Chicken Tortilla Soup – Tender chicken in a savory, flavorful broth, topped with crispy baked tortilla strips and allll the goodies! (Gluten-Free + Paleo-Friendly)
I miss going to restaurants.
Like so many of us, it’s been almost a year since I’ve sat in a restaurant to eat a meal. Michael and I used to have Monday date nights each week, and we loved trying new places whenever possible. One of our favorite spots had this amazing chicken tortilla soup I ordered every time I went there. Along with some serious chips and salsa, plus a side each of their amazing rice and beans, their chicken tortilla soup always hit the spot.
That restaurant had to close its doors a few months into staying at home, (despite our regular take-out orders), so now I have to get my chicken tortilla soup mix from home. (At least for now.)
This Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe is exactly what cold weather makes me crave. A warm, soothing broth, tender chicken, and plenty of goodies. From creamy avocado to crispy baked tortilla strips, it’s just a joy in every bite!
Even though it has gorgeous layered flavor, chicken tortilla soup is surprisingly straightforward and simple to make. Here’s all you need to get started on this soup (and those crazy-delicious crunchy tortilla strips!)…
HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO OUR CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP RECIPE:
COOKED, SHREDDED OR CUBED CHICKEN. Chicken tortilla soup is the perfect chance to use leftover cooked chicken. Shredded or cubed chicken works fine, though I prefer shredded.
A SUPER-FLAVORFUL SAVORY BROTH. The real star of chicken tortilla soup recipe (other than those yummy crispy tortilla strips, obvi.) is the flavorful broth. Made from onion, tomato, garlic, and a few spices and seasonings, it’s smooth, richly flavored, and just gets better with time.
GARNISHES. Once you’ve made your broth and stirred in the chicken, it’s time to mix in a few garnishes and extras. My go-to’s are cilantro and avocado, though there are all kinds of goodies you can add. (See the next section for ideas!)
CRISPY BAKED TORTILLA STRIPS. It wouldn’t be chicken tortilla soup without crispy tortilla strips on top, and my favorite way to make them is in the oven! It gets them all done at once, you can use less oil, and they’re delightfully crispy-crunchy in all the best ways. Here’s how we make ours…
HOW TO MAKE CRISPY BAKED TORTILLA STRIPS:
The best part of chicken tortilla soup for me is all those glorious crispy-crunchy tortilla strips! I skip frying in favor of baking since it’s easier for me and helps me use less oil. It’s SUPER easy to bake your own crispy tortilla strips!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly mist a baking sheet with spray oil. (Avocado or Olive Oil work well!)
- Stack tortillas and cut into strips 1/4″-1/2″ wide (depending on how thick you prefer them)
- Scatter tortilla strips on the prepared baking sheet, trying your best not to overlap them much.
- Mist the tortilla strips with spray oil.
- Sprinkle generously with salt
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just golden. (The thinner your tortilla strips are, the quicker they will cook!)
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before using. (The tortilla strips will continue to crisp as they cool.)
YUMMY TOPPINGS FOR CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP:
Since the body of the soup is pretty simple and straightforward, you can get really creative with toppings for chicken tortilla soup. Here are a few of our favorites + popular choices, though you can certainly get creative and add your own!
- Crispy Tortilla Strips or Crushed Tortilla Chips (See above for how we make our crispy tortilla strips in the oven!)
- Diced or Sliced Avocado. Creamy avocado is LOVELY with the savory broth and chicken.
- Shredded or Crumbled Cheese. We’re dairy-free these days, but a little shredded cheddar or crumbled cotija cheese was one of my FAVORITE toppings for chicken tortilla soup before!
- Fresh cilantro. A little more cilantro is always a good idea for me, and the bright pop of green sure looks pretty!
- Sliced jalapeño. Or, you can turn up the heat with a few slices of jalapeño. Take the seeds out to cut down on the heat, or leave the seeds in for more heat!
FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP:
A NOTE ON AUTHENTICITY. I did my best to stay true to the authentic chicken tortilla soup recipes I’ve seen and tried over the years here in the southwest. I did use two notable shortcuts. First, I used canned fire-roasted tomatoes, but you can roast your own to be even more authentic. Secondly, I used chipotle chiles instead of a dried ancho chile, since they can be easier for people to find in a grocery store. Learn how to use + prepare ancho chiles here. Also: every family has their own spin on chicken tortilla soup, so I don’t claim that this is THE true recipe or the MOST authentic recipe out there. It’s just our family’s best take.
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN FOR CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP. If you don’t already have leftover or pre-cooked chicken (like rotisserie chicken), you have a few options! Try baking it, poaching it, making some in the Instant Pot, or simmering it directly in the soup until tender and cooked through.
CAN I FREEZE CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP? Yes! Chicken tortilla soup can be frozen once you’ve made the broth and added the chicken. Transfer cooled soup to a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and freeze flat. You won’t want to add any of the fresh garnishes or tortilla strips until right before serving. Thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator before reheating.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE CAN YOU MAKE CRISPY BAKED TORTILLA STRIPS? Since we’re making them fresh without any additives, preservatives or extra ingredients, our baked tortilla strips are best made within 1-2 days of using them. Store any leftover tortilla strips in an airtight container on the counter 2-3 days.
A GOOD SOUP POT. If you’re in need of a good soup pot, I can’t say enough good things about this one. It’s less expensive than so many out there, but the quality has REALLY impressed me. I’ve had mine for over 3 years and it looks almost brand-new. (I get off scuffs and stains with a little baking soda + dish soap)
CRAVING MORE? YOU MIGHT ALSO LOVE:
- Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Taco Soup
- Salsa Verde Chicken & Rice Soup (A Fan Favorite!)
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili
- How to Make Pico de Gallo
- Our ULTIMATE Guide to Guacamole
SHOP OUR FAVORITE TOOLS + INGREDIENTS FOR THIS SOUP: