Every year around this time, I find myself craving tortilla soup. It’s simple, warming, and spicy. It’s the perfect thing to make after Thanksgiving when you never want to cook again but you also don’t want to eat leftovers or takeout for the rest of your life.
This soup comes together in less than an hour and it relies on some basics that you probably have in your pantry and fridge. It does require cooked chicken, but that could really be any variety. If you have leftover rotisserie chicken, shred it and throw it in. If not, you can do what I did and salt and roast some chicken breasts in the oven for about thirty minutes, and then shred them afterward.
Whatever your plan of attack is, don’t stress because the real star of this show is the tortilla chips. Some people like to use real tortillas in their tortilla soup, but I’m a fan of chips. I like to take a big handful, crumble them up, and throw them on top of the soup. There’s something about this bit of theatrics that makes the soup all the more thrilling to eat.
Plus, tortillas can get soggy. I’ve seen a tortilla soup recipe that calls for blending a spiced, boiled stock with pieces of cut of tortillas, and that sounds kind of gross to me, and it’s way too much work. Tortilla chips get soft in the broth but not too soft, so the texture is still on point.
You can get creative with toppings but I like fresh chopped cilantro, scallions, sour cream, lime, and avocado. You can also add more cheese on top (the soup calls for mixing in a lot of shredded cheese before it’s done).
Whatever you do, don’t skip the chips. You probably wouldn’t do that because why would you…it’s tortilla soup. But invest in higher quality chips-maybe the restaurant variety, or something on the same level. Make sure they’re corn tortilla chips. The flavor will pair much better than flour tortilla chips.
Here’s a song to get you started on your tortilla soup journey. Spotify Wrapped was just posted yesterday and I took a deep dive through my top songs of 2021. I still can’t believe not a single Kacey Musgraves song was listed in my top five, considering that I listened to her album on repeat pretty much every hour for a week, but maybe there’s an issue with the algorithm. In any case, here’s one of my favorites.
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
5 oz freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
quarter of a pound of cooked and shredded chicken
diced avocado, crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, lime, and chopped fresh cilantro for topping
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. When it’s hot, stir in the onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes, or until the onion softens. Pour in the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce it to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer the mixture for five minutes.
Stir in the cheddar cheese a handful at a time until it’s melted. Stir in the chicken. Cook the soup on low until it’s heated through. Serve with lots of tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, lime, and chopped fresh cilantro. Enjoy!