In high school, I went through a major Chicken Tortilla Soup phase, which is to say I went into a major chicken tortilla soup topping phase. Happily, this recipe gives us the best of both worlds!
On our weekly Mexican food outings (the ones where I got to order Beef Fajitas on special occasions), I often went in spurts, ordering the same entrée on repeat for a month straight.
Mexican chicken tortilla soup (or as I tried to pronounce in my best 17-year-old limited Spanish sopa de tortilla con poyo) was such a chapter.
At some point in my late teens, I started to become more health-conscious.
Ordering soup seemed like a “healthy” choice on an otherwise indulgent menu.
And it probably would have been, had I not made said chicken tortilla soup unhealthy by way of copious toppings.
I added so much cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips, I might as well have owned it and ordered nachos.
These days, I am still a lover of toppings, especially on hearty, Mexican-inspired soups and chilis like Chile Verde Pork, Healthy Turkey Chili, and Green Chili Recipe.
At the same time, I also appreciate the value and necessity of a rich, nutritious soup beneath them.
- This healthy chicken tortilla soup is packed with lean protein and vegetables.
- Instead of relying on fat (delicious but an easy shortcut in the flavor department), it relies on healthy cooking ingredients and techniques like sautéing, simmering, and spices.
This healthy soup recipe will leave you feeling satisfied and nourished.
And fear not, it still leaves you plenty of room for the good stuff: toppings galore!
How to Make Chicken Tortilla Soup
This healthy chicken tortilla soup is primarily adapted from my Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup.
I borrowed the smart method of baking the chicken in the oven from the Pioneer Woman’s chicken tortilla soup.
Baking the chicken in the oven is a time-saver and makes this easy chicken tortilla soup weeknight-friendly. Start the soup base on the stove while the chicken finishes up in the oven.
- Chicken Breast. Scrumptious, tender chicken breast cubes are a healthy, protein-packed addition.
- Bell Peppers. Diced bell peppers add nutrition and a touch of sweetness to the soup. Bell peppers are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
- Jalapeño. Since we’re removing the membrane and seeds, the jalapeño adds a touch of heat without overpowering the soup with spice.
- Chipotle Chiles in Adobo. A little smoky, tangy, and spicy flavor all wrapped up into one easy package.
- Crushed Tomatoes. This chicken tortilla soup has a tomato based broth (like my Easy Taco Soup). Crushed tomatoes give the soup liquid and add flavor.
- Spices. Cumin and chili powder add warmth, earthiness, and a pinch of spice.
- Pinto Beans. For an extra punch of filling protein, fiber, and vitamins. Plus, they add a delicious creamy element to the soup.
- Cornmeal. Helps thicken the soup and complements the tortillas on top.
- Lay the chicken breasts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with spices.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into cubes.
- Sauté the onion, jalapeño, bell peppers, garlic, and seasonings. Add the tomatoes, chiles, and salt.
- Stir in the chicken, broth, and beans. Bring to a boil, then add the cornmeal. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
- Serve with desired toppings and DIG IN!
Tortilla Soup Toppings
Let’s talk about the good stuff!
Be smart about your topping choices and you can load them on without making chicken tortilla soup unhealthy.
- Cheese. Use a fully flavored, melty cheese like sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or Monterey jack for a cheesy chicken tortilla soup. A more flavorful cheese won’t require you to use as much, giving you more taste bang for your cheesy buck.
- Greek Yogurt. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt is my healthy stand-in for sour cream. Both are thick and tangy and cool the soup’s spices. Dollop it on top or stir it in for a creamy chicken tortilla soup.
- Avocado. Nutrient-dense and creamy, avocado is good for you and will make the soup taste more indulgent than it is.
- TORTILLAS. Because it isn’t chicken tortilla soup without them. Bake your own tortilla strips or you can purchase them from the store.
- To Store. Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze soup in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Bake the chicken up to 1 day in advance. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish the recipe. Dice the bell peppers, jalapeño, and onion up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate each in separate airtight storage containers.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Sheet. A must-have for everyday cooking and baking.
- Dutch Oven. My go-to kitchen tool for preparing stovetop soups.
- Ladle. Ideal for serving soup!
The Best Dutch Oven
This investment piece will last a lifetime! It’s beautiful, high-quality, and can take you seamlessly from stovetop to oven to table.
Thanks to the simmering, use of spices, and, YES, the toppings(!), this recipe takes me back to the authentic chicken tortilla soup I loved on our Mexican food excursions as a teen.
I suspect it will be a repeated chapter in your house too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Turn your leftover soup into a dip by pouring it into a casserole dish, warming it in the oven, and dunking tortilla chips into it. It is also tasty mixed with rice.
Yes, you can adapt the recipe to include more of your favorite veggies if desired. I think corn or carrots would be tasty!
Yes, you can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. They will likely take a little longer to bake, so be sure to check them for doneness.
FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt divided, plus more to taste
- 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts about 2 breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 medium jalapeño seeded, membranes removed, and diced
- 1 red bell pepper cored and diced
- 1 green bell pepper cored and diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth divided
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- Corn tortilla strips or 6 small corn tortillas: see notes to make your own strips this is a must-have! The other toppings are optional but HIGHLY encouraged
- Shredded Monterey jack cheese
- Diced avocado
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime slices
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish larger enough to hold the chicken in a single layer with parchment paper. Place the chicken breasts on top.
In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Set the rest of the spice mixture aside.
Bake the chicken until it is fully cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. It should reach 165 degrees F when tested with an instant read thermometer. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Cut into bite-sized cubes and set aside.
Meanwhile, in Dutch oven or similar large soup pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, jalapeño, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the onion is softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the reserved spice mixture. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the crushed tomatoes, chipotle chiles, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let cook 3 to 4 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly reduced.
Add the cubed chicken, 3 cups chicken broth, and pinto beans. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the cornmeal. Partially cover the pot.
Simmer the soup, partially covered, for 15 minutes, until thickened. Taste and add salt or seasonings as needed. If the soup is thicker than you would like, add in the remaining 1 cup chicken broth until it reaches your desired consistency.
To serve: ladle into bowls. Top generously with tortilla strips and other toppings of choice.
- TO MAKE YOUR OWN TORTILLA STRIPS: Place a rack in the center of your oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Stack the tortillas and cut them in half, then slice each half into 1/2-inch strips. Place in a mixing bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat, then spread them into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through. If they aren’t quite as crisp as you’d like, give them a few more minutes. Set aside to cool.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze soup in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Adapted from my Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 319kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 30gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 60mgPotassium: 1210mgFiber: 8gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1386IUVitamin C: 60mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 4mg
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