Fall is my favorite time of year! I love the bursts of color, the cool air, and the anticipation of the holidays. The cool wind starts blowing, the leaves fall from the trees, and our fireplaces get cleaned out for the upcoming winter. I just want to wear cuddly socks, light a candle, and make yummy soup. Well, have I got a treat for you! This is my favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe because it can be made in 30 minutes. I found it in my Cooking Light magazine several years ago. It has a rich depth of flavor that satisfies after one bowl. I also appreciate that it is healthy and inexpensive. One bowl (2 cups) is about 330 calories and 27 grams of protein. If you choose to buy a pre-made chicken, total cost should be around $15 or less.
This recipe is the most fun to make if you have all your ingredients ready ahead of time. There is nothing worse than searching through your spice cupboard while the veggies burn on the stove! So do yourself a favor and mise en place, put everything in it’s place before beginning.
Step 1: Chop up a medium sized onion and one bunch of cilantro. Remove as many stems from the cilantro so that you won’t get a bitter taste in the chicken tortilla soup. The cilantro is what makes this recipe so flavorful and aromatic, so don’t skip it! The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of cilantro, but I always add extra.
Step 2: Dice your zucchini, jalapeno, and chicken.
If you have time to roast your own chicken, super! But on those extra busy nights, just pick up an already-baked chicken from the local store. It is easy to pull apart and you can use as much or as little as you like. Another option is going vegetarian for a night. The soup is just as lovely with extra veggies.
Step 3: Make sure all your spices are ready to go. You’ll need cumin, chili powder, a bay leaf, Kosher salt, and garlic standing by. Then heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a stock pot. Once it’s hot, get ready to dump!
Step 4: Pour in the zucchini, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 2 bay leaves. Cook it for about 7-8 minutes on medium to high heat. You want the zucchini to be soft. You’ll start smelling the cilantro as you stir and you’ll be glad you didn’t skip it! A quick time saver here is to use pre-minced garlic from a jar. Though it is not as fresh as garlic from the clove, it is more likely you have it on hand. And if you don’t have the bay leaves, no sweat. Try it next time.
Step 5: Now that everything is softened and your kids are asking what smells so good, pour in the chili powder and cumin. Then pour in 4 cups of chicken stock or broth. If you are going vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead.
Now here’s my secret ingredient: homemade chicken stock! I realize that a lot of you won’t have this on hand. But the next time you roast a whole chicken, pour out all those juices and chicken parts at the bottom of the pan into a mason jar and refrigerate it for later. As it cools, the fat will rise to the top. When you are ready to use it, you can scrape the fat off the top (or leave it if you like a more robust soup) and heat it for a minute in the microwave.
Step 6: Add one can of diced tomatoes. I like the fire-roasted flavor best. Bring all of these delicious ingredients to a boil.
Step 7: Once the soup is at a rolling, steady boil, add a can of unsalted black beans and the chicken. Toss in another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt too. If you are going vegetarian, you can add an extra can of beans or even a can of corn. But make sure your black beans are the unsalted kind. If you just have a regular can, keep back the second portion of kosher salt. You can always add more salt but you can’t take it out. Let this simmer for 5-7 minutes so the chicken can heat through. When it’s done, take the bay leaves out.
Don’t you just want to slurp this chicken tortilla soup with a straw?!
Look how chunky it is!
Step 8: Now for the toppings! I suggest a few slices of avocado, some extra cilantro, and those little tortilla strip salad toppers they sell in the produce section. My husband likes a little cheese and sour cream. A squeeze of lime also adds a nice fresh citrus taste.
And you’re finished! This will chicken tortilla soup will certainly dazzle your spouse and kids and satisfy that homey, fall feeling November brings. The soup is especially wonderful to take to a sick friend, a mommy with a newborn, or a new neighbor. It freezes very well so don’t be afraid to make a double (or triple!) batch!
Happy Fall Y’all!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 1/2 cups zucchini
- 1 cup onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1 seeded jalapeno
- 5/8 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 4 cups stock
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 14.5 oz can unsalted black beans
- 10 oz chicken
- Optional toppings: tortilla strips avocado, lime, cheese, sour cream
- Heat oil over medium heat.
- Add zucchini, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, 1/8 tsp kosher salt, garlic, and bay leaves.
- Cook 5-7 minutes until softened.
- Add chili powder, cumin, stock, and tomatoes.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add black beans, chicken, 1/2 tsp kosher salt.
- Let simmer 5 minutes.
- Divide among bowls and top with favorite toppings.