Smoky Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hi guys!  I’m so glad to be back and posting again.  It’s been a crazy time around here.  Work, grad school, church, and my new house were keeping me plenty busy.  I woke up one Wednesday feeling just fine, ready to take the day.  Just a few hours later, I was leaving work, nauseous, dizzy, and in severe pain.  Four days later I was in the ER and a week after that I was having surgery.  Like I said, it’s been crazy.

The very clear up side to this is how blessed I am that my surgery went just as expected and everything will be okay.  The other major, MAJOR positive is just how fortunate I am to have a sister and a mom who are nurses.  My sister drove an hour to get to me while I was in the ER and my mom hopped on a plane that night and flew from Phoenix to Dallas to be with me.  She stayed for three weeks, helping me with anything and everything I needed, and spoiling me plenty along the way.  I’m not ashamed to say I cried several times thinking of her leaving.

Among the many, MANY amazing things she did, cooking for me was so beyond comforting.  Anyone who grew up with a mom who cooked, especially if she did it well, knows just how loved you feel when you get some of mom’s home cooking as an adult.  When that home cooking is because you literally cannot cook for yourself, it’s even more amazing.

Mom, thank you so much for making this soup and for everything you did for me while you were here.  You’ve always known just how to make me feel better.  I will never be able to repay you for.  I love you and miss you terribly already.

chicken tortilla soup

This soup, with tender chicken in a thick, bold, spicy, smoky broth, will warm you right up on on a chilly fall or winter night.

Smoky Tortilla Soup

from Lisa Fain, The Homesick Texan Cookbook

adapted to include shortcuts and vegetarian options


For the soup:

2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded

1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing baking sheet 

6 corn tortillas, preferably stale

1 lb. plum tomatoes OR 1 (14 oz.) can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained

1 medium yellow onion, quartered

6 cloves garlic

2 canned chipotles chiles in adobo

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

6 c. chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. smoked paprika

2 TBSP fresh lime juice

salt, to taste

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie works great!) and/or black beans

Optional garnishes:

crushed tortilla chips (if not frying tortillas)

2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

1/4 c. Cotija heese, crumbled

1/4 c. chopped cilantro


1.  Preheat a dry skillet over high heat.  Toast the pasilla chiles on each side, about 10 minutes, or just until the start to puff.  Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chiles.  Bring water to a boil then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until softened, about 30 minutes.  

2.  If frying tortillas, heat 1/2 c. vegetable oil in a lrge skillet on medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 350° F.  Slice the tortillas into 1/4-in. strips.  Add them to the oil in batches and cook until crisp, about 1 minute.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

3.  Place oven broiler on high and grease a rimmed baking sheet.  If using fresh tomatoes, slice in half and place on prepared baking sheet along with the onion quarters and garlic cloves.  Broil on each side for 5 minutes, or until black spots begin to appear.  (If using canned tomatoes, complete this step with onion and garlic only.)  

4.  Place the tomatoes (either fresh or canned), onions and garlic in a blender.  When pasilla chiles are fully hydrated, drain and rinse them, then add to the blender along with the chipotle, cumin, oregano, cloves, cilantro, 1/2 c. fried tortilla strips or crushed chips, and 1/2 c. water.  Blend until smooth.  

5.  In a large pot, heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil on medium and add the purée from the blender.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until mixture thickens and darkens in color.  It will likely pop and squirt, so be carefully.  

6.  Add the broth and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

7.  Stir in the paprika, lime juice, salt to taste, and chicken and/or beans.  Simmer 10 minutes.

8.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish as desired.

Yield: 6 servings

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  1. Natalie
    November 5, 2014 / 3:15 pm

    oh my goodness, crazy indeed! so glad you're feeling better!

  2. Lexie Rochelle
    November 6, 2014 / 3:28 am

    My beautiful daughter, I am so thankful I was able to be there with you throughout your surgery and recovery. The hardest thing for a mom to do is be with her children when they are in pain and know there is nothing we can do to take that pain away. One of the only things I knew how to do during your recovery was to make you feel loved, relaxed, cared for in every way, and reminded of how much I love you. I have always cooked to show love though creating family memories, and I am so glad this soup helped you feel the comforts of home. I loved eating it with your sister, her boyfriend, and you. I love you. I miss you.

  3. Elizabeth
    November 7, 2014 / 4:03 am

    Glad to hear you are doing better!Food cooked by moms is the best 🙂

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