Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

I wait all year for the weather to turn just the slightest bit of cold to bust out my soup pots.
Yes, I said pots…as in plural. What can I say? I love me some soup. My hands down absolute favorite kind??
Chicken Tortilla Soup!

I adore this stuff! I love the cheesy, thick, Americanized stew-like tortilla soup they sell at chain restaurants as well as the clear, spicy broth-like soup  you find at little Mexican restaurant hole-in-the-walls.
It’s actually one of the first things that I learned to “cook” in college.  My first encounter with this recipe came from an old home & garden magazine I was reading in my dentists’ office titled, “Five-Can Tortilla Soup”. 
I figured this was one recipe I could handle since  all I had in my cupboard at 21 was cans of food. I tore out the recipe from the magazine & hid it in my pocket thinking that the “dentist police” were for sure watching me & I would be banned from the office without getting my root canal. Guess what? Turns out no one gives a damn about a page of an old magazine when they are about to charge you $200+ to drill holes in your face. Lesson.  Learned. Still, I felt like a rebel & took my wrinkled recipe home with me feeling quite content that I got one over on that dental masochist.  I actually think I still have that recipe in a box somewhere… I keep it as proof to my children that their mom was once a bad ass ninja recipe thief. After I ended my crime spree, I started working on making what was an OK generic recipe into a delicious concoction of spices, chicken, fresh & canned veggies & fried tortillas. And so here is the fruit of my labor…no law breaking needed.

Ok, I usually make it a rule to NOT show you guys
raw chicken because quite frankly, birds scare me & raw chicken makes me shudder…buuuut I thought it was important to show what making homemade chicken broth looks like.  It looks like this…Got it? Good….Moving on.
Once the “broth” boils & the chicken cooks through, remove the chicken & place it on a plate to let it cool a little.  Strain the broth through a wire strainer to remove the jalapeno, onion, bay leaves & garlic as well as any additional “fat” that has come to the top of the broth.  I find straining it is easier than trying to pick everything out of steaming hot broth with a fork…trust me…I have the burns to prove it. I like to use shredded chicken for this recipe instead of cutting it into chunks because it tends to fall apart anyways so the bite-sized pieces tend to get lost in the soup.  I think the best thing about this soup is that it’s chunky & every spoonful has a good amount of chicken in it.  We don’t do skinny soup ’round here.  It might appear that this recipe has a ton of veggies in it but actually I only use 4 fresh ingredients!  The rest of the flavor will develop from the broth, spices & canned ingredients.  Now do you see why it’s a college-friendly meal?? If you couldn’t already tell, I love to use some mixture of these spices in just about everything I make.  The only real thing that varies is the amounts of these spices I add.  This is my smoky taco seasoning mix that I use in not only this soup but also in my taco meat & fajitas.  I usually make myself a blend in a ziplock baggie & keep it in my pantry for a quick weeknight meal. It’s even easier to put together a meal if you double the shredded chicken & sauté it up with this spice mix for an easy chicken taco 2nd day meal! Saute the vegetables with the spices & you are halfway done with the soup! It’s really that easy! It’s right about here that the smells of delicious happenings begin to fill up the house & my fiancé starts poking his head into the kitchen. It’s also about this time that I recruit him to fry up some tortilla strips.  Don’t butt in when I’m cookin’ because I will put you to work! Add the broth back into the pot along with the rest of the canned beans, corn, tomatoes, additional oregano, salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil.Add the chicken, cilantro to the broth & adjust any salt/spice levels at this point.  Reduce the heat to low, cover & simmer while you prep the tortilla strips…or your very cute, bearded live-in fry-cook expert preps the tortilla strips.To make the tortilla strips, cut the tortillas into 1-inch wide strips.  To make sure they fit in the bowl when it’s served, I cut the strips in half before again before I fry them. Add about 2 inches of oil to a frying pan (about 1-2 cups). Heat oil over medium-high heat & once the oil is hot enough, you can add enough tortillas to cover the bottom of the pan in one single layer of strips.  Too many strips all crowded in the pan will make some of the strips fry & burn while some won’t fry at all.  TIP: Make sure that the oil is hot enough before you add the tortillas to it. Otherwise, you will get soggy, oily strips & that’s not the taste that we are going for here. I don’t really use a thermometer, I just turn the heat up to medium-high, wait about 3 minutes, then throw a test strip into the oil to see if it bubbles & fries.  I’m so scientific, I know. Take out the fried strips using a slotted metal spatula & place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain any residual oil. HINT: Take out the tortillas when they are lightly golden brown because they will continue cooking & they WILL burn.  Once the tortilla strips are ready, you can add them directly to the soup pot or you can add them to the soup bowls directly.  I like to fry the tortilla strips first because I think they keep their crunch for longer than if you were just to add them straight out of the package.     Garnish with onion, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, sour cream, cheese…I could really go on  & on about the delicious possibilities but I’m hungry now. 


Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 1 lb uncooked boneless chicken breast (about 2 breasts)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried mexican oregano
  • 1 Tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 large onion piece (about 1/4 of a medium onion, left whole)
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed, left whole
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped (use any color or combination of colors of pepper, your choice!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, diced
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin (some people like the taste of cumin, some don't...again, your choice!)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle pepper powder (you can also use mexican hot sauce to add some spice but I like the smokiness that chipotle adds!)
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • salt to taste (amounts will vary based on your personal taste, so taste your soup!!)
  • 1 tsp mexican oregano
  • 1-15oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1-15oz can corn, drained & rinsed
  • 1-15 oz can diced roasted tomatoes w/ juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, stems removed & chopped
  • 4 corn tortillas. cut into strips
  • 2 cups canola or vegetable oil, for frying tortillas
  • Chopped cilantro, avocado, diced onion, sour cream, limes, cotija or shredded jack cheese


  1. Place water, uncooked chicken, bay leaves, 1 jalapeño, large piece of onion, chicken bouillon, pinch of salt & pepper & Mexican oregano into a large stock pot. Boil until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  2. Strain & reserve the broth, discarding garlic, jalapeño, onion & bay leaves. Remove chicken & place on a separate plate.
  3. Using two forks, pull chicken apart to shred. Set aside.
  4. To make soup, place stock pot over medium-high heat adding olive oil once the pot is hot. Add bell pepper, onion, jalapeño & garlic to pot. Sauté for 1 minute.
  5. Add spices (granulated garlic, onion powder, cumin, chipotle powder, salt & pepper) & continue to cook until onions are clear & peppers begin to soften slightly.
  6. Add reserved chicken broth to vegetables in the pot. Add shredded chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, oregano & cilantro to soup & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low & continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. While the soup is simmering, prepare the tortilla strips. Place a medium frying pan with about 2 cups of oil (just enough to fill the pan about 2 inches full) over medium-high heat. While the oil heats up, cut tortillas into 1-inch strips.
  8. Once the oil is hot enough, place enough strips to create a single layer in the pan. I usually test the oil by first dropping a strip into the oil & seeing if it starts to bubble & fry. If it doesn't, then just wait another couple of minutes. Do not let oil heat to the point of smoking, it will burn your tortillas & not to mention your arms & face!
  9. Fry strips until light golden brown, remove from oil with a slotted metal spatula & place on a place lined with a paper towel to drain. Don't worry if the strips are not a deep golden brown when you remove them, they will continue to brown as they drain.


  1. Kristin says:

    Made your soup last night for a surprise birthday party dinner. The soup received rave reviews! As white as I am, three people asked me if I was “Latina” and one guest said it was the best Chicken Tortilla Soup he’s ever had. Thanks for sharing!

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