Introduction: Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup

About: Let's skip the pretentious titles. At present, I am a paper pusher. In the remainder of my life, I am a mother of two handsome grown men, a wife to a very patient man, a nana of two precious grandchildren, c…

As Winter approaches, cooler temperatures bring culinary opportunities to warm the kitchen, and comfort our appetites.

This is truly one of the easiest soups to throw together. Easily altered, you don't have to stick to the exact recipe. In fact, this soup was the end result of picking five recipes from various cookbooks, then combining them to make a soup my family loves.

Don't feel bad about changing the recipe. It is a great one to use when you're cleaning out the refrigerator and raiding the pantry. If you are lucky enough to have fresh Hatch green chiles, corn on the cob, tomatoes from your garden, then by all means, use fresh. Heck, toss a bit of squash in there while you're at it, maybe a carrot.

This soup is so simple! Other than baking a chicken breast in an oven for a bit, and a small amount of prepping, the entire soup is created by means of dumping, adding and stirring. It is easily remembered as followed:

6 spices

6 cans / cartons of vegetables and broth

6 fresh vegetables


Tortilla chips or strips

Full and hearty, the recipe can be amended with lower sodium ingredients for a more healthy soup.Yes, it is pretty much Chicken Tortilla soup, but maybe you don't want tortilla strips in your soup, so we'll call them a garnish in the end.

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients and Equipment

To make this particular recipe, you will need the ingredients listed, as well as a large pot in which to cook it all.

Shopping list:


  • 2 Bell peppers
  • 1 onion (yellow or white will be fine)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 poblano


  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Table salt

CANNED, bottled or cartoned GOODS

  • 10 oz. can of Original Rotel
  • 11 oz. can of white corn, drained
  • 15 oz. can of black beans, which you will later drain and rinse
  • 28 oz. can of crushed, diced, or whole tomatoes, do not drain. If you choose whole canned tomatoes, you may wish to dice them. Note that since you will be using a large can of tomatoes, the flavor will count towards the taste of the soup, so use the good stuff, if you can, they could make or break the soup!
  • 32 oz. carton of low sodium chicken broth
  • 10 oz. can of green chiles - whole, then diced, or diced to begin with
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Crunchy tortilla strips or chips


  • 3-4 raw, boneless chicken breast halves

* You may also use 2 cups of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken and omit this prep step *

Our local meat market always mentions the fact that a 'breast' is technically two halves, so if you ask for 3-4 of them, you may be given enough chicken to feed a crew!

Another great idea, instead of chicken, make tiny meatballs for the soup.

Additional items needed include the following equipment:

A soup ladle

Wooden spoon or other item for stirring

A knife

A cutting board

Measuring spoons

Measuring cups

A baking sheet

Can opener

Colander (Ha! I could have sworn 'colander' was spelled with two Ls.

Step 2: Prep the Spices

Gather all of the spices and measure out the following:

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of chili powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (*) See note about sodium below

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander

1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I lay on the grinder with a heavy hand)

Mix all of the spices together into a bowl, and set aside. You will be sprinkling about half of the spice mix on the chicken as instructed in step 3, and reserving the remaining spice for adding to the vegetables as you saute them per step 6.

Step 3: Prep and Bake the Chicken

Prep the chicken:

  • 3-4 raw, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Olive oil (yes, you can substitute vegetable oil)
  • Baking sheet
  • Mixed spices from step 2


Pour a tablespoon or two of olive or vegetable oil on a baking sheet. Remove all skin from chicken breast, place breasts on a baking sheet and swirl them around to coat them with the oil. Sprinkle just a bit of the seasonings from step #2 on both sides of the chicken, reserving the remaining spices. Bake at 350-375 degrees until chicken is completely cooked, or a meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Turn off oven, set aside to cool. You will be creating the soup while the chicken bakes and cools.

Optional cooking method for chicken:Cut raw chicken breast into small cubes, sprinkle with part of the spices, and cook on a stove top with a bit of oil in the pot. When cooked, set chicken aside, or refrigerate until you are ready to make the soup.

Step 4: Prep the Veggies

Vegetable prep work:

1 medium or large onion - peeled and diced

3-4 cloves of garlic - peeled and finely minced

1 whole jalapeno pepper - remove stems and veins, dice. I leave in the seeds for the look, and the bit of heat they offer. A grapefruit spoon makes life a lot easier when removing the inner ribs of a jalapeno.

1/2 cup poblano pepper - stemmed, deveined, and diced (substitution: 1/2 cup green bell pepper)

* 1/2 cup red bell pepper - stemmed, deveined, and diced.

* 1/2 cup orange or yellow bell pepper - stem removed, deveined, and diced

* Easy work can be made of dicing the peppers. Simply cut each pepper in half, stem and all. This will leave a handle for bending backwards, which will help to remove the seed pod and pith. Lie the cut pepper on a cutting board, and remove the top and bottom of the pepper, squaring it up. Turn the shiny side down, and slide a knife blade under the veins of the pepper to remove. Now you have a nice, square piece of pepper to dice up.

Combine the diced peppers into one container, and set aside.

Step 5: Gather the Canned Goods

Be sure to wash or wipe off the top off all the canned goods.

You never know where which fingers have been, and all over the top of your groceries!

Canned goods: (Cans that are clearly labeled BPA free would be ideal)

  • Green chiles / chilies
  • Original Rotel
  • White corn
  • Black beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Chicken broth

I find that it is easiest to dump the black beans into a colander, rinse them with cool, clean water, then dump the corn on top of the black beans to further drain while you gather the other ingredients.

(*) There is an ongoing feud regarding the spelling of chiles / chilies. New Mexicans would say there IS a difference, but we won't get too excited if you spell it one way or another.

Step 6: Saute the Veggies...

Cooking over medium heat, in the bottom of a large soup pot or heavy Dutch oven, drizzle a bit of olive or vegetable oil. Add the diced garlic. Once the garlic has begun to sizzle, add the onions, and the rest of the prepped fresh vegetables, and sprinkle with the leftover seasonings from the chicken breast.

Step 7: Time to Combine

When the smell of the spices fill the air, (only a moment or two) add all of the items in cans or cartons.

Add the diced green chiles, canned tomatoes, Rotel, chicken broth, and don't forget about the corn and beans that are draining in the sink. Remember, six ingredients. Rinse out the cans, and add them to your recycling bin.

Lower the heat to medium low, stir and allow to cook while you shred the chicken.

Step 8: Shred the Chicken

Shredding the chicken:

When the baked chicken is cool enough to handle, cut the chicken into cubes if you wish, or shred the chicken by using two forks, pulling at the breast with the forks in opposite directions to create shredded pieces. If you become frustrated with the forks, just yank the chicken apart with your fingers. We won't judge.

Step 9: Add the Chicken to the Soup, and Stir Well

Bring the shredded chicken back into play, and add it to the soup. Reduce the temperature, stir well, put the lid on the soup, and wash any dishes you may have used during prep. Occasionally stir the soup.

After the soup has simmered for about 30 minutes, give it another stir, and ladle into serving bowls.

Step 10: Top With Garnish, and Serve!

Serve when hot, sprinkling any of the following tidbits on top for a beautiful presentation. I must say, cheese, tortilla strips or chips, and sliced avocado work fine for me!

Optional garnishes:

Fresh avocado

Grated cheese (suggested cheeses: sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Monterey)

Fresh diced onions

Crumbled tortilla chips or strips

Freshly ground black pepper

A sprinkle of fresh cilantro

A dollop of sour cream

Bon appetit!

Step 11: A Note About Sodium

* A note about sodium.

My husband loves the salt shaker. No matter what I cook, his habit is to grab the shaker before even trying the food, but we've been working on this. I was very surprised that he not only tried the soup first, but then only added a little bit of salt. This is saying a lot, especially for someone with such tainted taste buds. We could all use a little less salt.

Though low-sodium chicken broth is used in this recipe, there is still plenty of sodium / salt in the soup. Consider lower sodium beans and perhaps even lower sodium tomatoes if you are watching your salt intake. If you just can't live without it, you can always salt your own bowl of soup instead of the entire pot. Not everyone enjoys that much salt. :-)