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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
  • ·
  • 4
    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

How to Make Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings


  1. Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen.
  2. Lacking 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.
  3. Break 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.)
  4. Heat the oil in a medium (3- to 4-quart) saucepan over medium-high.
  5. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes.
  6. Scoop 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.
  7. Process until smooth.
  8. Raise the heat under the pan to medium-high.
  9. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  11. Taste and season with about a teaspoon of salt (amount depends on the saltiness of the broth).
  12. Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth.
  13. Divide the avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips among serving bowls.
  14. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls.
  15. Garnish with a lime wedge.
  16. A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile

    Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacán, it's ancho chile.
  17. In 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).
  18. In 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.

Printable Recipe Card

About Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings

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

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