Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Chicken tortilla soup is a versatile and hearty dish that can be easily adapted for stovetop, slow cooker, or Instant Pot preparation, offering a convenient option for any schedule or cooking preference. Whether simmered slowly to meld flavors, pressure cooked for a quick and savory meal, or carefully stewed on the stovetop, this soup delivers a comforting blend of spices, tender chicken, and crunchy tortilla strips, making it a beloved choice for a satisfying dinner.

soup with cilantro and tortilla strips on it
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Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup is a hearty and flavorful dish, beloved for its robust blend of spices, tender chicken, and crisp tortilla strips, making it a comforting meal for any day of the week. When made in an Instant Pot, this soup comes together quickly, utilizing the pressure cooking feature to infuse the chicken and broth with a deep, complex flavor in a fraction of the time it would take on the stovetop. The slow cooker offers an alternative method, allowing the ingredients to simmer gently over several hours, which melds the flavors beautifully and ensures the chicken is fall-apart tender. Both methods are incredibly convenient, letting you set it and forget it, whether you’re looking for a fast weeknight dinner option or a slow-cooked weekend meal. The Instant Pot version is ideal for those last-minute meal decisions, while the slow cooker approach suits those who enjoy the anticipation of a slow-simmered soup.

Regardless of the method chosen, the result is a comforting, aromatic bowl of chicken tortilla soup that warms the soul and tantalizes the taste buds.

soup with cilantro, cheese, and tortilla strips on it

How to Make Chicken Tortilla Soup

First assemble the following ingredients:

  • Chicken (1 lb) – Chicken provides a lean, protein-rich base that absorbs the array of spices and flavors in the soup, offering tender, juicy bites in every spoonful.
  • Onion (1) – Onion adds a foundational layer of sweetness and depth, becoming soft and translucent as it simmers and melds with the other ingredients.
  • Ranch beans with jalapenos (1) – Ranch beans with jalapeños introduce a creamy texture and a spicy kick, enhancing the soup’s complexity and heat.
  • Diced tomatoes with green chiles (1) – Diced tomatoes with green chiles contribute a tangy and slightly fiery element, infusing the broth with vibrant color and zesty flavor.
  • Bell pepper (1) – Bell pepper adds a sweet, mildly earthy note, bringing a crisp contrast to the soup’s texture and a pop of color to the bowl.
  • Beef stock (4 cups) – Beef stock enriches the soup with a robust, savory backbone, deepening the overall flavor profile and complementing the chicken.
  • Corn tortillas (2) – Corn tortillas, when cut into strips and added to the soup, absorb the flavorful broth and thicken the soup, while fried strips used as a garnish add a delightful crunch.
  • To Garnish – cilantro and cheese, you can add jalapenos for more heat.

Use this Method

Cook Chicken. Add oil and sauté chicken (or use pre-baked or pan grilled chicken).

Add Ingredients. Add onion, beans, diced tomatoes, bell pepper, and beef stock.

In an Instant Pot: Cook 5 minutes in an instant pot on soup setting/medium pressure with a forced release

On the Stovetop: bring to a boil in a large pan on the stovetop and reduce heat to a soft rolling roil for 5 minutes

In a slow cooker: cook on high for 1 hour, cook on medium for 2 hours, then keep warm.

Enjoy. Plate immediately and top with tortilla strips, as well as optional cheese and cilantro garnish (a little avocado or sour cream also is quite nice on top.)

soup with cilantro, cheese, and tortilla strips on it

Tips and Tricks for Making Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker:

Layer Ingredients: Place ingredients in the slow cooker in the right order, typically starting with vegetables on the bottom, then chicken, and finally seasonings and broth, to ensure even cooking.

Use Chicken Thighs: For more flavor and tenderness, opt for chicken thighs over breasts, as they hold up better during the long cooking process.

Add Fresh Herbs Towards the End: To keep their flavors vibrant, add fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley towards the end of the cooking time.

Skim Fat: If using higher-fat cuts of chicken, skim off excess fat from the top of the soup before serving for a lighter broth.

Don’t Overfill: Keep the slow cooker no more than two-thirds full to ensure even cooking and prevent spillage.

Stovetop:

Sauté Vegetables: Start by sautéing onions, garlic, and other aromatics in a bit of oil to develop a deeper flavor foundation for the soup.

Deglaze the Pan: After browning the chicken, use a bit of broth to deglaze the pan and scrape up any flavorful bits stuck to the bottom.

Simmer Gently: Once all ingredients are added, let the soup simmer gently to prevent the chicken from becoming tough and to allow flavors to meld.

Adjust Seasonings: Taste and adjust seasonings towards the end of cooking, as flavors can concentrate during the simmering process.

Instant Pot:

Use the Sauté Function: Take advantage of the Instant Pot’s sauté function to brown the chicken and sauté vegetables before pressure cooking, adding layers of flavor.

Seal Properly: Ensure the lid is sealed correctly and the valve is set to “Sealing” to achieve the right pressure level for cooking.

Natural Release is Best: Allow for natural pressure release after cooking, especially for soups, to prevent splattering and to keep the chicken tender.

Thicken if Desired: If you prefer a thicker soup, use the sauté function after pressure cooking to simmer and reduce the broth or add a cornstarch slurry to achieve the desired consistency.

FAQS

Can I use frozen chicken for this soup?

Yes, you can use frozen chicken, especially in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. For the slow cooker, add 1-2 hours to the cooking time. In the Instant Pot, there’s no need to adjust the cook time, but ensure the chicken is separated and not in a large block. For stovetop, it’s best to thaw the chicken first for even cooking.

How can I make the soup spicier or milder?

Adjust the heat by varying the amount of chili powder, jalapeños, or adding chipotle peppers. For a milder soup, remove the seeds from the peppers and use less spicy seasonings.

Can I make this soup vegetarian?

Absolutely! Substitute the chicken with beans, such as black or pinto beans or lentils and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for a hearty vegetarian version.

How do I store and reheat leftovers?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave until heated through.

Can I freeze chicken tortilla soup?

Yes, chicken tortilla soup freezes well. Cool the soup completely, then transfer to freezer-safe containers, leaving some space for expansion. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

How do I thicken the soup if it’s too watery?

For all methods, you can thicken the soup by simmering it uncovered to reduce the broth, adding a slurry of cornstarch and water, or blending a portion of the soup and mixing it back in.

What toppings can I add to chicken tortilla soup?

Popular toppings include crispy tortilla strips, diced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and sliced jalapeños for extra heat.

Can I use a different type of meat?

Yes, turkey, pork, or beef can be used as alternatives to chicken, but cooking times may need to be adjusted, especially for tougher cuts of meat.

Is it necessary to brown the chicken before adding it to the soup?

While not strictly necessary, browning the chicken (especially for stovetop and Instant Pot methods) can add depth to the soup’s flavor through caramelization.

soup with cilantro, cheese, and tortilla strips on it

What to Enjoy with Chicken Tortilla Soup

Avocado Slices: Creamy avocado adds a rich texture and healthy fats, making each spoonful even more satisfying.

Lime Wedges: A squeeze of fresh lime juice can brighten up the soup, adding a zesty tang that complements the spices.

Chopped Cilantro: Sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top for a burst of herbal freshness and color.

Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt: A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt can cool down the soup’s heat and add a creamy component.

Shredded Cheese: Sprinkle some shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese for a melty, gooey texture.

Cornbread: Serve with a side of warm, buttery cornbread to soak up the flavorful broth.

Tortilla Chips or Strips: Add extra crunch with a handful of crispy tortilla chips or homemade tortilla strips.

Jalapeños: Sliced jalapeños offer a spicy kick for those who enjoy a bit of heat in their soup.

Rice: Serve the soup over a bed of rice for a more filling meal, turning it into a hearty stew.

Quesadillas: Cheese quesadillas make for a delicious and easy-to-make side that pairs well with the soup.

Salad: A light, crisp salad dressed with a lime vinaigrette can balance the richness of the soup.

Grilled Vegetables: A side of grilled vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and onions can complement the soup’s flavors.

Try these side dishes:

soup with cilantro, cheese, and tortilla strips on it

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Chicken enchilada soup with a twist of Tortilla Soup.
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

10 Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup in an Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or on the Stovetop – this is so delicious, simple, and crazy easy! 
Course soups
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken soup, instant pot soup, IP soup, quick soups, slow cooker soup, tortilla soup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 401kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs chicken diced into 1″ bits
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 can ranch beans with jalapenos
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 corn tortillas baked to crunchy then cut into strips
  • cheese garnish
  • cilantro garnish

Instructions

  • Add oil and sautee chicken (or use pre-baked or pan grilled chicken).
  • Add onion, beans, diced tomatoes, bell pepper, and beef stock.
  • In an Instant Pot: Cook 5 minutes in an instant pot on soup setting/medium pressure with a forced release
  • On the Stovetop: bring to a boil in a large pan on the stovetop and reduce heat to a soft rolling roil for 5 minutes
  • In a slow cooker: cook on high for 1 hour, cook on medium for 2 hours, then keep warm.
  • Plate immediately and top with tortilla strips, as well as optional cheese and cilantro garnish (a little avocado or sour cream also is quite nice on top.)

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 401kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 1250mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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3 Comments

  1. Aanhetstrandvanoostende says:

    Wow! I would like to try this recipe at my home. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. 2pots2cook says:

    Beautiful ! Just beautiful ! Hooked 🙂

    1. Judith Lemley says:

      I haven’t made this yet but it sounds hearty and spicy and delicious. I will try soon!