Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings

Raven Higheagle


Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place in practically every collection of Mexican recipes — especially everyday recipes. It's a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony: earthy dark pasilla chile, the softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas, soul-satisfying broth, and creamy-rich avocado and cheese.
Tortilla Soup is the standard by which I judge all Mexican restaurants I visit – Chicken Tortilla Soup. To say that it is my favorite Mexican dish is an understatement. I am extremely critical of the preparation.

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Serves 6
15 Min
30 Min
Stove Top


1 large
dried pasilla (negro) chile (see tip), stemmed and seeded
1 can(s)
15-ounce) diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 Tbsp
vegetable or olive oil
1 medium
white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 clove
garlic, peeled
2 qt
chicken stock
1 large
epazote sprig
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large
ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 c
shredded mexican melting cheese (chihuahua, quesadilla, or asadero)
6 oz
roughly broken tortilla chips
1 large
lime, cut into 6 wedges


1Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen.
2Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.
3Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won't completely puree the chile.)
4Heat the oil in a medium (3- to 4-quart) saucepan over medium-high.
5Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes.
6Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender.
7Process until smooth.
8Raise the heat under the pan to medium-high.
9When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes.
10Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
11Taste and season with about a teaspoon of salt (amount depends on the saltiness of the broth).
12Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth.
13Divide the avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips among serving bowls.
14When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls.
15Garnish with a lime wedge.
16A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile

Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacán, it's ancho chile.
17In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy).
18In Mexico, it's more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as they do in restaurants.

About this Recipe

Course/Dish: Chicken Soups
Main Ingredient: Chicken
Regional Style: Mexican
Other Tags: Quick & Easy, For Kids, Healthy