Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1/2-inch by 2-inch strips
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • 4 corn tortillas, preferably stale or at least dry, halved crosswise and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 dried chili (such as pasilla), stemmed, seeded, and seeds squeezed out through the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice


  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic cloves and chopped cilantro, and saute until golden brown, making sure the mixture does not burn, for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a blender or a food processor, combine the vegetables from the pan with the drained tomatoes and blend until smooth.
  3. In the same frying pan heat, over medium-high heat, warm the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the tomato-vegetable mixture and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and darkened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture into a large saucepan, and add the chicken stock. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally or until it is slightly thickened. Add the chicken slices and simmer for another 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through. Taste for seasoning.
  5. While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: To toast the tortilla strips and chili: Heat the oven to 400 F. Place the tortilla strips and the dried chili on a baking sheet, spread them evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until crisp and beginning to brown. (Don’t let the chili burn). Let the chili cool and then crumble and set aside. Reserve for the garnish.

To Serve

Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Divide the tortilla strips, crumbled chili, cilantro, avocado, cheese and lime juice evenly among each bowl. Serve immediately.


  • Try to find fresh, handmade tortillas for a more authentic flavor. Cut them as below and dry them out by leaving them on the counter for an hour before cooking.
  • The tortillas are toasted here to avoid using extra fat. If you wish, you can fry the tortilla strips in vegetable oil for a richer result. To fry the tortillas heat about 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Drop a tortilla strip in the oil and see if it begins to fry. If so, drop handfuls of tortilla strips in the oil and fry, turning with tongs, until crisp and brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • For the cheese, select the traditional queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack. For an extra kick, try Manchego, with its slightly nutty flavor, or Cotija, a dried, sharp, aged cheese similar to Pecorino Romano, sometimes called “The Parmesan of Mexico.”
  • To make this vegetarian: Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock, omit the chicken and add some chopped carrots and zucchini to the soup.
  • Choose a dried chili that will add the right amount of heat for you. If you want extra heat, try a chipotle or ancho chile.


Makes 4 servings.

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