Here’s one of my favorite ways to use leftover chicken: Chicken tortilla soup. This south-of-the-border style soup turns leftover shredded chicken into a healthy and flavor-filled new dish. I’ll roast a whole chicken for dinner one night, then use leftovers for this soup. It’s a delicious as well as time-saving strategy.
Chicken Tortilla Soup – Great Use For Leftover Chicken
I roast a whole chicken every weekend so we always have leftovers for soups and salads. If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can roast a couple of chicken breasts (a day or two ahead even) or purchase a market roasted chicken. Discard the skin and shred the meat for the soup. You could even use diced, cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, but I prefer the shredded chicken for this soup. Do what works best for you.
One more idea, if you don’t have leftover chicken, use the method in my quick chicken rice recipe with a pressure cooker to cook a chicken breast. It takes just a few minutes to cook a chicken breast and you have wonderful broth as well. Just skip the rice and dill.
My chicken tortilla soup is based on classic Mexican flavors. I use ground cumin and coriander, jalapeño pepper and ground chipotle for mild heat, fresh oregano, creamy avocado, zing from lime juice and crunch from crisp, home-baked corn tortilla strips as garnish. I also add pinto beans for more substance and heathy fiber.
Start by cooking the vegetables in a little olive oil until soft, then add the garlic and spices. Next, I add tomatoes, beans, broth and the shredded chicken. Just heat to hot and your soup is almost ready. So what’s left to do? The garnishes!
Garnishes – The Best Part
The best part of chicken tortilla soup is the garnishes. Placing small bowls of goodies on the table allows everyone to customize their soup. I use lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado and grated cheese. You could add fresh chopped tomato as well if you like. And to top it all off, crisp, homemade corn tortillas strips.
How To Make Homemade Tortilla Strips
Making homemade tortillas strips for your soup takes just 9 minutes in a 350 oven. I discovered sprouted corn tortillas made by Food For Life. These fantastic tortillas are made from freshly sprouted 100% organic whole kernel corn, not corn meal or corn flour. Not familiar with sprouted grains? Here is why they are good for you.
The process of sprouting a grain increases its digestibility and absorption of minerals. Sprouting also releases more antioxidants that are naturally stored in the grains. These tortillas have a more rustic texture compared to standard corn tortillas. I found them at Whole Foods in the refrigerated deli section. Alternatively you can use regular coarse textured corn tortillas.
Cut the tortillas in half, then cut the halves crosswise into thin strips. Toss with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes (convection). They come out golden and crisp and are hard to stop eating.
Chicken tortilla soup is a meal in a bowl. You don’t really need anything else to complete dinner. And leftovers, if there are any, hold well for a few days in the refrigerator.
Read more about sprouted grains on the Food For Life site.
More about sprouted grains and why they are good for you, by Terry Retter
Leftover roast chicken makes this soup with classic Mexican flavors fast to put together. It’s a meal in a bowl. Have fun customizing your soup with the garnishes. You might get 5-6 servings out of this recipe, but one bowl never seems to be enough. Use leftovers from a whole chicken or two chicken breasts. In a pinch, a market roasted chicken will work as well. Don’t let the list of ingredients slow you down. A lot of it is spices, garnishes and options.
- 4 organic corn tortillas (for optional garnish)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1 medium carrot, chopped fine
- 1 large celery rib, chopped fine
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced fine (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, diced very fine
- 1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander (optional but good)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (optional but good for the heat)
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes, (roasted or regular)
- 1 can pinto beans, rinsed in a sieve with cold water
- 5 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
- 9 ounces or about 2 3/4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- Homemade corn tortillas strips (make them ahead, directions below)
- A few tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- 1-2 limes for lime wedges
- 1-2 avocados, sliced or cut into chunks
- 4 ounces grated Jack or Mexican cheese
- If you are making the optional tortilla chip garnish, make them first. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut tortillas in half, then crosswise into thin strips. Toss with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake strips about 9 minutes or until crisp and golden. Watch so they don’t burn.
- In a 5 quart pot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and jalapeño and cook until the vegetables are soft. If they start to brown, turn your heat down. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chipotle and oregano and cook 1-2 minutes to release the spices flavors.
- Add the tomatoes, beans and broth and chicken. Heat soup until hot. Serve with garnishes on the side.