Best Tortilla Soup Ever!

000_0054This weekend we were hosting the occasional home brewers’ group to do some, uh, home brewing. The brewers get started mid day, and generally the families join in the event a few hours later. I figured that doing some dinner would be comforting and had visions of soup and sammies dancing in my head. But, here in California, that quickly became Tortilla Soup and Quesadillas. Yum!

Tortilla soup is a staple in mi casa, with a batch prepared about once a month during the soup season. This time I was ready to play around with it. I started with some research, from my tried and true slow cooker version, to another barely more than broth with chicken and tortillas, and yet another in the “everything but the kitchen sink” soup variety. My mood was leaning towards something a bit leaner than my usual, but still needing a few items from the kitchen sink recipes. How can someone NOT include some black beans and corn in tortilla soup? That would just be wrong!

Lucky for me, the peppers and onions were fresh from a local farm stand. While a few tomatoes can still be found ’round here, I went for the canned variety as the freshies are not so reliable lately.

For our brewers’ gathering, I made huge amounts of this, so here is the scaled back recipe. This makes enough for a hungry family of 4 with left overs for lunch the next day.


1 TBS vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, roughly diced

1 TBS chili powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 quart chicken broth / stock

1 lime, juiced

1 chicken breast, divided into 2 or 3 pieces

1/2 can corn, drained

1/2 can black beans, rinsed

1 Anaheim pepper, roasted and diced

1 Poblano pepper, roasted and diced

1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeno


3 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips

1 Haas avocado, diced

1 cup grated jack cheese

low fat sour cream

handful cilantro, chopped

1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced


1. Roast peppers. Line cookie sheet with foil and set oven on broil. Lay peppers on the cookie sheet and place under broiler until skin is blackened and blistering, turn over peppers and return to the oven until skin blackens and blisters on the other side. Place peppers in a plastic bag and seal so that peppers steam. When peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins, and remove the seeds. Dice peppers and set aside.

2. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium – low heat. Add onions and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and chili powder, and cook an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add chicken broth / stock, raise heat until the mixture simmers. Squeeze in the lime juice and add the chicken breast. Continue simmering for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate to cool.

4. Add the roasted peppers, tomatoes, black beans and corn to the mixture. Return to a simmer and leave it alone for another 20 minutes.

5. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred using two forks. Cover with foil and set aside.

6. Place cheese, cilantro, and jalapeños in serving dishes.

7. Serve soup with tortilla slices, avocado and chicken in the bottom of each bowl, topped with soup. Guests may help themselves to the remaining toppings.


  • While roasting the chilies, I was sure appreciating those canned versions. But, when tasting the soup, I realized that roasting fresh chilis was an important component to the success this time around. Anaheims are a nice, safe addition, but I really love the poblanos with their stronger flavor. I am convinced that the roasted poblanos were a major contributor to the success.
  • There is no way to overestimate the patience needed with the onions at the start of this soup. Be kind to them and keep that heat low. Also, the low heat at the beginning keeps the garlic from getting that nasty burnt garlic flavor that can jump in way too quickly at this step. Patience!  (This is also an important skill to learn when cooking Indian curries.)
  • Go ahead and get your fingers and hands messy with the peppers. You’re going to chop them up anyways, so don’t worry about keeping them all perfect.
  • I know that half a can of corn and black beans sounds a bit odd, but more than that with these proportions will give you more of a stew. Just take the left overs, toss in a bit of tomato and Serrano chilies and ta-da, you’ve got a lovely salsa for tomorrow night!
  • Avocado in the bottom of the bowl?  Just try it once and you’ll be hooked!

5 responses to “Best Tortilla Soup Ever!

  1. The perfect California soup…how yummy!

  2. I love roasted peppers! It doesn’t matter what kind, bell, poblano, habanero, whatever!
    Nice recipe!

  3. Oh, yes, I love a big,hot bowl of tortilla soup. And you so get my vote for adding the roasted poblano!

  4. Yummy sounding. I made chili last night with some black beans. Definitely soup and chili and stew season!

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