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From Our Freshologists: Creamy Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is kind of like chili – there are as many recipes as there are cooks.

The Americanized version of a traditional Mexican soup, tortilla soup at its most basic is a chicken soup dressed up with fried tortilla strips. But from there, almost anything goes.

When the dish first got widely popular back in the ‘80s, it was usually more of a chicken broth with vegetables. (That version is similar to the Mexican sopa de lima, a simple chicken soup spiced up with fresh lime juice and jalapenos.)

But there are also versions that rely heavily on tomato, and creamy versions that get their richness from cream or, more interestingly, from pureed, roasted tortillas. Tortilla soup in that style is one of the signature dishes of the star Dallas chef, Dean Fearing.

The creamy-style tortilla soup below uses both tomatoes and ground tortillas, but it takes a lot of shortcuts, including the use of rotisserie chicken, so it’s an easy weeknight supper. It’s not very spicy, but you can amp it up by using jalapenos or pico de gallo as a topping when serving.

Creamy Tortilla Soup
Serves 4-6

4 Tbs vegetable oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 corn tortillas
2 cups petite-diced tomatoes, in juice
3 to 4 Tbs chili powder , or to taste
1 quart chicken stock
1 ear corn, cut off cob
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (rotisserie chicken works perfectly)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips
Optional garnish:  chopped fresh cilantro; sliced avocado; fresh pico de gallo; grated Monterey jack cheese;  fresh jalapeños, sliced

Heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add diced onions and cook for 10-15 minutes or until onions are softening and turning translucent. Add garlic and cook another 5-10 minutes.

Add two additional tablespoons of oil and continue cooking onions and garlic. Add tortilla strips and cook for about five minutes, until tortillas soften and start to turn brown. Add tomatoes and chili powder and cook another five minutes, or until mixture is thick.

Remove from heat and transfer tortilla-tomato mixture to blender. Add just enough chicken stock to blender to allow mixture to puree easily. After pureeing, return mixture to saucepan and stir in remaining chicken stock and corn. Simmer for at least 15 minutes and up to one hour. Add chicken and allow to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla chips. If desired, top with cheese, avocado, pico de gallo, jalapeños and/or cilantro.