simple chicken tortilla soup
Many Sundays, I share on my Instagram feed a little rundown of what we ate for dinner the week before. I call these Real Life Menus, as there’s nothing aspirational about them. There’s takeout; there’s burnout; there have been quick bean quesadillas almost once a week recently simply because they’re low-effort and they work. There’s there’s jetlag, flops, and frozen pelmeni, and there are some ambitious meals I bring to the table while telling my family how grateful they should be for me (they laugh, which is deserved).
These round-ups have also led me realize that there are a lot of recipes I make fairly often for dinner and never mention here, such as this soup. My gut feeling was that there are many very authentic recipes out there for sopa azteca or sopa de tortilla and this is absolutely not even close, or trying to be. What’s a girl to do? Well, not clutter the internet with another pale imitation of a great dish, I suppose. But comments on these menus are causing me to rethink this a bit. Maybe this is the one that will work for you at the near-to-last minute on a Tuesday night, as it always does for us, providing a meal that feels balanced, delicious, but also highly doable. Maybe this, too, is a worthwhile space to take up.
The base of this is a light tomato broth flavored with onions, garlic, and chile. We cook some chicken in this, then shred it, and warm corn and black beans in it too. The finish of lime juice is not optional; it lifts everything. At the table, I put out a mess of toppings, including fried corn tortilla strips but yes, bagged chips, a bit crumbled, also work. I also love it with crumbled cotija, avocado, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce, since I have to keep the soup relatively mild for family harmony. I hope it becomes a part of your repertoire, too.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (see Note about other heat options)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground chile powder (see Note about other heat options)
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 to 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Note)
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Juice of half a lime
FINISHES, CHOOSE YOUR OWN
- Cotija cheese, crumbled
- 1 medium avocado, sliced
- Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Second half of lime, cut into wedges
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Corn tortillas, cut into thin ribbons, to fry (instructions below)
- Hot sauce
Want to make fried corn tortilla strips? In a large nonstick frying pan, heat a generous 1/4-inch of a neutral/high heat-safe oil over medium-high until a drop of water flicked in sizzles dramatically. Add a handful of corn tortilla strips and cook, stirring a bit, until they begin to brown at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop out with tongs or a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and transfer to paper towels to drain. Season immediately with salt. Repeat with remaining strips. I promise, there will be no leftovers, but if there are, they keep in a bag at room temperature for a few days.