Tortilla Soup

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Between setting the clocks back and the change in the weather, there’s no doubt that fall has arrived.  While still ridiculously mild compared to most of the country, there’s still a noticable difference here in Southern California.  So on that note I decided it was time for a spicy tortilla soup with all the trimmings.  While some versions might be easier than this one here, such as opening up various cans and adding them to a pot, this one will excite your taste buds.  I’m blessed to live in an area that has a wide variety of chiles available, but if you can’t locate the dried pasilla(chile negro), just sub 1 tablespoon of a pure chile powder such as ancho or New Mexico for each dried pod.  If you’re timid about the heat level you may also omit the jalapeno, but remember the avocado added on top will mellow the flavors.  Enjoy!

I started by cutting up 6 large roma tomatoes and removed the seeds, then roughly chopped them.

I pureed it in my blender and made sure it equaled 1 1/2 cups.  If yours doesn’t, add more tomato as needed.

I removed the stems from 2 dried pasilla chiles (chile negro) then cut down the side of each with a knife.  I discarded the seeds and opened them up.  In a dry pan over medium heat I pressed them down with a spatula to toast each side for about 15 seconds.  When you see some smoke rise you’ll know to flip them.  Don’t skip this step as it releases the natural oils of the chile.  I tore them into large shreds and added them to my blender.

I sliced up 1 white onion and peeled 6 garlic cloves then smashed them with the back of my knife.  I added 1 tablespoon of corn oil to a stock pot over medium heat then added the onion and garlic cooking for about 6-7 minutes until they just started browning.

When the onion just started browning, I added 1 diced jalapeno that I had seeded and cooked for another 2 minutes.  When it was done, I poured this into the blender with the pasilla chile then added the tomato puree and blended the whole thing until it was completely pureed.

I added 1 tablespoon of corn oil to the pot over medium low heat and added 3 corn tortillas that I had diced up and cooked them for 2 minutes until they softened.  I added 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro and cooked for 30 seconds.

I poured the puree from the blender into the pot with the tortillas and added 3/4 teaspoon of ground cumin.  I increased the heat to medium high and stirred the mixture constantly for about 10 minutes until it reduced by about 1/3 and was very thick.  There’s no easy way to do this and it’s going to splatter but it’s necessary to intensify the flavors.

I poured in 2 quarts (8 cups) of chicken stock, brought it to a boil then reduced the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I blended it with a stick blender and cooked it for 5 more minutes.  You can skip blending it if you don’t mind the bits of tortilla in it.  I got all my trimmings out including diced avocado, shredded chicken from a store bought roaster, shredded jack cheese, fried tortilla strips and lime wedges(a must).  I placed a some chicken in a bowl and poured the soup over it then topped it with the trimmings squeezing the lime over it.

And this was the final result.  Slurp!  Enjoy!

Tortilla Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This classic tortilla soup with all the trimmings is sure to satisfy that craving for something spicy and warm on a cold day.
Serves: 6-8
  • 6 large roma tomatoes seeded and chopped or enough to yield 1½ cups puree
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles (chile negro) stems and seeds removed and cut to fold open
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil divided
  • 1 white onion sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 jalapeno chile seeded and diced
  • 3 corn tortillas diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro or espazote finely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 qts (8 cups) chicken stock
  • shredded chicken from a roaster
  • diced avocado
  • shredded jack cheese
  • fried tortilla strips (see notes) or tortilla chips
  • lime wedges
  1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender making sure it yields 1½ cups. Heat a dry pan over medium heat and add the chiles 1 at a time pressing down on them with a spatula for 15 seconds/side until they start smoking. Remove and tear into shreds then add them to the blender. In a stock pot add 1 tablespoon corn oil over medium heat then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until they start to brown. Add the jalapeno and cook for 2 more minutes. Add this to the blender with the chiles and tomato puree and blend until the mixture is completely pureed.
  2. Add the other tablespoon corn oil to the pot over medium low. Add the diced corn tortillas and cook for 2 minutes until soft. Add the cilantro and cook 30 seconds. Add the puree from the blender along with ¾ teaspoon cumin to the pot and increase the heat to medium high. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring constantly until reduced by about ⅓ and is very thick. This is a mess and WILL splatter but is necessary.
  3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Puree with a stick blender and cook another 5 minutes. The last step may be skipped if you don't mind tortilla pieces in the final product.
  4. Place some chicken in each bowl and ladle soup over the chicken then garnish with avocado, cheese, tortilla strips and a squeeze of lime.
To make tortiila strips, cut corn tortillas into thin strips. Heat oil in a deep fryer or pan to 365 degrees and fry the strips for about 2 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels and season with a mixture of 1 teaspoon pure chile powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon sea salt.











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