How to Make Tortilla Soup

by Susan Lundman ; Updated September 28, 2017

Start to Finish:

25 minutes



Difficulty Level:


Tortilla soup makes a satisfying meal in itself when you add chicken as well as beans. Serve a green salad with orange segments and radishes alongside for a cool contrast to both the flavor and temperature of the soup. Fresh-baked cornbread, while not traditional in Mexican cuisine, also works well to round out the meal.


  • Make this recipe in advance and refrigerate it, saving the garnishes to add when you're ready to serve the soup. Foodsafety.gov states soups and stews stay safe in the refrigerator for three to four days.



  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 tablespoon pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • Juice from 2 limes


  • Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce keep for approximately one month in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer. Blend the entire can in a food processor or blender to have the puree on hand. Add the spicy condiment to enchilada or taco sauces, soups or Mexican-inspired dips and salad dressings.


  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups toasted corn tortilla strips or slightly smashed tortilla chips


  • To make the tortilla garnish, cut tortillas into strips and spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast them in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes until they're crisp, occasionally stirring them.


Cook the onion in the oil over medium heat in a soup pot until it softens and turns translucent, about six minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, beans, chicken stock, cumin and salt. Cook these ingredients on a low simmer until the flavors blend, about 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, chipotle chiles and lime juice, and heat the soup until it's steaming hot.

Divide the avocado among the soup bowls and ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle an equal amount of cilantro over each bowl.

Let each diner add a spoonful of sour cream and a handful of tortilla strips to the soup throughout the meal.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Instead of using chicken, substitute cooked and crumbled sausage or ground beef.
  • Make a vegetarian version of tortilla soup by omitting the chicken and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
  • Add cubed or crumbled Mexican cheese┬ásuch as queso fresco, or any other soft farmer's cheese as a garnish.

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About the Author

Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.