Thursday, January 18, 2024

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Easy Stovetop Recipe)

This easy chicken tortilla soup takes 15 minutes to prep and is ready in only 45 minutes. It's packed with simple & hearty ingredients like tender chicken, beans, fragrant green chiles, fire-roasted tomatoes, and healthy vegetables all simmered in a flavorful broth that is bright & nourishing. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips and your favorite toppings for a comforting weeknight meal. (gluten-free, dairy-free & freezer-friendly)

If you're looking for more healthy soup recipes for meal planning, be sure to try my hamburger vegetable soup and smoked sausage soup next! 

Best Chicken Tortilla Soup (Easy Homemade Recipe with Simple Ingredients)

If you're like me and grew up in the Midwest eating lots of white chicken chili or creamy white chicken chili, you're going to love today's soup. 

This one is influenced by my 10 years of living in Texas, where I ate tons of Mexican-inspired dishes (like queso dip and carnitas) and one of them was chicken tortilla soup. The recipe I'm sharing today is a copycat of a tortilla soup served at a local restaurant in the Dallas area (Urban Eatz). 

Their delicious soup is extra brothy, perfectly seasoned, and has tons of lime juice that makes every bite so satisfying. I started craving it on the regular and figured I needed to make my own easy recipe.

I'm glad I did because I live in Colorado now and would miss it otherwise. It's one of my new favorite soups. There are definite perks to being close to the mountains now but dang it do I miss all the amazing food in the Dallas area (like Wabi House, Fireside Pies, Whistle Britches, Hard Eight BBQ & Taco Ocho). 

Half of Colorado is filled with Texans anyway, so they might as well open a location here along the front range. One can only hope. 

Why You'll Love This Homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • the prep is quick and easy (15 minutes)
  • there's only 30 minutes of cooking time (all in one pot)
  • it uses inexpensive pantry staples (like canned beans, tomatoes, and chiles) plus convenience items (rotisserie chicken) to save time but doesn't compromise on flavor
  • it's packed with protein from the chicken & beans
  • it uses simple seasonings and healthy vegetables that make the broth super satisfying
  • it's freezer-friendly so you can save half of the soup (or make a double batch) for busy days
  • the fresh toppings are added to each bowl, so it's easy to customize for different tastes & dietary preferences (like if your loved ones are dairy-free or grain-free)

(Pssst...if you need more ideas for using up leftover chicken, check out my round-up with easy leftover chicken recipes!)

Have I convinced you to make this easy soup yet? All right, let's discuss the ingredients...

Ingredients For Making Chicken Tortilla Soup on the Stove Top

Ingredients For Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you're wondering what to put in the best chicken tortilla soup recipe, here are all the main ingredients (with some brief explanations of why I use them and potential swaps):

  • Olive Oil or Bacon Grease: I prefer these two fats for starting a soup since they have more flavor than your typical "neutral" cooking oils. Butter, ghee, or avocado oil would work great, too.
  • Onion & Garlic: These aromatics add tons of flavor to the broth, so make sure to use the fresh stuff. I prefer yellow or a sweet onion like Vidalia. Be generous with the garlic. If a few extra cloves end up in the soup, all the better.
  • Sweet Bell Pepper (Red, Orange, or Yellow): This adds a pop of color, mild sweetness & vitamin C. They freeze well, so if you find them on sale, buy a bunch, core & dice them, and then freeze them in a flat layer in a ziplock bag for adding to soups & chili.
  • Fresh Cilantro: This is added at the beginning and cooked in the broth, so the flavor mellows out; however, it does add something special to the final flavor of the dish (and is very healthy), so I wouldn't skip it unless you absolutely loathe the stuff.
  • Canned Green Chiles (Mild): These mild chiles provide a wonderful flavor to the soup without adding heat. I always keep several cans in my pantry (they're usually $1.50 or less per can). If you're using ones from a big glass jar (they sell these at Costco), freeze the leftovers and use them in egg-based dishes (so good in scrambled eggs and breakfast casseroles). 
  • Canned Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a must for chicken tortilla soup and opting for the fire-roasted variety adds a more pronounced flavor that's sweeter & less acidic than the regular canned tomatoes. You can also use a can of Rotel with green chiles if you prefer, but you may need to double up on them since they're smaller in size. 
  • Canned Beans: I like to use a mixture of black and pinto beans for variety. The restaurant soup that inspired this recipe used black beans and kidney beans. You could also use a white bean like Great Northern or Cannellini if you prefer.
  • Ground Cumin: This is a quintessential chicken tortilla soup seasoning, in my opinion. Ground cumin seed adds an earthy flavor to the dish that gives it that signature Southwest-style flavor. 
  • Ancho Chile Powder: I like to use a single dried chile powder (rather than a "chili powder" blend) for a more pronounced flavor. Ancho chile powder is made by drying fresh poblano peppers and then grinding them up. It has a darker red color & mild heat. It will add something special to your dishes, so it's worth seeking out. If you can't find this, look for a New Mexico chile powder instead.
  • Salt & Black Pepper: The backbone of any good soup. I've tried both coarse salt and fine salt in this recipe and prefer the latter. I season throughout the process (starting with the diced vegetables), add more salt & pepper before the broth goes in, then taste at the end to add more if it needs it.  
  • Cayenne Pepper: This adds a pop of red to the broth and a hint of heat. You can increase this if you want it spicier. Or, swap it for a fresh diced jalapeno instead.
  • Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (or Chicken Stock): I prefer to use homemade chicken bone broth (made in my slow cooker) if I have it on hand in the freezer; however, I always keep several 1-quart cartons of store-bought chicken broth in my pantry as a backup when I'm making meals last minute. 
  • Shredded Chicken: To keep it fast & simple, I use rotisserie chicken here. If you do the same, make sure to choose one that's been seasoned with just salt & pepper or something basic that won't overwhelm the flavors in this soup. Of course, leftover cooked chicken that you roasted, grilled, or boiled works perfectly well and would help to prevent food waste and save you money. 
  • Zucchini (Optional): This isn't a typical ingredient in this soup, but I sometimes include it to bulk up on veggies and bolster the nutrition. It has a neutral taste and is quick-cooking, which is a bonus. You could substitute yellow squash or even frozen corn instead of this.
  • Fresh Lime Juice: This is a KEY ingredient in making THE BEST chicken tortilla soup. It adds such a bright & fresh flavor to the broth that makes it totally addicting! The generous amount of fresh lime juice sets this soup apart from other Mexican and Southwest-inspired soups like white chicken chili, chicken enchilada soup, or taco soup. It's the #1 reason why I fell in love with the version from Urban Eatz and knew I had to figure out how to make it at home. 
  • Tortilla Chips: This is a must-have ingredient, as the recipe name implies. To keep it simple, I use good-quality tortilla chips (the thick kind with lots of salt). Grab a handful and crush them right over each bowl as a topping. It adds that signature masa (corn) flavor without the trouble of frying or baking your own tortilla strips.
  • Shredded Cheese: Top each bowl with a generous mound of your favorite shredded cheese for a boost of salt, fat & richness that helps to cut through the acidity & tanginess of the broth. My favorites are pepper jack cheese, Monterey jack cheese, mild cheddar cheese, or low-moisture mozzarella cheese. If you want to add some more saltiness, crumbled cotija cheese would be delicious, too!

Easy & Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup with Rotisserie Chicken

How to Make This Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

Here's a rundown of the basic technique & steps for this Mexican-inspired soup. You can find the full directions in the printable recipe card below.

  1. Saute the Onion & Sweet Bell Pepper: This helps to soften the veggies, release some of their liquid, and create a base layer of aromatic flavor for the soup. I usually add a bit of salt & pepper during the step, too. 
  2. Stir in the Cilantro, Garlic & Dry Spices: Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the garlic is fragrant. Adding the spices now (instead of with the rest of the canned ingredients) helps to better distribute them into the soup.
  3. Dump in the Green Chiles, Tomatoes, Beans & Broth: Add your canned ingredients (make sure to drain and rinse the beans first) and cover with chicken broth. We're not adding the chicken yet, since it's already cooked. If you added extra ingredients to the soup to bulk it up, you may need to pour in more broth (or water) to cover everything. If you do that, make sure to measure in a bit more salt to compensate for the dilution.
  4. Bring to a Boil then Simmer: When the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or medium so it's gently simmering (you want to see some bubbles) then cook for 20 minutes. 
  5. Add Shredded Cooked Chicken and Zucchini: The zucchini cooks super fast, so we're adding it at the end so it stays tender and doesn't get mushy. And since the chicken is already cooked, we're adding it during this step to simply warm it up. 
  6. Pour in the Lime Juice & Taste For Seasonings: Once the zucchini is tender, pour in the fresh lime juice, give everything a good stir, and taste for seasonings (salt & pepper). 
  7. Serve with Desired Toppings: I like to top each bowl of chicken tortilla soup with lots of shredded cheese (1/2 to 3/4 cup) and crushed salted tortilla chips. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll also add some sliced fresh jalapeno, extra cilantro, or even sliced green onions. Diced Hass avocado would make a wonderful addition. 

Simple Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe with Rotisserie Chicken

Tips for Substitutions & Swaps

  • For a spicier soup, substitute the cayenne pepper for 1-2 fresh jalapenos (keep the seeds in for even more heat) or add in some crushed red pepper flakes
  • canned chicken works in place of rotisserie chicken, but depending on the sodium content of the brand you're using, you may want to decrease the salt added to the broth
  • feel free to use leftover cooked chicken (grilled, roasted, or baked chicken) in this soup; however, make sure your meat doesn't have seasonings that clash with the Southwest flavors in this dish
  • if you're out of chicken broth, feel free to substitute vegetable broth or beef broth (it just won't have quite as much chicken flavor)
  • to make this a heartier & more filling soup if you're feeding extra hungry folks, add more beans and vegetables like frozen corn, carrots & celery
  • to make this creamy, top your bowl with sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche, or add a splash of heavy cream
  • for a low-carb version, omit the beans and add extra vegetables (like more zucchini, tomatoes, yellow squash, or some chopped cauliflower)
  • for a grain-free version, substitute the corn tortilla chips for cassava flour chips
  • to make this soup thicker (keep in mind it's supposed to be a brothy soup), reduce the chicken broth or stock you use and add extra beans and vegetables (like corn) or dump in some cooked cilantro lime rice to soak up the broth

Best Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe (Easy & Made with Rotisserie Chicken)

What to Serve with Chicken Tortilla Soup

Looking for ideas for what goes well with this bowl of soup? Here are a few: 

Cornbread muffins or skillet cornbread is an excellent option. If you're lucky, some homemade or locally made tamales. 

For a more well-rounded meal, a vinegar-based coleslaw would pair beautifully. Maybe even some simple cheese quesadillas or black bean taquitos. 

If you're topping the soup with tortilla chips like me, try serving guacamole, pico de Gallo, or a tomato or fruit-based salsa (like pineapple salsa, peach salsa, or mango avocado salsa) for dipping the extra chips.  

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup (Easy Stovetop Recipe)

Storage & Freezing Tips

  • Store any leftover chicken tortilla soup for up to 5 days in an airtight container in your refrigerator
  • You can freeze it for up to 3 months (this is why it's best to add dairy-based toppings to each bowl and not the whole batch)
  • When reheating on the stovetop, do it gently (don't bring it to a rolling boil) so the zucchini doesn't turn to mush and the chicken stays tender

QUICK FAVOR: If you make this chicken tortilla soup, please leave a star rating and comment below. I love hearing about your creations + adaptations and getting feedback. Reviews, comments & social shares are immensely helpful in reaching more foodies like you! You can also leave a comment on any of my recipe pins on Pinterest, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @therisingspoon :)

chicken tortilla soup, easy, best, homemade, rotisserie, stovetop
Yield: 4-6
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon
Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 30 MinTotal time: 45 Min
This easy chicken tortilla soup is packed with simple ingredients like tender chicken, beans, fragrant green chiles, fire-roasted tomatoes, and healthy vegetables all simmered in a flavorful broth that is bright & nourishing. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips and your favorite toppings for a comforting & hearty weeknight meal. (gluten-free, dairy-free & freezer-friendly)


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or bacon grease
  • 1 medium onion (yellow or sweet), diced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow), diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro leaves (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic (about 4 big cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt + extra (to taste) at the end
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (increase to 1/2 tsp if you like it spicer)
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans of mild diced green chiles, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of beans (I used one black and one pinto), drained & rinsed
  • 5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade chicken bone broth)
  • 2 1/2 cups of shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice (about 1 1/2 large limes)
Toppings (Optional)
  • Shredded Cheese (like cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, or mozzarella)
  • Tortilla Chips (I like the thick kind with plenty of salt), crushed
  • Diced Hass Avocado, Jalapeno Slices, Green Onion, or Extra Cilantro


  1. Measure the olive oil (or bacon grease) into a large pot or Dutch oven (5.5 quarts) and set to medium-high heat. Add the onion & sweet bell pepper, along with a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the cilantro, garlic, cumin powder, ancho chile powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the garlic is fragrant (watch that the garlic doesn't burn).
  3. Dump in the green chiles, tomatoes, beans, and broth and stir to combine. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low (or medium) so it's gently simmering (you want to see some bubbles) and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Uncover, and add the shredded chicken and zucchini. Increase the heat slightly to bring the soup back to a rapid simmer, and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Turn off the heat, pour in the fresh lime juice, stir well, and taste the soup for seasoning, adding more salt & pepper, if needed.
  6. Ladle into bowls while hot and add desired toppings (like shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips) to each bowl.


TORTILLA FLAVOR: For a stronger tortilla (corn) flavor in the soup, take a big handful of tortilla chips, crush them into medium-sized pieces, and add to the broth at the same time as the chicken and zucchini. It will soften the chips and give a light masa flavor to the broth. If you prefer a crunchier texture, simply add them at the end as a topping like I did in the pictures. Sometimes I add them directly to the soup, other times only each bowl.

SUBSTITUTIONS: For a low-carb version, omit the beans and add extra vegetables (like more zucchini, tomatoes, yellow squash, or some chopped cauliflower). For a grain-free version, substitute the corn tortilla chips for cassava flour tortilla chips.

FREEZING: This soup freezes well for at least 3 months, but you'll want to reheat it gently so the zucchini doesn't get mushy and the chicken stays tender.

Did you make this recipe?
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Inspired by the chicken tortilla soup from Urban Eatz and Adapted from this chicken tortilla soup recipe by A Spicy Perspective


Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe (Healthy Stovetop Dinner)

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