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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when the weather FINALLY drops into the 70’s, and I get to sit in front of the fireplace and eat Chicken Tortilla Soup while I listen to Christmas music.

“It’s the moooooost wonderful tiiiiiiiiiiiiiime…of the yeaaaaaaaaar!”

I have zero patience. I want to go from Labor Day swimming pool closures to ice skating rinks. Except I hate to ice skate. So, scratch that.

I want to go from shopping for bathing suits…never mind.

Basically, I want to curl up on my sofa wearing my leg warmers while I eat a steaming bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup and talk about my feelings over the faint sounds of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas on constant loop.

I’m basically every man’s worst nightmare. 

Except for Brian’s. Because he loves this soup. And leg warmers.

Thank goodness.

I actually came up with my version of this recipe the Monday after Labor Day because I needed to make a quick meal from things I already had around the kitchen. I am by no means a great cook, but I have been known to whip up a decent recipe or two. Probably exactly two. Which is why this is not an extensive cooking blog. I would exhaust all of my culinary expertise in less than one week.

And then I’d just talk about Chipotle and Chick-fil-A on alternating days.

This recipe is incredibly flexible, so feel free to adapt to your own taste preferences. I’ll indicate which ingredients I believe are most important to keep, but if you want to make a Bean Sprout and Tofu Tortilla Soup, go ahead and knock yourself out. Please just don’t invite me to dinner. Because I am not gifted with the art of discretion when it comes to spitting things into a napkin.

And that’s just embarrassing for everyone.

The Ingredients

Before I tell you the ingredients, I do want to let you know that these are all approximate. It’s hard to go wrong if you take out things you don’t like as much and add more of what you love. I’ve made this recipe twice (slightly different ways) with an almost identical result.

  • Approx. 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Large, family pack of thin-sliced chicken breast or chicken breast tenders (you can also substitute a rotisserie chicken to make it super easy)
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (recipe below) – Feel free to use your favorite. Brian actually made ours from scratch from a recipe he found on a cooking blog. Only, we can’t find the link now. Sorry fellow blogger. I wish I could give you credit for this easy, preservative-free recipe.
  • Approx. half of a 48 oz. carton of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans refried beans – I know lots of people don’t like the taste of these, but I promise you can’t taste them. They dissolve into the soup and act as a thickening agent. I would definitely keep this ingredient in the recipe if you like a hearty soup.
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can hominy, rinsed and drained – Brian really hates it when people describe the textures of their foods, so I like to go into great detail about how chewy and slightly crisp and perfectly plump hominy feels as it’s rolling down my gullet. Seriously, I wouldn’t leave out the hominy. It’s my favorite part.
  • 2 cans mild Rotel tomatoes (If you like more heat, then go for the medium or hot versions of Rotel. Brian can’t handle the heat, so this is a mild version.)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) can Bush’s Chili Beans
  • Approx. 2 cups frozen, shoe peg corn (or canned or fresh will work just fine)
  • 3 fresh, chopped bell peppers (I used red, yellow and green)
  • 1 can pinto beans (I actually ended up leaving this out of my final recipe. I was all beaned out.)

Taco seasoning recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder, 1 Tbsp. ground cumin, 1 Tbsp. garlic powder, 1 Tbsp. onion powder, 1/4 Tbsp. crushed red pepper

Optional ingredients:  rice, pinto beans, ground beef in place of chicken, any leftover veggies you don’t want to go to waste

Suggested garnishes:  diced avocado, sour cream (I use plain, Greek yogurt instead), grated cheese, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice


Open cans. Mix and heat in pot. Eat.

Kidding. It’s a bit more involved than that. But not too much. Honestly, if I can make it, a blindfolded monkey can make it.

First, you’ll want to chop up the peppers.


This is the part of the blog where I pretend like I’m The Pioneer Woman.


Only, she has some actual cooking expertise. And photography expertise as well.


Speaking of blindfolded monkeys, I almost chopped my hand off when I took that last photo. Because I was holding the knife with my left hand, and I dropped it.

We almost had to relive the WebMD video.


And no one wants that. Least of all the nice folks in the ER.

Okay, I’m showing you all of these pepper photos because this is my favorite way to chop a pepper. Once I have the top and bottoms out of the way, I slit it down one side.


I then lay it flat like so.


And then cut it into strips.


That just makes for nice, even slices that are much easier to chop for a not-so-smooth knife operator.

Chop all three of your peppers to make a colorful, backward Mexican flag design. Not really. But that’s what it reminded me of when I saw this photo.


Once your peppers are ready, grab a large pot (mine is 8 quarts).

Heat approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat (it doesn’t take much oil since the peppers release quite a bit of their own liquid).


Stir frequently to keep them from burning.


You’ll want to cook them until they’re soft enough to stick to a wooden spoon. Mine took about 10 minutes. But I can’t remember exactly because I was engrossed in the Lionel Richie Pandora radio station.

“Helloooooo, is it me you’re looking for…”


Transfer your peppers out of the pot and into a bowl. Set aside.

Place chicken in zip-top bag, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.


Add 1 tablespoon taco seasoning.


Seal the bag (leaving in the air), and shake the ever loving mess out of it. Leave no piece of chicken uncovered.

No chicken left behind.


Honestly, cooking is not an exact science. Well, sometimes it is. But not this recipe. It’s all going to taste the same when it’s in a bowl of soup anyhow.

[Seriously, she should just stick to making stupid videos of herself. This is the worst recipe description ever.]

Take the same pot you used for the peppers and heat another Tbsp. of olive oil.

Saute the chicken on both sides for approximately 3 minutes per side.


If you have several batches of chicken to cook, that pan may get pretty nasty. Just scrape out the black stuff and carry on. Or eat it. I don’t care. Keep calm and eat the nasty black stuff.

I should hang a sign in my kitchen that says that very thing.

[This is horrible. Seriously, scrape out the “nasty black stuff”? Eww.]

Hopefully, you’re a better cook than me and won’t end up with a black pan. If that is the case, then transfer your perfectly-cooked chicken to your perfect cutting board because YOU’RE PERFECT, okaaaaaaaay?


Chop ’em up (or shred if you prefer) into bite-sized pieces.


Side note:  I made TONS of chicken and peppers for this recipe. So, I pulled a few cups of each aside and kept it for fajitas later in the week.


Now, this is where the photography gets tricky. Because I had quite a bit of nasty black stuff at the bottom of this pan. And I decided it would be fine, and we’d just eat it. And then I decided it would taste nasty and I should scrape the pan. So, I wasted half a container of chicken broth. So, if you’re a super fantastic cook like me, you’ll want to keep a few dozen of these containers on hand.


After you scrape the bottom of the pan, you’ll want to add half a container of chicken broth to it. If you’re perfect, just continue without scraping. You know-it-all.

Add your chicken.


Then, pop open a can of refried beans, and run a knife along the edge to loosen it. Kinda like you would with that delicious, gelatinous cranberry stuff we eat at Thanksgiving.

It makes that fun “gloop” sound when it comes out of the can.


Hungry yet?


Okay, DON’T PANIC. I know this looks atrocious, but I promise it’s an important ingredient.


Because, eventually, it’ll dissolve into this:


Better, right?

I would make such an awful Food Network host.

“Next up, I’m going to make something that will probably disgust you THE entire time I make it. You’ll dry heave from start to finish. Stay tuned!”

Next up, you’ll want to rinse the black beans.


Then throw those in your pot along with the peppers you already cooked.


Toss in the frozen corn. I said 2 cups in the ingredient list, but I didn’t measure. Just eyeball it.


And I’m not current on my hominy best practices, but I rinsed mine before I added it. And all the canned hominy connoisseurs just died a little inside. But I’m trying to cut out the sodium. So, sue me.


Pour in the whole cans of Rotel.


And the whole cans (juice and all) of chili beans.


Oh, hello there, beautiful.


Heat on medium-low for at least 30 minutes (it’s a nice, round number) before serving. Stir every 5 minutes or so to avoid another pan-scraping situation.

Garnish with shredded cheese, Greek yogurt (if want to add some healthiness back to all this canned sodiumness), green onions, cilantro, tortilla chips, or whatever floats your boat.

Finally, turn on the Christmas music FULL BLAST.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

And stuff your face.

Note:  This makes for some wicked good leftovers. Just keep that half carton of chicken broth handy to thin out the soup if it seems too thick after refrigerating.

Also, if you plan to freeze some soup, I recommend throwing a large, zip-top bag over a bowl (like a glass, Pyrex measuring bowl). Fill it to the top, and then seal the bag.


Freeze for an hour or so in the bowl (to shape it), and then take the bowl out before the bag has time to stick to the bowl and cause you a whole different scraping issue. Not that I’ve been there.

The reason I froze my soup this way is so it’s the right size and shape to go straight to my pot to reheat. No need to thaw out a huge, rectangular slab of soup.

[Seriously? A slab of soup? It’s like she’s TRYING to gross me out with this recipe.]

It’s the mooooooost wonderful tiiiiiiiiiiime…of the yeaaaaaaaaaaar!

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Comments to "Chicken Tortilla Soup"

  1. G-Man

    September 30, 2013

    Katy, soup connoisseur that I am, your recipe does whet my appetite! I have to say however that I wasn’t sure about it until I got to the picture of the finished product in the bowl (you know I am a visual learner). Throw a grilled cheese sandwich and Cheetos beside it and you’ve got yourself one DEEEEELICOUS meal!

    • Katy in a Corner

      September 30, 2013

      Daddy, I think you’d enjoy this soup. It tastes quite a bit like mom’s taco soup…just with chicken instead of ground beef. Also, cheese on top of the soup with grilled cheese and Cheetos is a bit of overkill, don’t you think?

  2. Dona

    September 30, 2013

    Oh, girl. How we love you. And I must say, the addition of refried beans is BRILLIANT. Flavor and thickening….yes, I said BRILLIANT. Interesting timing, too, because I had planned on making my first pot of soup for the season today! Two great minds, huh? Unfortunately, I can’t make this one. Mine will be the “clean out the freezer of all the little packages marked ‘For Soup’ kind of soup. I’ve made some fantastic soups this way, but unfortunately none of them can ever be duplicated because I never know what’s in those bags! Fortunately I’ve had more good ones than bad, so my family isn’t afraid. Love you, kiddo! Dona

    • Katy in a Corner

      September 30, 2013

      I’ve been accused of being a lot of things over the years, but a genius isn’t one of them. 🙂 What a great idea to freeze all your leftover veggies and things to make soup later. What do you use as your base?

  3. Tara

    September 30, 2013

    So, I totally almost skipped this post, because I have about a million recipes for tortilla soup. BUT, I’m so glad I didn’t because I’ve never seen it with the refried beans and I so want to try it now. I’m definitely putting this in the recipe rotation for this week, thanks for sharing!

    • Katy in a Corner

      September 30, 2013

      Sure thing, Tara! I think the refried beans MAKE this soup. They give it such a hearty, stew-like quality. Hope you enjoy it!

  4. Meredith

    September 30, 2013

    This sounds so yummy! Just a little fyi…all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan when you cook the chicken, leave those bits in there and break them down with the broth. It’ll add really great flavor to your soup. Great recipe, easy too!

    • Katy in a Corner

      September 30, 2013

      Yeah, that’s the thing, Meredith. There’s brown…and then there’s BLACK. Mine was more in the black color family. 🙂 Definitely burnt. I contemplated leaving it, but I didn’t want to risk such a huge batch of soup for it.

  5. karen

    September 30, 2013

    I loved this post. Sharing wonderful recipes is awesome, but with your pictures and sense of humor, this was a grand slam. The soup looks so yummy. I seriously laughed multiple times in reference to Chipotle/Chick Fil-A, “slab,” pioneer woman, black stuff scraping, Cheeto overkill, it was so funny and appetizing at the same time. And that is one tough combination there. You really have me wanting to try this! Just keep being you. You are hilarious.
    karen recently posted…The Biggest LoserMy Profile

  6. Amy - Funny is Family

    October 1, 2013

    This recipe looks amazing! You are blowing my mind with the refried beans in the soup. I’m going to be chewing on that for days. (See what I did there?)


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