chicken tortilla soup

When I was in college my mom sent me a DVD of a movie called Tortilla Soup, and to this day I still don’t really know why.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was really into cooking even then, and I was taking a few culinary courses for my degree, but as far as I understand it my love of cooking was reason enough for Mom to think I’d LOVE a movie about soup. She’d apparently rented it, liked it, and since it was about cooking, thought I’d like it too. Rather than telling me to rent it for myself though, she bought a copy and mailed it to me.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’d never heard of the film, and having lived a pretty culturally sheltered life, I’d never heard of the soup either. It took me a while to get around to actually watching it, and when I did I found it pretty unremarkable. I liked it okay, and I told mom so, but I never watched it again and today I have little memory of what it was even about (besides soup).

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few years ago, when I started my first recipe based pinterest board, I started seeing recipes pop up for this soup that I’d largely forgotten all about. Suddenly my interest in the soup (but not the film) was sparked anew. The only problem was that whenever I clicked on any of the recipes, most of them called for loads of canned ingredients and seasoning packets and other fun concoctions loaded with sodium. While the idea of the soup sounded good, the recipes I was seeing never looked good enough to bother.

Then, earlier this summer the siren song of New York’s Green Markets got the better of me and I suddenly found myself wanting to put sweet corn and tomatoes and peppers in everything. It seemed like the time was just right and I needed to finally make it happen. I searched the internets for tortilla soup FROM SCATCH (I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do this before) and finally found one that sounded great.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

The first recipe I tried was overflowing with tons of vegetables and only called for one canned ingredient: crushed tomatoes. I know it’s tomato season right now but I really hate peeling them so I’ll save the fresh ones for tomato sandwiches and reach for the can when it comes to soups.

Anyway, this soup was absolutely delicious but the torn corn tortillas used for thickening didn’t break down enough for me and just seemed kind soggy and weird. I mentioned this to a friend who, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be a tortilla soup connoisseur. She told me that she’d recently learned the trick to making what was now her favorite “authentic” tortilla soup. I assumed this would be some time tested family recipe handed down through generations and just passed on to her by her great aunt, but when I asked for the recipe instead of a stained and faded recipe card she sent me an email with a link. A link to a recipe from ABC’s “The Chew”.
Say what?

The main difference here is that rather than just tearing and tossing the tortillas in to the soup to break down and thicken, they’re ground up in a blender with some stock and onions. That would definitely solve the soggy tortilla chunk issue, and would probably make for a thicker soup, so I decided to give it a go. If it was good enough for my friend, it was good enough for me.

Rather than just using the recipe as is though, I decided to just steal the thickening technique and use it along with all the fresh veggies from my first recipe.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Oh boy oh boy. This recipe sure is a keeper. I definitely see why someone might want to make this in the slow cooker in the dead of winter using a bunch of canned goods and salt, but you’ll never beat how amazing this soup can be when made with super fresh ingredients in the height of summer. By the way, this is a perfect way to put some of your end-of-summer produce to good use.

The soup itself is rich, hearty, and loaded with fresh vegetables. The broth is thick and tomatoey, with just a touch of heat from the jalapeño. A squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkle of chopped cilantro really add a wonderful brightness to everything.

I know most people like to finish tortilla soup with grated cheese and sour cream, but I think a few slices of ripe creamy avocado are all that’s needed to make this soup feel rich and decadent. Of course, the crunch of a few crispy tortilla strips can’t hurt either.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from “The Chew”

olive oil
2 to 3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed with a sharp knife
2 medium bell peppers, seeded and diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
4 carrots, sliced into thin disks
Salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, divided
9 to 10 corn tortillas, divided
6 cups of chicken stock
one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 to 3 cups of pulled or cubed cooked chicken
lime wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil a large heavy bottom stock pot or dutch oven. Add corn kernels, celery, carrot, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes. or until vegetables are beginning to soften and get some color in the pan. Transfer to a bowl and set aside, scraping everything out of the pan.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan and add onion, garlic, jalapeño, & cumin. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves and sauté for 5 minutes more, or until onions are soft and translucent.

Scrape onion mixture into the pitcher of a powerful blender and add about 1 cup of chicken stock and 3 to 4 torn up corn tortillas (depending on how thick you want the soup). Purée the mixture until well blended and free of lumps. Transfer back to the pan and heat until it bubbles and just begins to thicken. Add crushed tomato, chicken stock, and cooked vegetables from before. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cooked chicken and cook for 10 minutes more.

While soup simmers you can make your tortilla strips by slicing 6 remaining tortillas into strips and crisping in a cast iron skillet over high heat with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir very frequently and try to promote even browning. Once well browned and crisp transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Alternatively, you could just crunch up a few tortilla chips.

Serve the soup with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a sprinkle of torn cilantro leaves, a few cubes or slices or avocado, and a few tortilla strips.



  1. Sounds great. I love soup. This confused me: “1 cup of chicken strips” in the blender. I wonder if you meant chicken stock. If you’re out of season for good quality corn, it would be easy to substitute frozen. If bell peppers disagree with you (burp!) those could be left out. If it’s winter and you want to turn it into a stew, hominy would be a good add. This is one I’d vary each time I made depending on veggies on hand. Thanks for the tip on thickening. I wouldn’t have thought to do that with the tortillas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right Melanie! Thanks for catching that chicken stock typo- I guess that’s what I get for staying up past my bedtime trying to edit! It’s fixed now.
      And thanks for that hominy stew idea – I might have to try that!


  2. Tux!!! You’re killing me! It is way to hot still for soups and I am dying to make some. This looks like a wonderful soup. I never saw that movie. I wanna see it just out of curiosity…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I know Debbie! I made this last week when we had a few cool days, and of course now that I’m posting it we’re back to 90+ degree days too. Tomorrow it’ll be September though. It’ll be soup weather again very soon.
      As for the movie- please don’t take this post as an endorsement! hahaha! If you do watch it you’ll have to let me know what you think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. C’mon Fall!!!! I understood the movie was part of your inspiration (I probably sound like I promote a lot of stuff too) just looks like my kind of movie and I really like one of the actresses in it. Have a great week! :)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I very much enjoy chicken tortilla soup, and this recipe looks delicious! I used to make one very similar to this; my recipe includes pinto beans and a little adobo sauce to give it a little boost in the flavor department! But I’ve never thickened it with tortilla. I think using masa (which is what corn tortillas are made of) is the traditional way and I’ve been meaning to try it out… I’ll have to give this recipe a whirl! Thanks Tux!\

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tux, the soup sounds delicious, hearty even though its 90 degrees outside. I make a Beef Tortilla soup that is a hit also. The only difference is beef -vs- chicken! Woo Hoo! Keep baking and cooking, best to Russell and the girls. Your Florida Bud, Cheryl.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks amazing!!! Tortilla soup is definitely a staple in our house; it’s one of the first things I learned how to make, but sadly my version uses quite a few canned vegetables, so I can’t wait to try this! And i feel like it’s a great transition soup, because it has some summer flavors but is warm and hearty.

    Definitely going to track down Tortilla Soup the movie – if it’s anything like Mystic Pizza I’m sure I’ll love it lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so funny that so many people know it so well and it was so unfamiliar to me… until now! I think it’ll be a staple in our house too, and it’s so easy to change up depending on what’s in season.
      As for the movie- I hope you like it but please don’t take my mentioning it as an endorsement! I can’t be held responsible if you don’t love it! hahahaha!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well I don’t want to rain on your heat wave ;), but we are still having the perfect weather for this here, -1 overnight to about 13C during the day (30 to 55F) and I’ve even just turned the leftovers of a roast into chicken stock – thanks Tux :)

    Liked by 1 person

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