My dad calls it taco soup. Whatever he wants to call it, I’m obligated to make it every time the family gets together. I visited my parents this year for my dad’s birthday and made a giant batch before I left. This was considered a great birthday present. I’m not going to brag, but my tortilla soup is the best. OK, maybe I’ll brag a little.

For a while, I was quite the tortilla soup connoisseur.  I never passed up an opportunity to sample a bowl when going to a restaurant I had never been before. There are so many variations, I had to try as many as I could before I figured out how to make my recipe. The best ones were the simple ones that let the key ingredients shine. It’s not a stew — it’s a soup, so the ones with tons of corn, other veggies and thick, creamy broth kind of pissed me off (I’m very serious about tortilla soup). After a while, I ceased to be surprised that, for many restaurants, anything you put in a bowl with tortilla strips qualified as tortilla soup.

For this recipe, I created an amalgamation of the best soups I’d eaten over the years. The result is a simple, yet flavorful broth with nothing solid but chicken to start. It is a chicken base with a little tomato for color and chipotle for some smoky heat.

All of the other flavors are added when you serve. The rich avocado chunks, melted cheese goodness, cilantro kick and the salty crunch of fresh-made tortilla strips are added to each bowl and the soup ladled over to fill the bowl. Yes, you have to make the tortilla strips fresh. Don’t be a pansy.

A fun way to serve is to have the pot of soup with all the ingredients around and people can assemble the final soup themselves, family-style.

Tortilla Soup

  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 30m
  • Serves: 6

What's in it:

  • 2 qt Chicken stock
  • 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 can Chiptotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 Yellow Onion roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch Cilantro
  • Meat from a roasted chicken
  • Diced avocado
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

How to make it:

  1. Put chicken stock in a pot and bring to a slow boil. While the stock heats up, combine chopped onion, half of the cilantro leaves and chipotle in a food processor. It’s a good idea to start with one chili to test the heat — you can always add more later. Add a little stock and pulse until the mixture is a paste. Add the mixture to the pot of stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add chicken.
  2. Heat enough oil in a pan to cover a layer of tortilla strips. Cut corn tortillas into strips and add to heated oil a layer at a time. Do it in small batches or they’ll stick together and burn. When they are golden, remove from the oil and place on paper towels and salt while still hot. (If you have a fryer, use that instead.)
  3. Assemble the soup one bowl at a time. Start with the avocado chunks, then sprinkle the shredded cheese over generously and add some chopped cilantro. Ladle the soup over the small stack and add the tortilla strips. The hot broth will melt the cheese into gooey goodness.