Chicken Tortilla Soup

October 8, 2012

One day, if I’m lucky, I am going to have children – a fact that I find terrifying and exhilarating in almost equal proportions. Sometimes, when I’m not distracted by the terror or exhilaration, I like to think about the nice mundane, including imagining what dinner time will be like. I like to cook, especially when it’s not just me eating and Dan loves to cook. I’m pretty sure we’ll attempt to involve our kids with food and cooking and all the fun of it as much as humanly possible.

They’ll need to know how to make cookies obviously and learn that old bananas = banana bread. I hope they’ll grow to love some of my favourites (though they’ll probably hate them, right? Isn’t that how it works?) like spaghetti bolognese and bangers and mash.

One way or another I suspect they will eat this soup mainly because of the AWESOME TOPPINGS. Toppings are fun, even when you’re 28 years old and so I imagine toppings are incredibly full of win for a four or five year old. Get the basic soup made and then let people add toppings to their heart’s content.

The “bones” of this soup are amazing too of course – rich tomato and chicken stock and salty-smoky chicken – but the toppings take things up a significant notch. Don’t forgo the cilantro or sour cream and by all means add shredded cheese, diced red onion, and avocado if that’s your thing. It’s all good.

And while this makes a really fun dinner it also makes delicious leftovers reheated the next day after all the flavours have had a chance to hang out and get acquainted.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
adapted from The Pioneer Woman


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp canned green chilies
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 3 Tablespoons cornmeal
  • 5 whole corn tortillas, sliced into 2 inch strips

To garnish

  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Diced red onion
  • Salsa
  • Grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • Cilantro


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix cumin, chili pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken breasts, then dust spice mix on both sides. Save the rest of the spice mix.
  2. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove from the oven and use two forks to shred chicken. Set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the spice mix. Stir to coat and then add the shredded chicken and stir.
  4. Pour in chopped tomatoes, green chilies, chicken stock, tomato paste, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
  5. Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water to form a paste. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more salt or chili powder if needed. Turn off heat and allow the soup to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before you’re ready to eat, gently stir in tortilla strips.
  6. Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced red onion, diced avocado, salsa, and grated cheese, and cilantro, as desired.
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