It’s still cold in DFW so we’re still doing soups. We also need to lose the weight we gained during the Holidays. 😮 So, we roasted 3 chickens, obtained 5.5 lbs of shredded chicken meat, took the carcasses and made 7 qts of rich chicken stock. When you do that you know there is some soup in there somewhere. With that much chicken meat and stock you can make a wonderful variety of soups, starting with your standard comfort food – Chicken Noodle Soup. Today, however, it was time for a good old stick to your bones mexican soup, Tortilla Soup (Sopa Aztea de Tortilla) that is.
There is very little available history about tortilla soup. Some trace it to Central Mexico. Others say it originated in Mexico City where it is a favorite. Still others claim its lack of history indicates it originated in the Southwest in the 1960s. My money is on Diane Kennedy, “The Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine.” Ms. Kennedy has studied Mexican cuisine, its lore and history, extensively since she moved to Mexico from Wales in 1957. In fact, in 1981 she was awarded the Order Of The Aztec Eagle, by the Government of the Republic of Mexico for her contributions to the documentation of regional Mexican cuisine. In her book Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico, Harper & Row 1978, while not getting into the history and origin of the dish, she comments that it is quite common in Central Mexico. When I was but a lad of 9 in 1963, I remember eating Sopa Azteca when we traveled in Central Mexico for vacation. You see, Dad, despite being a flight surgeon for the USAF in his early medical career, hated to fly commercial airlines. So, he didn’t. Family vacations consisted of driving wherever he and Mom decided to go. Central Mexico was one of his favorite places. So, somewhere in Mexican lore, in and around Central Mexico, Sopa Azteca de Tortilla came into being. You can believe what you want but this is my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂
If you haven’t noticed before, there are so many different recipes for tortilla soup. It seems like everywhere you go there is a different recipe. Some people make chicken soup topped with sour cream, fried tortillas, diced tomatoes and diced avocados. Others claim their authentic recipe includes shredded lettuce and green chiles. Still others use ancho chiles and chipotle in adobo. Rick Bayless’ famous Topolobampo has a recipe for tortilla soup using low fat chicken broth and chile powder. Well this is my recipe for Tortilla Soup. Unlike the authentic tortilla soup, I don’t fry my chiles and crumble them into the soup at the end. Instead, like others, I prefer to make a chile paste. I believe the chile paste provides greater depth of flavor. It’s all in your preference. This is mine. Give this a try. We hope you like it.
- 2 qts rich chicken stock (recipe found here)
- 3 pasilla negra chiles, seeded and toasted*
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1 medium white onion, rough chop
- 3 medium-large tomatoes, roasted
- 1-1/2 cups grated cheese (we used a combo of cheddar and monterrey jack)
- 2 acovados, pitted, skinned and sliced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb chicken, diced
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 12 white corn tortillas, cut into strips
- salt, to taste
- Mexican crema
Fry the tortilla strips.
Drain, place on a paper towel and set aside.
Take the chiles and toast them on a hot comal.
Roast tomatoes under the broiler until blistered.
Put the tomatoes, chiles, garlic and 2 cups chicken stock in the Vita-Mix.
Saute onions in olive oil until soft.
Add oregano and cumin
Cook over medium-high heat to blend flavors and reduce the puree to a thick consistency, roughly 8 – 10 minutes. Now add the remaining 6 cups of chicken stock and meat.
Cook another 15 – 20 minutes to let the flavors fully develop.
To serve, place some of the tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl and ladle soup over the top.
Garnish with sliced avocado.
Drizzle crema over the top
Add grated cheese
Top with more tortilla strips and enjoy.
NOTES: Traditionally, this is served with lime wedges on the side. Some people like the brightness the lime brings to the soup. Tonight, we had it without lime. 🙂
Also, if you do not have homemade chicken stock and precooked chicken meat, get 1-1/2 lbs chicken breast and 2 qts low salt chicken broth. Dice the chicken, add it to the broth and bring it to a boil. Cook until the chicken is done. Allow to cool. Strain the chicken broth through a sieve, reserving the broth, to remove the cooked grey scum (protein) from cooking the meat.
* Pasilla chiles are NOT ancho chiles. Pasilla means little raisin. As such, many Hispanics in the US have commonly (and incorrectly) called pasillas ancho chile because ancho chiles are wrinkled raisin-like chiles. Pasilla chiles are called pasilla, pasilla negra or chile negro. They are the dried form of a chilaca pepper. Chilaca peppers are a mild to medium-hot, rich-flavored, narrow pepper that can measure up to 9 inches in length and often has a twisted or curvy shape. It turns from dark green to dark brown when fully mature. When dried is is so dark that it looks black, the basis for its name chile negro. So, when you see a recipe calling for pasilla chile or pasilla negra chiles, they are not referring to the dark green poblano pepper or its dried form ancho chile. The ancho chile is sweeter and fruitier in flavor. Pasilla chiles, on the other hand, add a distinctive, slightly astringent flavor to dishes, making them well suited to balancing out heavy stews, rich sauces and soups like Sopa Azteca.
20 thoughts on “Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca de Tortilla)”
I’ve never had anything that comes even close to this! Very interesting post, Richard!
I was surprised the soup went over the fried tortilla at the end — they are not supposed to stay crispy?
PS you typed “chile” where you meant “tomato” in the instruction from broiling them. Must be your love for chile steering your fingers 😉
Thanks, Stefan. 🙂 I like the tortilla strips in the soup and on top. The ones in the soup will become soggy but I like the additional texture it gives with the crispy tortilla strips as the final touch on top. Thanks for catching my mistake. It was late when I got this post finished and my proof checking skills were seriously diminished. 😮 I must have had chile on the brain and fingers.
My favorite Mom & Pop Mexican restaurant serves tortilla soup and I never developed a taste for it. I don’t care for the tortillas — a must, I imagine, if one is to like tortilla soup. Theirs aren’t fried, though, and that would make a world of difference. They, also, don;t garnish it with avocado — a welcome addition to your soup. In short, maybe I was too hasty in my “critique.” Your soup deserves a tasting. Thanks for sharing.
Hi, John. You don’t care for tortillas? That would be blasphemy down here. 😉 Is that just soft corn tortillas or is it soft tortillas in the soup? I prefer corn tortillas over flour but I don’t care for the yellow corn tortillas as much as the white corn tortillas. I find the white corn tortillas a little sweeter, milder and more tender. Baby Lady, on the other hand, prefers yellow corn because it tastes more like, well, corn. As for the Mom & Pop restaurant, I’ve never seen a tortilla soup without avocado although I have seen them without the fried tortilla strips.
Beautiful soup! I love that you made your own tortilla strips. I always forget that it’s quite easy.
Thanks, Sarah. I know some people buy tortilla chips and use them instead of the strips but we like the added little effort of frying the strips. They are prettier as a garnish and IMHO taste better. 🙂
Very nice. I’ve tried something like this in salad form but never in soup. Looks perfect for winter!
Thanks, Cat. This is a great winter food and is considered by many to the the comfort food soup of Mexico, kinda like Chicken Noodle Soup in the US. Being in the Caribbean, however, you don’t have winter. 😉
Very true! I imagine this is a good choice for tropical storms and rainy days though…which we have plenty of 🙂
Love that you fried your own tortillas, that is what we would do. This looks like a great soup and I will definitely be trying. What is a comal?
Thanks, Virginia, for your nice compliment. A comal is a flat griddle typically used in Mexico to cook tortillas, toast spices, sear meat, etc. They are made out of various different materials, including clay. The one we have is made out of cast iron. We love cast iron and it’s perfect for a comal. We haven’t seasoned this one, so it’s not smooth. Our general use for it is to 1) warm tortillas to place in our tortilla holder, 2) toast chiles and 3) make quesadillas. If we made homemade tortillas, we would use this, too. It is perfectly sized and shaped for tortillas. It also distributes and retains heat like nothing other than cast iron can do. Additionally, it’s the perfect size and weight to use on Potatoes Anna to compress the potatoes when you put them in the oven. 😀 I don’t think they envisioned that usage when they made it. 😮
Very interesting. We’ve been thinking about roasting peppers and the like and this may be the thing to look for. Thanks!
I love those black dried chilis. Nothing like them over here, unfortunately.
Lovely looking soup.
Those pasilla negro chiles are fantastic. They are the dried version of the Chilaca pepper that, as it matures, turns a dark brown color. When dried, the color is even darker, almost black. Hence, the reason for the name pasilla negro. It has a pungent and tangy flavor but with a long lasting deep rich flavor with woodsy undertones. Pasilla Negros are considered a mild heat chile at 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville Heat Units. You can order them online but I have no idea what the shipping cost would be.
Tortilla soup is a favorite of mine and yours sounds great. I think that there are as many different recipes as there are cooks. I put soft tortillas in the soup will it is cooking…they dissolve and give it a nice corn flavor. The I put fried ones on top.
Hi, Karen. I agree about the number of recipes. It is very much like chicken soup and most Hispanics have learned a recipe from their mother or grandmother. As long as you have chiles, tortillas, and chicken, you’re good to go. I’ve had versions with the tortillas cooked along with the soup and you’re right. It does give it a nice corn flavor. It also thickens the soup a little, similar to masa. Thanks for dropping by and posting.
Hi! I’m over from Chgo John’s lovely blog. One of my all time favourite soups is this one. I made a version a couple of months ago, but I love the ingredients and method for your version. http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/tortilla-soup/. I would likely still bake my tortillas instead of frying just to save on the calories.
Hi, Eva. Thanks for dropping by and checking us out. We’re glad you like the soup. It’s really wonderful on cold winter days. Baby Lady wanted to bake the tortillas to save on the calories, too, but we seldom eat fried foods and I just wanted them fried. 😮 Given everything else about the soup is pretty low cal, I didn’t feel the fried tortillas hurt too much and they sure were good. 🙂