Holy Tortilla Soup!

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I have a tried and trusted tortilla soup recipe. To my dismay, I cannot locate it. I am beyond bummed, but I blame it on a place where ordinary gravity has become so extreme that it overwhelms all other forces in the Universe — my bedroom. Yes, I'm certain my tortilla soup recipe has fallen in the crack between my bed and the wall. I'm afraid to look down there, but surely, that's where it must be. My lifeless den of iniquity is now known as The Black Hole. Nothing can escape its pull, not even light. It serves as the scape goat  for all misplaced items in my home — socks, underwear, new shirts that I forgot I bought. Half-read books. Phone chargers. Pajamas from the 4th grade. A Matchbox car and few Ninjago legos. (Zoe? Is that you? Is this where you've been hiding for the last 18 months?) Would be fun to find a boyfriend or two down there, but that's not likely to happen.

In the mean time, I searched the annals of the web to find a recipe similar to what I used to make. I think I found it. This recipe varies from mine in some ways, but holy cow, it's good. Damn good. And I'm here to share it with you today. I modified it to my liking, but I will link to the original and leave it up to you to decide which to use. (Mine's better tho.)

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Tortilla Soup

All ingredients are organic


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, cut in half vertically, and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-3 dried ancho chilies (depending upon your comfort level)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 4 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus more as needed 
  • 1 28oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (or any diced and peeled) 
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil — if you want to make your own little tortilla strips for a garnish
  • Cooked chicken breast (and for the Love of God, please do not overcook!)


  • Cotija cheese (cheddar or MJ is ok if you want that American taste)
  • Green onion
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Limes
  • Tortilla chips (or make your own strips, see below)


  • Melt the butter, add olive oil. Once heated, add the onions and sprinkle with sugar. Sauté for a bit, then keep heat low and cover. Slowly cook the onions until they are deep brown. This takes 45-60 minutes depending on the heat level and onions. You will need to stir only occasionally during the first 30 minutes, more often during the next 15 minutes, and frequently in the final 15 minutes. NOTE: I can’t overemphasize the importance of this step. If the onions are cooked too rapidly, they will burn; if too briefly, they will not lend the necessary color and depth of flavor to the finished soup. So take your time, cover partially, and sweat the onions until they are deep brown, translucent, and soft.
  • While the onions are browning, roast the ancho chiles 2"-3"over an open flame. If no flame is available, put the ancho chiles into a small, dry sauté pan set over medium heat. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes, turning often and pressing flat against the pan with a wooden spoon. The chiles will soften, puff slightly, and give off a lovely fragrance. Remove from the heat, cool briefly, remove the stem and seeds, and tear into small pieces. Put the chiles in a mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. Let hydrate for 30 minutes, and then drain, reserving 1 cup of the water.
  • When the onions are brown, stir in the garlic. Sauté for a minute. For the Love of God, do not burn the garlic!
  • Add the ancho chiles, torn tortillas, cumin, fresh cilantro and bay leaves. Heat, stirring for 2 minutes. It should become a sloshy mess, and the aroma will floor you. 
  • Add chicken stock, reserved 1 cup ancho chile water, and tomatoes. Sauté for a minute, then simmer (low heat) for 15 minutes.
  • Fish the bay leaves from the soup. Puree the soup in a blender.
  • Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding additional stock if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • If you have time, cool and refrigerate the soup overnight to develop the flavor more fully. (Highly recommend as it makes a big difference.)
  • When ready to serve, heat the soup. Add the chicken separately per bowl as it's served. That way the chicken will not get dry or be over cooked. If the chicken is cold, the hot soup will warm it up. Add any garnishes to your liking.

Tortilla Strips for garnish

Heat the oil in a small sauté pan. Thinly cut the tortilla into little strips, about 1/4" wide, 4" long. Fry the tortilla strips, turning with tongs, until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. 


Serves 6-8.

Original recipe can be found here.

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