Soupalooza: Experimenting with infinite varieties of tortilla soup

  • Enjoy this vegetarian verson of the Mexican classic tortilla soup.

      Enjoy this vegetarian verson of the Mexican classic tortilla soup. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Posted9/1/2015 5:51 AM

How many versions of chicken soup do you figure are out there? Well, that's at least how many versions of sopa de tortilla you will find.

The Mexican favorite usually includes chicken, tomatoes, garlic, onions, chili peppers and, of course, tortillas. But, that's where the similarities start and end. What kind of peppers do you use? Jalapeño, poblano or chipotle? Should you place the tortillas in the bottom of the bowl or as a garnish on top? How about grinding up the tortillas in the soup to thicken it? Beans or no beans? Corn or hominy? With chicken or without?


Everyone seems to have an opinion. To be perfectly honest, I tend to like them all -- even the over salted version they serve at chain restaurants. I just like the idea of tortillas in my soup. So when I set out to find the perfect recipe for Mexican tortilla soup, I had no idea of the variations out there.

While I scoured the recipes, I decided to take the best -- and easiest -- from all the recipes I found. First off, I decided to throw in the towel and use store bought tortilla chips. Yes, I know that's cheating, but I don't make homemade noodles for my chicken soup either. (If you want to make your own chips, just slice corn tortillas and bake them at 375 degrees for about six minutes per side.)

Another version I haven't tried yet calls for blending the soup with the corn tortillas to give it a rich, corn texture and adding beans and corn after that.

I went with the vegetarian version, but feel free to use chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth and add cutup cooked boneless chicken breasts to the soup at the same time you are adding the beans -- meaning about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

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Peppers are another area where you can experiment. A number of recipes called for dried chili peppers that you heat over an open flame and then de-seed and chop. Or you could add a chopped chipotle pepper with a dab of the adobe sauce. I went with the tried and true jalapeño -- two of them, in fact -- but I tend to like things with a kick.

As to the toppings, have at it. Cilantro, a squeeze of lime, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocados all work as great accompaniments for this soup. That's the beauty of sopa de tortilla -- the possibilities are endless.

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at

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