Chicken tortilla soup is a fiery and cozy way to warm your bones and fill your belly with all the good things. Classically, this Mexican soup is made with a simple blend of roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies, and fried tortillas for a spicier version of chicken soup for the soul.
Tortilla Soup Ingredients
This tortilla soup is a more vegetable-packed take on the classic and is filled with vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, and organic chicken.
The base of the soup is a blend of chopped onion, garlic, green bell pepper, and celery. These humble beginnings, as some like to refer to them, are aromatics that help to give flavor and depth to the dish.
Many meals, across different cultures, begin as simple chopped up vegetables, which help to infuse flavor to any dish. Called mirepoix in France and soffrito in Italy, the chopped up combination of celery, onion, and carrot give taste complexity to recipes.
Even in the U.S., there is the holy trinity of Cajun cooking made up of onion, celery, and green bell pepper. In his 2013 book “Cooked,” Michael Pollan writes: “It is the precise combination of these chopped-up plants that usually gives a pot dish its characteristic flavor and cultural identity.”
In this tortilla soup, our humble beginnings are mixed with flavorful garlic and poblano pepper and roasted tomatoes blended with roasted crisp corn tortillas. Spices, such as cilantro, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper make this tortilla soup even more flavorful.
Tortilla Soup Kitchen Prep
Using organic rotisserie chicken is a convenient way to create this tortilla soup in no time at all. Head to your local supermarket to find a rotisserie chicken that’s organic, meaning it wasn’t given hormones or antibiotics. Whole Foods Market’s organic rotisserie chicken uses minimal ingredients and is a high-quality source of chicken.
With a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, you can simply shred the chicken and add it to the tortilla soup. The leftovers can be used for future recipes throughout the week (like tacos!) and the bones can be saved for homemade bone broth in your slow cooker.
You’ll also need a sharp knife to chop the vegetables, a high-speed blender to blend the roasted tomatoes and corn tortillas, and a large soup pot to cook. Make sure to have cooked beans ready to go ahead of time; batch cooking beans for the week is a smart idea. If time does not permit, you can purchase cooked organic beans from a BPA-free can or cardboard container and drain and rinse well before use.
The Julia Childs of Mexican cooking, Diana Kennedy knows a thing or two about good chicken tortilla soup. Author of “The Cuisines of Mexico, The Tortilla Book, Mexican Regional Cooking, My Mexico,” and more, Kennedy calls tortilla soup “a sort of soul food soup.”
This soul soup has somewhat unknown origins (some say it’s from Mexico City, while others say central Mexico) and the ingredients vary from bowl to bowl. Richard McGary, chef and food blogger of REM Cooks agrees, “If you haven’t noticed before, there are so many different recipes for tortilla soup. It seems like everywhere you go there is a different recipe.”
“Some people make chicken soup topped with sour cream, fried tortillas, diced tomatoes and diced avocados. Others claim their authentic recipe includes shredded lettuce and green chilies,” says McGary.
Mexican authority, Kennedy says, “To be really authentic, the soup should have only a little white onion, raw not cooked, blended with roasted tomato.”
Authentic or not, this bowl of chicken tortilla soup is definitely a spicy way to warm up.
Photos by Kate Gavlick