simple chicken tortilla soup – smitten kitchen

Let’s talk about heat! There are so many ways to impart both chile heat and flavor here, and this recipe works with any of them: 1 minced jalapeño or serrano, or more to taste. Ground chile powder (not the spice blend for chili, the dish), chipotle powder, or even smoked hot paprika or cayenne will give it a kick. You could used a minced chipotle from a can, or just a spoonful of the puree around it. You could add some dried chiles, first toasting them in a dry pan, soaking them in hot water until soft, and blending them. Each will change the flavor of the soup slightly, and deepen it.

If you only have bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, start with 1.3 pounds and cook it 5 minutes longer.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (see Note about other heat options)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground chile powder (see Note about other heat options)
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Note)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Finishes, choose your own
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 1 medium avocado, sliced
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Second half of lime, cut into wedges
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Corn tortillas, cut into thin ribbons, to fry (instructions below)
  • Hot sauce
Make the soup: Heat a large or 4-quart soup pot over medium-high. Once hot, add olive oil. Once oil is hot add onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and chile cook one minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until one shade darker, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups chicken broth and stir to combine. Add chicken thighs and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, simmering for 15 minutes, until chicken is very tender and cooked through. Remove chicken with tongs and transfer to a cutting board. Add beans and corn (optional; still frozen is fine to soup), gently simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. While it simmers, use two forks to shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season soup well with salt and black pepper. Return shredded chicken to soup and warm through, 1 minute. If the soup is too thick for your liking at this point, add all or part of remaining 1 cup broth and bring back to a simmer. Check seasoning again and adjust to taste.

Remove from heat and squeeze lime juice of half a lime over. Serve with any finishings of your choice; shown here with avocado, cilantro, cotija, tortilla strips, and hot sauce.

Want to make fried corn tortilla strips? In a large nonstick frying pan, heat a generous 1/4-inch of a neutral/high heat-safe oil over medium-high until a drop of water flicked in sizzles dramatically. Add a handful of corn tortilla strips and cook, stirring a bit, until they begin to brown at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop out with tongs or a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and transfer to paper towels to drain. Season immediately with salt. Repeat with remaining strips. I promise, there will be no leftovers, but if there are, they keep in a bag at room temperature for a few days.

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