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, salads and tacos. If you don’t have leftover chicken, 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 using ground cumin, coriander, and ancho chili pepper. Fresh jalapeño pepper adds heat or use an Anaheim pepper for a more mild flavor. Another flavorful heat option is adding ground chipotle. Pinto beans add substance, protein and healthy fiber.
Start by cooking the vegetables in a little olive oil until soft, then add the garlic and spices. Next, add tomatoes, beans, broth and the shredded chicken. Just heat through 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, or as I call them, the goodies. Placing bowls of goodies on the table allows everyone to customize their soup. I use lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado (or guacamole) and grated cheese. 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 9-10 minutes in a 350 oven. 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 until golden. They are crisp, lightly salty and hard to stop eating. Be sure to choose organic corn tortillas, and sprouted organic tortillas are an even better option.
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.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil divided use
- 1 medium onion chopped fine
- 1 carrot chopped fine
- 1 celery rib chopped fine
- 1 jalapeño pepper or Anaheim for mild heat
- 3 garlic cloves chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander optional but good
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder optional for spicy soup
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can pinto beans rinsed and drained
- 4-5 cups chicken or turkey broth
- 8-9 ounces cooked shredded chicken about 2 3/4 cups
- Homemade corn tortillas strips make them ahead, directions below
- 4 ounces grated Jack or Mexican cheese blend
- 1-2 limes quartered
- A few tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 large avocado sliced, diced or mashed
- 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 if using and cook until the vegetables are soft. If they start to brown, turn your heat down. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the spices, oregano, salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes to release the spices flavors. Add the tomatoes, beans, broth and chicken and heat through. Serve with garnishes on the side.