Tortilla Soup

Our family loves tortilla soup, and I make it about once a week with a lot of improvisation based on what’s around. Since I taste as I go, it always turns out well, but rarely is one batch of tortilla soup the same as the last. So this weekend I decided to nail down the process and take notes and measurements for the soup. I wrote all the steps as I went along, kind of the same way I’d do if I were developing a recipe for a contest. Success! The soup was great. Or at least by our standards, and I realize everyone’s are different and based on personal preferences etc. In Austin, our favorite places to order tortilla soup are Roaring Fork, Manuel’s (though they changed the name to Sopa de Tres Chiles) and believe it or not, BJ’s Roadhouse. Houston’s (which is now called Bartlett’s in Austin) makes a famous tortilla soup, but it’s on the richer side.

This one’s lighter in the sense that it doesn’t have any cream or cheese. The tortillas thicken the soup, and chicken adds a lot of satisfying protein, though you could just as easily make this vegetarian by leaving it out and using vegetable broth. If you try it, let me know! And if you have a favorite tortilla soup recipe, I’d be interested in hearing that as well. This one doesn’t have any “fire” to it because I typically don’t like mouth numbing food (sinus clearing, yes…mouth numbing, no). So if you want to add that kind of heat, be sure to add your favorite HOT pepper or use a spicy chili powder.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Tortilla Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Easy tortilla soup recipe
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 2-4
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 4 (3 ounces) corn tortillas, chopped (about 3/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3 cups water plus 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Superior Touch Chicken Soup Base *OR* 3 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons carrot baby food
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mild chili powder blend such as Gebhardt or Bolner’s Fiesta
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional -- I never use)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken breast (use more or less)
  • Black pepper and salt to taste (if necessary)
  • Garnish: avocados, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes
  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the oil over medium for about 40 seconds. Add the onions and tortillas and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes, scraping bottom of pot with a spoon.
  3. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of the water or broth. Scrape bottom of pot. If using soup base, add the soup base and stir until it is dissolved. Stir in remaining 2 cups water (or broth).
  4. Continue heating over medium or just below a boil, then add the carrot baby food, cumin, chili powder, honey and the bay leaf. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring often, for about 20-30 minutes or until soup is thick. Add salt and black pepper to taste. About 5 minutes before serving, add the chicken. Alternatively, you can put a big stack of chicken in a bowl, top it with avocados and cheese, then pour the soup around it. Remove the by leaf before serving. Makes about 5 cups.
We don’t add any hot peppers, but if you want heat, add a dash of cayenne or chipotle powder or any type of hot pepper you like. you're serving this for dinner, you'll get enough to feed 2 hungry adults and 1 kid. For lunch or as a side, you could probably serve 4 or 5. If soup is too thick after the last long simmer, thin it with a little extra broth.

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  1. says

    I made your Mexican brownies for Memorial Day, and actually thought: “wow, I hope she doesn’t think I’m really weird, because that is totally not a normal recipe to make for Memorial Day.” However, we seem to be on the same wavelength! You know, I’ve never had tortilla soup or even heard of it (I feel so East Coast). The brownies were very well-received. I did make some minor alterations based upon what I had on hand, but the different textures and flavors were fabulous. I loved the crunchy sugar coating, the fudge brownie, and the chocolate chips (which were cold when I incorporated them, so they didn’t melt much during the baking). Plus the blend of chili-cinnamon-chocolate. Actually, tortilla soup and Mexican brownies sound like a great combo! 🙂

  2. says

    AK, I’m going to hold you to it! Will look for it on your blog ;).

    Sue, thanks. I have to mix things up a little sometimes.

    Mary, I’m so glad you liked the brownies. As for tortilla soup, now that you’ve heard of it you’ll probably see it all over the place. Or at least references to it. Isn’t that the way things go? I recommend ordering it at a restaurant before trying it at home.

  3. says

    Anna, I’ve posted the easiest and tastiest chicken tortilla soup ever! It’s on the lighter side similar to yours. There are no corn tortillas in it to thicken it, but there is rice. If you already have the cooked chicken (I generally use a rotisserie chicken), it takes just a few minutes to throw everything in a pot. The only work involved is chopping an onion and cutting up the chicken and some cilantro at the end. And, even if it took longer, I’d still make it because it’s so good!

  4. Peggy says

    When you say “corn tortillas” are you speaking of corn chips, or the tortillas – as in soft shell tacos?


  5. says

    Hi Peggy,

    They’re corn tortillas. The 6 inch round type which you would use to make enchiladas, flautas or fried taco shells.

  6. says

    Hello from chilly New Zealand! I have NEVER heard of tortilla soup; Mexican restaurants around here tend to stick to tacos, quesadillas and variations thereof so I’m not going to have a chance to taste this before trying it as you suggested, but it sounds like a perfect winter warmer for dinner tomorrow night! Thanks for the recipe :0)

  7. Kim F says

    Hi Anna! I am a huge fan of Tortilla Soup so, when I saw your version, I had to give it a try… I love it. It is unlike other more-brothy versions I’ve tried but I find your version to be very earthy and yummy and a really nice change of pace. I only made a few small changes. I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes in place of the diced tomatoes and I used left over grilled chicken breasts. Good stuff. I love your soup recipes… The Turkey Poblano Soup also here on your blog is AMAZING!

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