very rich stock with very, very little loss from evaporation. I also save time by not putting anything in it except the bones and water. I add herbs and seasoning when I use the stock according to whatever’s appropriate for the dish. It takes less active time on my part to make the stock than it does to go shopping for the chicken backs and feet.

    • Hilah on January 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Oh man, I love the oven idea. Kind of like a crock pot.
      I’m with you on just doing bones and water, too. The couple times I’ve gotten “creative” with flavoring my stock, it’s ended up interfering with whatever other spices I want to use later.

  11. brenda brodie on June 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Hilah, only discovered you a few days ago. Made this yesterday. Oh damn this is good.

    • Hilah on June 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Yay! So happy to hear that!

  12. Emily on September 30, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Thank you for your inspirational tortilla soup recipe! I bought a rotisserie chicken from the store, shredded it up. Sauté an onion, elephant garlic, chopped poblano, chopped mixed color bell peppers. Simmer….

    Add spice mix a la Hilah!

    Add a can of diced tomatoes, one can of whole peeled tomatoes, mash it up, and simmer.. Then chicken broth and Xtra spices as you list. Super delish! I let it simmer for an hour.

    • Hilah on September 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Yummy yummy! I bet that was good. Thanks for sharing your variation, Emily!

  13. Eileen on September 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Been making this soup for the last year. It’s probably my favorite soup – the flavors are just amazing! I had a half carton each of beef and chicken broth in the fridge and made the recipe with that. Completely different flavor as you can imagine, but excellent!

    • Hilah on September 14, 2014 at 9:25 am

      So happy it’s become a regular on your menu, Eileen! 🙂

  14. Nelis on February 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    This is such a great (and easy recipe), I love it. I can even justify serving it with a dollop of sour cream when I use the oven-bake method to make my own tortilla chips.

    I plan on making this for some friends I’m having over, but realized today that there are a few vegetarians in the group. You mentioned making a vegetarian version, and I was wondering how you adapt the recipe. Do you just bulk up on zucchini, maybe add some corn? Or do you bulk it up with some kind of bean? I would appreciate any thoughts in this regard.

    • Hilah on February 25, 2015 at 7:54 am

      Hi Nelis! So happy you liked the soup. Yes, I put some notes at the bottom of the recipe card for a vegetarian version. You can add beans (pinto, black or kidney are good) and some more vegetables (cabbage this time of year is nice). Great idea to make two versions of the same thing so no one feels left out at dinner.

  15. Kelly on February 11, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I just discovered you this morning on a cooking channel on my roku! What a pleasant surprise you are! You had me hooked with your presentation 🙂 I was wondering if I could reconstitute
    a guajillo chile (and add the broth from it if yummy) for the soup? In Canada in the winter fresh guajillo chiles and poblano are in short supply. Suggestions for a poblano substitute? Off to discover your website! Thank you.

    • Hilah on February 11, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Hey Kelly!
      If you can get the guajillo to use in the broth, then just use those and don’t worry about the fresh poblano. Or add some seeded jalapeños instead

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