Fiesta of Flavor: Chicken Tortilla Soup

By Kate Riley January 12, 2010

I’m a sincere lover of Mexican food – I crave it at least twice a month.  When I was in college, I would indulge at the local taquería in muy grande burritos and never gain a single ounce.  These days, if I so much as look at a burrito sideways, I gain five pounds.

Two years ago, Mr. CG and I were dining at our favorite local Mexican food restaurant.  He ordered the chicken tortilla soup.  I tried it for the first time, and fell in love.  All the flavor of a delicious taco, in a bowl, but healthier and lower in calories ?  Sign me up, señor.  Since the restaurant was reluctant to share their recipe, I spent over a year trying to capture the same flavor by tweaking my own recipe for sopa de tortilla de pollo.

On a cold winter day, there’s nothing I want more than a hot bowl of soup  And a nap.  But the latter is not happening.  Here’s my recipe for ‘taco in a bowl’.  It’s yummy yummy to your tummy.  Muy bueno.  Enjoy.

Homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken tortilla soup crop

Pantry (Dry) Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Four 14 oz. cans chicken broth (or equivalent with bullion)

1 package taco seasoning

1 tbsp red taco sauce (mild or medium)*

4 oz. can diced green chiles (mild or medium)

6 oz. can tomato paste

8 oz. petite diced tomatoes – half the can and completely optional

3/4 tsp ground cumin

*add another tbsp taco sauce if you like it spicy

pantry ingredients side

Fresh Ingredients

4 chicken breasts

14 oz. water

1 medium onion – finely diced

1.5 cups diced celery

1.5 cups diced carrots

1.5 cups roasted or frozen kernel corn

4 corn tortillas

1 cup shredded jack cheese

Sliced avocado (optional, if available)

Fresh cilantro (optional)

fresh ingredients

Start by dicing your onion, celery, and carrot.  In a large pot or dutch oven, soften your onion, celery and chiles in 1 tbsp vegetable oil for 3 – 4 minutes on medium low heat.

soften onion celery chiles

Add chicken broth, and then fill one can with 14 more ounces of water and add to pot.

broth and water

Add carrots, corn, tomato paste, taco sauce, and cumin.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low. 

Meanwhile, coat your chicken breasts in taco seasoning.

coat chicken in seasoning

Grill chicken breasts on an indoor grill or a panini maker for 6 to 8 minutes.  You can also broil in your oven for the same amount of time, but to me, the grilled chicken tastes better.

grill chicken indoors

Once cooked, dice your chicken into chunks, then toss into soup pot.

dice chicken dos

Cook soup on low for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ten minutes before your soup is done (or before you intend to serve) thinly slice your corn tortillas.

corn tortilla thin strips

Toss in pan with 1 tbsp vegetable oil, and stir on medium heat until lightly browned.

tortillas in pan

Soup can be made one day in advance, stored in fridge and reheated.  Serve hot by garnishing with fresh corn tortilla strips, shredded jack cheese and fresh avocado slices (if available).

chicken tortilla soup

Other optional garnishes: fresh chopped cilantro, squeeze of lime, sour cream, or diced fresh tomatoes.

One note on ingredients:  If celery, or diced tomatoes, or corn is not your thing, then simply leave it out.  No worries, amiga.  The great ‘taco’ flavor comes from the combination of the liquid ingredients and the dry seasonings.

This recipe serves six.  Total calories per serving: 300 including garnish of cheese and tortilla strips.  Add another 60 calories per serving for the avocado.  But it’s worth it.

Quiero sopa de tortilla de pollo.  Y usted?


  1. I made chicken tortilla soup for the first time this week. I used adobo sauce and a few chilis from that can for the seasoning. I used a frozen bag of grilled corn form Trader Joe’s. And I just put the chicken in the crockpot for the day and then shredded it in about 2 seconds for the soup. Awesome! Thanks for sharing how to make those little tortilla ribbons. I wondered about that.

    • This recipe is easily adapted for vegans too. I use the Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base ( or you could use their No Chicken Base) and Black Beans. It is not a difficult recipe to divide in half. I make half of it vegan and half of it with chicken. I would use 2 or maybe even 3 cans of black beans for the whole recipe. I also add a canned chipotle pepper, some of the adobo sauce, and I use a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of the 8 oz.

  2. Si! Yo quiero esta receta. La sopa parece muy delicioso. ;)

    Yum! I’ve done the taco seasoning on chicken breast before and thrown them in the Foreman. I also added a dash of the dry Ranch seasoning to them and they were pretty good.

    Thanks for all the great photos of each step. This is one I want to try.

    Hope you might be able to swing by the Decorating Dilemmas Party…I’m posting it tonight, but it will be up tomorrow too. :)

  3. I’m a big Mexican foodie too :) But that soup looks divine (especially right about now in this cold weather). Can’t wait to give this recipe a whirl!

  4. I have made Chicken Tortilla soup before, but I am really intrigued to try this one and see the difference. I am especially interested in the difference of the chicken (I boiled mine). Yum – thanks for the inspiration!

  5. La sopa parece muy deliciosa y facil. Gracious por la receta!

    We have been craving and eating a lot of soups and stews with the recent cold snap. I’ll give this one a try as we both love Mexican food. I would eat it constantly if the waist could handle it!

  6. This sounds delicious and looks even better (great photos!). And, I love the calorie count, even with the avocado. I’m thinking that this will be a must-make very soon in this bone chilling Maine weather. Thanks for sharing!

  7. That looks so good – I love the idea of coating the chicken in the taco seasoning first!

  8. That is so weird. I am planning to have Chicken Tortilla soup tonight too. Like Molly, I love the idea of coating the chicken breat in the taco seasoning and grilling it instead of what my recipe calls for which is to cook the chicken any old way and put the taco seasoning in the soup itself. I am definitely going to make that change. In fact, I’m going to try your recipe to see if I need to replace mine with it. Yours looks so fresh! Have to have the avocado–loads of “good” fat calories in those puppies. Thanks for channeling Mexican today!

  9. Great soup! The hubs LOVES tortilla soup, and therefore I have a ton of different varieties, based on what is in the house at the time.

    Actually, I think I may just have the fixin’s to make this tonight!

    Thanks for the inspiration, as always!

    ;) amy

  10. Just when I was wondering what to make for dinner. I have all these ingredients so I will do it up.

    I love Mexican as well. My friends live near a restaurant that has 99 cent margarita specials… yes imagine that!

  11. Yummm! I love tortilla soup but have never found a recipe that tastes quite right to me!! Can’t wait to give yours a try! :)

  12. You know as much as a Mexican food addict that I have been my entire life, I’ve yet to taste a drop of tortilla soup. I’m adding this to my menu planner for next week. Thanks for the recipe.

  13. I made your soup last night for three other couples and my family. It was fabulous. At first I didn’t think it was flavorful enough. But as I ate it I was WRONG! I loved it!! Thanks!

  14. Thank you for posting this recipe. I have to eat gluten-free and so I don’t eat out often. Now that I have this recipe and can make it safely at home. :) I really admire all of your home decor. Thanks for sharing your creativity with me.


  15. I made this recipe last week– big hit! Enough leftover to freeze– keep the recipe posts coming :)

  16. I have a question: did I miss it or at what point are the diced tomatoes added? I’m guessing when the tomato paste & carrots are added? I’m going to make this soup tonight – it looks so yummy!

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