Thick and Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

The first time I made this soup, it surprised me. At the time, I had an old standby recipe for Southwest Chicken Chili, but my husband asked for something spicier and creamier. I decided to try this unconventional recipe, using corn tortillas as a thickener.

The soup looks unremarkable on the stove, but upon tasting it, my husband claimed it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. Ever. By the time we’d finished the entire batch, we’d decided to add it to the regular rotation. Many years later, we still consider this a Mainstay Signature recipe that we still enjoy on a regular basis.

If you have a delicate palate like mine, the cayenne might seem intimidating, but it has grown on me. The cream and sour cream balance the heat, and the depth of flavor is addicting!

TIP: You can always thicken this soup with traditional Masa Harina, but corn tortillas can be easier to find in certain parts of the world, and they work great! You can adjust the thickness of the soup by adjusting the number of tortillas you use.

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thick and Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
(Original recipe: Chowhound)

2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 C chicken broth
1 C water
1/2 C passata or tomato puree
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into chunks
1/2 C heavy cream
1 TBSP chopped fresh chives
1 ripe avocado, cut into large chunks
Shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar recommended)
Sour cream
Crushed tortilla chips to top

Saute onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper in large saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, water, tomatoes, salt, and pepper; stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cut tortillas pieces, and stir to combine. Simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Use a handheld mixer to blend until smooth.

Add the heavy cream, cooked chicken, and chives. Simmer until heated through. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve the soup topped with chunks of fresh avocado, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and a dollop of sour cream.

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