This mouthwatering creamy chicken tortilla soup is my rich and hearty take on the classic brothy version, prepared with lots of bold and zesty flavors. Brimming with mild sweetness from roasted red peppers and corn, plus some added texture from a handful of tortilla chips pureed into the base, this warming southwest-style soup is sure to awaken your tastebuds!
A Rich and Creamy Take on Chicken Tortilla Soup
During my mid twenties, just before culinary school, I worked as a server at a small cafe, just as so many young folks here in Los Angeles do.
I loved my job, loved the conversations with my regular patrons. And as a burgeoning foodie, I enjoyed sampling the delicious food that the chefs would cook up and allow us to try.
There was one particular soup that I absolutely adored, and would often order up as a meal for myself after my shift was over. It was chicken tortilla soup, and it was a thick, rich, and creamy version that always filled my belly and left me feeling all cozy and warmed through.
I remember getting up the courage to ask the head chef for the basic recipe, and he was actually kind enough to oblige.
Since I love to make recipes my own, I set out to prepare a pot of this beloved creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe with my own flair and personality...
While the first try wasn't exactly the cafe's version, it was pretty darned close. I continued to fiddle with the consistency and flavor until I found my “perfect” version. And when I did, it was oh so good...
This thick and velvety chicken tortilla soup is a nice departure from the more traditionally “brothy” type, and it's filled with lots of aromatic and zippy ingredients.
Simmered up and pureed until smooth in no time at all, my chicken tortilla soup is honestly one of my absolute favorite soups, especially when topped with slices of smoky chicken, avocado, cheese, cilantro and crème fraîche!
Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup With Bold Flavors
The big “secret” to the uniquely thick and rich texture of this creamy chicken tortilla soup that I learned from the chef at the cafe, is adding two key ingredients directly into the soup base as it simmers with other vegetables: corn kernels and corn tortilla chips.
As you can imagine, the corn kernels and the chips, when pureed into the base of the soup, provide a hint of natural sweetness and texture. Together, these ingredients perfectly thicken the soup and offer lots of earthy corn flavor, and along with the crème fraîche, they give this soup its wonderful creaminess—I love that.
It only takes about 20 minutes to simmer up (so quick!) before pureeing with either an immersion blender (my favorite) or a regular blender to velvety perfection.
This creamy chicken tortilla soup also incorporates slices of smoky chicken, and I like adding this because it helps the soup eat more like a complete meal. The chicken is optional, of course, and one could easily sub rotisserie chicken here, but it's mighty tasty.
Here's a peek at my creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get things started, I place a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add a little oil and saute my aromatic ingredients for a few minutes, along with my generous sprinkle of spices.
- Next, the roasted red peppers and corn kernels are added in, along with my tomato products, followed by the chicken stock or broth and tortilla chips. I simmer the soup for roughly 20 minutes until the ingredients are very tender.
- While the soup simmers, I quickly sear some seasoned chicken breasts for a few minutes in a hot pan until cooked through, then slice and keep warm.
- When the soup is done simmering, I puree it with an immersion blender for the perfect consistency
- To serve the soup, I ladle it into a bowl, top with sliced of chicken, avocado, crème fraîche, cilantro and Cotija cheese.
Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 416 calories per serving (with chicken)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- Avocado oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- Black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry, then chopped
- 1 (1 pound) bag organic frozen corn kernels
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup (slightly heaping) white corn tortilla chips
- Crème fraîche (optional)
- Avocado, diced for garnish (optional
- Cotija cheese, for garnish (optional)
- Cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for garnish
Smoky Chicken Ingredients:
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts sliced length-wise to make 4 thinner cutlets
- Avocado oil
- Black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke seasoning
- Pinch cumin
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your soup ingredients according to the soup ingredient list above, to have organized and ready for use.
- To prepare the soup, place a large soup pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 4 tablespoons of avocado oil; once hot, add in the onions, and allow those to saute for a few minutes until translucent. Add in the garlic, along with a good couple of pinches of salt, some black pepper, and the cumin, coriander and cayenne, and stir together for a moment or two.
- Next add in the chopped roasted red peppers and corn kernels, along with the tomato paste, and stir together to combine.
- Add in the canned diced tomatoes, along with the cilantro leaves, the chicken stock, and the white corn tortilla chips, and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to gently simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, prep all of the ingredients needed to cook the smoky chicken, if preparing it.
- Season the chicken breasts with a couple of drizzles of oil, plus a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the liquid smoke seasoning, and the pinch of cumin and cayenne.
- Preheat a large pan with a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat, and once very hot, add in the chicken and sear until cooked through and golden-brown, about 8 minutes or so. Chop the chicken into small pieces, and keep warm until ready to serve with the soup.
- Once the soup has simmered, puree it using a hand-held immersion blender (you can also use a regular blender for this step) until smooth and velvety.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the crème fraîche, some smoky chicken, avocado, and any of the garnish ingredients you'd like.
Tips & Tidbits for my Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup:
- “Rough” chop for ease: You don't have to worry about dicing your vegetables perfectly, or into tiny pieces for this soup. A quick, rough chop is fine, as everything gets pureed.
- Frozen corn is fine: I like to use frozen corn kernels in this recipe for convenience, and if you can find organic, that's great. Also, if you can find white corn kernels, use those. But if you'd like to use fresh corn, just use a knife and cut the kernels off of about 6-8 ears of corn, as you'll need a pound.
- Fire roasted tomatoes for flavor: If you can find organic, fire roasted, diced tomatoes, use those as they contain great smoky flavor. But if you can't find the fire roasted, just use the regular canned tomatoes.
- For smoky flavor: I love to use a little liquid smoke seasoning for a hint of mesquite flavor with the chicken. Typically, you can find it in the seasoning section, either where condiments are found, or where the salt/spices are located, but you can certainly leave it out, if you prefer.
- Use rotisserie for ease: Save some time by using rotisserie chicken for this soup. Just sprinkle the liquid smoke, if using, over top and toss to coat for smoky flavor.
- Vegetarian creamy chicken tortilla soup: For a vegetarian option, just switch out the chicken stock for vegetable stock, and forgo the diced smoky chicken as a topper.
- Sub sour cream for the crème fraîche: If you can't find crème fraîche at your local market, feel free to use a dollop of sour cream.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2017, and has been updated with even more love!