I am ashamed to say that I recently made chicken tortilla soup by starting with a whole chicken for the very first time. I have made chicken tortilla soup in the past, and I even posted it (a long time ago)… But, I have always used chicken breast and boxed stock. Let me just say that those days are over!
I’m not usually someone who orders soup at restaurants, but chicken tortilla soup is one of my weaknesses, and I order it quite often. The last time I ordered it at one of my favorite restaurants, I started pondering what made it so good. I couldn’t really pick out any bold flavors or spices… It was just good. The more I thought about it, I realized that the reason I liked it was most likely from the chicken stock. After all, that’s a key ingredient in chicken tortilla soup. I know the restaurant makes much of their food from scratch, so I decided that making my own chicken stock was my best chance at recreating the restaurant version of my favorite soup.
As it turned out, making chicken tortilla soup from scratch was as easy (if not easier) than the versions I have made in the past. It turned out to be far more flavorful, and it was cheaper, too! What more could you want?
Chicken Tortilla Soup
For the stock:
- 3 1/2 pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 2 onions, cut into large chunks
- 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 2 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
- 2 bay leaves
- Dried thyme
- Kosher salt
- Black peppercorns (about 1 teaspoon)
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ribs of celery, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 jalapeños, seeded and minced
- 3 cups seeded and diced tomatoes
(I used tomatoes from my freezer from last season, but canned would be fine)
- 1 teaspoon ground corriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Chicken stock (from above)
- Shredded chicken (from above)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Tortilla chips
To prepare the stock, place the whole chicken in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Add the vegetables and bay leaves. Sprinkle with dried thyme, salt, and black peppercorns. Add enough water to just cover the chicken and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered for 1 1/2 hours.
Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat by hand and set aside for the soup. Pour the chicken stock through a strainer to remove all of the vegetables and solids. Reserve the stock for the soup.
To prepare the soup, begin by heating the olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions, garlic, and jalapeños. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and tender. Add the diced tomatoes, and season with the coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Stir in the chicken and continue to simmer until the chicken is heated through. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve the soup topped with tortilla chips and other toppings, if desired. I love to serve it with diced avocado, cilantro, and shredded cheese.