All you need to know is that this chicken tortilla soup is the BEST one you will ever make. Period.
There are humbler, heartier versions, with less steps and lots of cut up veggies which I love, although if I make those I usually skip the fried tortilla step and call it “Mexican chicken soup” instead. If I make real deal tortilla soup, this is the only recipe I use. It’s simple but elegant so you can use it for a casual family dinner or entertaining. I find people love it when you have them over for big steamy bowls of soup and this one is special with the chopped grilled chicken, creamy avocado hunks, cilantro, fried corn tortilla strips and a sprinkle of quest fresco, if you have it. It gives you lots to bite into and fill up on even though the soup base itself is just broth.
But don’t underestimate this broth. It’s otherworldly. The recipe was developed by Eva Longoria and chef Todd English for Eva’s LA restaurant, Beso.
One of the best things you can do with a soup like this is start with homemade chicken stock. I know, that’s annoying to hear isn’t it? But when dishes are simple like this, quality matters more than ever. Anytime I make a chicken soup I start by boiling a big whole chicken in water with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. After three hours, I remove the chicken to cool so I can shred it later and use the meat for whatever I’m making that day. Then I strain the stock, and use half for that days soup and freeze the other half for another meal such as this. Because I don’t use shredded chicken in this recipe (although you could) and opt for the grilled version, I need stock handy and ready to go. The real reason this broth is so special though has to do with the ancho chiles. You soften them in hot water, remove the seeds and stem, and then puree in a blender with enough water to make a paste. I use a small magic bullet for this because the job is too small for my big Vitamix blender. If all you have is a big blender, double amount of ancho peppers and use more water to blend. Freeze the leftover paste and use it for next time you make this soup…there will be a next time. Trust me.
When you grill the chicken sprinkle it well with salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, just for a little extra flavor.
Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
adapted from Beso restaurant, Eva Longoria Parker
- 3 dried ancho chile peppers
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 6-8 cups homemade chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 springs fresh thyme
- kosher salt
- 2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
- 3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
- 2 avocados, diced
- fresh cilantro
- 4 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried
- Bring a saucepan of water up to a boil and add the dried peppers in, turn off the heat and cover. Let them soak for 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain the chile’s, and discard the stems and as many seeds as you can. Transfer to a blender and process to make a smooth puree (use some water if needed to loosen up the mixture to help make a paste).
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 1/4 cup chili puree, the coriander seeds and cumin and cook about 5 minutes. Add the broth, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes (I smashed the tomatoes against the pot to break then up a little and let the juice out). Strain the broth through a medium-mesh strainer into another pot, discarding the solids. Season the broth with salt and heat up again ( I needed a lot of salt. If it tastes bland at all, add more salt and it won’t. Salt brings out all the flavor). Divide the chicken, avocado, tortilla strips, cilantro and queso fresco in the center of each bowl, then pour about 1 cup of the hot broth around the garnishes. Add sour cream if desired.
I cut my tortillas into thin strips and fried them in a small skillet in olive oil over medium to med-high heat until crispy.
This soup is not spicy so don’t be afraid to add the whole 1/4 cup of ancho chile paste. In fact I wish it was a smidge spicier, which is why the recipe calls for 6-8 cups of stock. The original recipe calls for 8 cups, which is what I used, but I think it turns out even better when I reduce the broth to 6 cups.