How To Make a Chicken Tortilla Soup From Scratch

Learn how to make chicken tortilla soup from scratch using wholesome ingredients. Stay true to traditional cooking methods and flavors, creating a genuine culinary experience that transports you straight to the heart of Mexico. 

A bowl of chicken tortilla soup on a plate with some corn chops and limes on the side.
Photo Credit: AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock.

Perfectly topped with crispy tortilla strips, cheese, and avocado, this homemade chicken soup is a fiesta of deliciousness in every spoonful. 

Let your taste buds dance with these easy-to-follow instructions for a hearty, comforting bowl of chicken tortilla soup made with love.

What Is Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup is a popular Mexican-inspired recipe made with chicken and crispy tortilla chips. It has a tomato-based broth seasoned with chili peppers and various herbs, giving it a flavorful and slightly spicy taste.

One of the main features of chicken tortilla soup is the addition of crispy tortilla strips that are either added directly to the soup or served on the side for dipping and garnishing. The chips add a delightful crunch and texture to the soup.

The tortilla soup with chicken is often served with garnishes such as cheese, avocado slices, fresh cilantro, sour cream, and lime juice, enhancing its taste and presentation.


The origins of the chicken tortilla soup recipe can be traced back to Mexico, where it is called sopa de tortilla. This comforting and fulfilling soup has deep roots in Mexican culinary traditions.

Tortilla-based soups have a long history in Mexican cuisine, as corn tortillas have been a staple food in the region for centuries. Traditional Mexican cooking often incorporates corn tortillas in various forms, such as in soups, stews, and as a base for chilaquiles.

Even though the soup’s exact origin story is not well-documented, it likely evolved through regional variations and family recipes. The chicken tortilla soup recipe has gained popularity in Mexico and internationally, showcasing Mexican cuisine’s delicious and comforting flavors to a wider audience.

Why You Should Make Tortilla Soup From Scratch

  • Best flavor: Crafting the soup from scratch allows you to control every ingredient, ensuring a depth of flavor restaurants cannot match. You can customize the broth seasonings, vegetables, and chicken to your liking, resulting in a soup that is perfectly tailored to your taste preferences.
  • Healthier ingredients: By preparing chicken soup at home, you can use fresh, wholesome ingredients and avoid unnecessary additives, preservatives, and excessive sodium commonly found in pre-packaged soups, making your version much healthier and more nutritious.
  • Authenticity: Making chicken tortilla soup from scratch introduces you and your family to the authentic essence of Mexican cuisine. You can stay true to traditional cooking methods and flavors, creating a genuine culinary experience that transports you to the heart of Mexico.
  • Flexibility: While following this basic recipe, making chicken soup from scratch lets you get creative in the kitchen. You can use your favorite gadgets to simplify the cooking process, like a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. You can also experiment with various seasonings and additional ingredients to add your twist and take this tortilla soup recipe to a new level of deliciousness.
  • Cost-effective: Preparing this easy chicken tortilla soup from scratch can be more budget-friendly and cost-effective than going to a restaurant or buying pre-made versions. You can purchase ingredients in larger quantities, ensuring you have leftovers for multiple meals or freezing for later use.
  • Sense of accomplishment: Cooking is a creative process, and following a recipe allows individuals to express their culinary creativity. When a dish turns out well, it gives a sense of accomplishment and pride in creating something delicious and enjoyable.

How To Make Chicken Tortilla Soup

Makes 6-8 servings.

Cooking The Chicken

Place the 2 small chicken breasts, 2 carrots, 1 large onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon salt in a large stock pot. Pour enough water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the chicken for 30-40 minutes or until it is fully cooked and no longer pink inside.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate. Allow chicken to cool down; shred it with your hands or use two forks and reserve for serving. Strain the chicken stock and set aside.

Preparing The Flavorful Tomato-Base Broth

Place the 3 ripe tomatoes cut into chunks, 2 chipotle chili peppers, 2 peeled garlic cloves, and 1 small onion cut into chunks in a blender. Add spices such as cumin powder and oregano according to your taste. Pour 1 ½ cups of the chicken stock you reserved before and blend until you have a smooth sauce. Strain the sauce into a bowl to remove any remaining solid bits.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat. Carefully pour the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add 5-6 cups of the chicken broth you reserved before to the pot. Mix well, adjust salt if needed, and bring to a simmer. 

Cook the soup for 5-7 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Once done, turn the heat to the lowest to keep the soup hot for serving.

Make The Crunchy Tortilla Chips

Take a stack of 8 homemade corn tortillas and align them neatly on top of each other to ensure even cutting. Cut the stacked tortillas in half horizontally using a sharp knife, creating two semi-circles. 

Take one of the half-tortillas and place it on a cutting board with the flat side down. Then, use the knife to cut the tortilla into thin strips. The width of the strips can be adjusted based on your preference, but they are typically around ¼ to ½ inch wide. Continue the same process to make all the tortilla strips you need for the soup.

Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the tortilla strips until they are crispy and golden. Remember to drain the excess oil on a paper towel after frying.

How To Serve

Serve the soup: Ladle the hot chicken soup into individual serving bowls. Fill each bowl about two-thirds full to leave space for the toppings.

Add the toppings: Invite your guests to customize their bowls of soup with their preferred toppings. Here’s a suggested order for adding the toppings:

  • Tortilla chips: Add a handful of crispy homemade tortilla strips to each bowl. The chips will add a delicious crunch and texture to each spoonful.
  • Chicken: Sprinkle some of the shredded cooked chicken over the tortilla strips. This adds protein and heartiness to the soup.
  • Cheese: Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese over the chicken. The warmth of the soup will help melt the cheese, adding creaminess and flavor.
  • Sliced avocado: Add a few slices of fresh avocado to each bowl. The creamy and buttery avocado complements the soup’s spiciness.
  • Cilantro: Scatter some chopped fresh cilantro over the top. The herbaceous flavor of cilantro enhances the overall taste of the soup. You can also add a few cilantro leaves for presentation.
  • Cream: Place a dollop of Mexican crema or sour cream on top. It balances the spiciness and adds a velvety texture.
  • Fresh chili peppers: For those who enjoy extra heat, you can offer sliced jalapeños or serrano peppers as an optional topping.
  • Add lime juice: Serve each bowl with a lime wedge on the side. Squeezing lime juice into the soup adds a zesty and citrusy kick.
  • Salsa: Place a small bowl of mild guajillo salsa on the table alongside the soup bowls, so guests can add salsa to their servings as desired.

Once the toppings are added, serve the chicken tortilla soup immediately while it’s hot. Encourage everyone to mix the toppings into the soup before enjoying their flavorful and comforting bowl.

How To Store and Reheat

Storing chicken tortilla soup properly is crucial to maintain its quality and safety. Here are the recommended steps to store and reheat the soup properly:

  1. Store all the components separately to keep the ingredients from becoming soggy or losing their texture. 
  2. Allow the chicken soup to cool down to room temperature before storing it. Placing hot soup directly in the refrigerator can raise its internal temperature and potentially spoil other foods.
  3. Once the soup has cooled, transfer the shredded chicken and broth to airtight containers. You can use glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
  4. Place them in the refrigerator and store them for 3-4 days. Or store in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months.
  5. Fried tortilla chips can be stored in a resealable bag at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Thawing and Reheating

When you’re ready to enjoy the soup, you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. For quicker thawing, you can use the microwave defrost setting or place the sealed container in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Once thawed, reheat the soup and the shredded chicken on the stovetop using a saucepan or a pot, then assemble the tortilla soup as instructed before.

Top 3 Tips for Making The Best Tortilla Soup With Chicken

  1. Make the chicken broth: Use homemade chicken broth as the base for your soup. Homemade broth is more flavorful and gives your soup a rich, authentic taste. It takes simple steps, and you can add your favorite seasonings and vegetables to suit your taste preferences. If time is an issue, consider using an Instant Pot to speed up the process.
  2. Use fresh ingredients: Preferably use fresh and high-quality ingredients, such as ripe tomatoes, fresh cilantro leaves, and jalapeños. These fresh ingredients will contribute to the authentic taste of tortilla soup.
  3. Balance spices: Adjust the spices to your taste preferences, but ensure a good balance of flavors. Use cumin, oregano, chili powder, and other seasonings in moderation to avoid overwhelming the soup with one dominant flavor.

Enjoy Your Chicken Tortilla Soup

Making chicken tortilla soup from scratch is a fulfilling and flavorful journey that offers many benefits, from the joy of cooking to the satisfaction of indulging in a bowl of comforting goodness. 

So roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and immerse yourself in the delightful process of creating this beloved and nourishing chicken and tortilla soup recipe. Remember to involve family or friends in the preparation process, and enjoy the soup together. The experience of sharing a homemade meal can create lasting memories and deepen bonds.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

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