Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup with Quinoa


Up in the northeast, the weather has been quite frightful the past week.  While we are experiencing a rise in temperatures, warm soups and stews will warm the soul until Spring arrives.  Although we associate soups with winter, soups can be eaten year round.  When visiting Cartagena, Colombia this summer, on a 90 degree humid day, our first meal contained soup.

This week I’m sharing my take on my favorite soup, Tortilla Soup or Sopa Azteca.  A traditional Mexican comfort food, this dish  simple, with a fire roasted tomato, white onion and garlic puree mixed into chicken broth.  As with many traditional foods, variations vary from region to region and from family to family.  I’ve never had tortilla soup in Mexico, something I hope to experience as I plan a trip there this summer (wishful thinking, hopefully not).  I’ve had many Americanized versions, including  at Mexican restaurants. 

When recreating a dish not from my culture, my intention is to respect tradition while incorporating my own flair and flavor profiles. In this dish I did some research on traditional recipes, surveying authentic resources.  As you will notice, I love using cumin and smoked paprika in a lot of dishes, including this soup.  You can leave it out, but you will miss out.  I added quinoa for a hearty carb and protein punch, plus I love how quinoa thickens soups especially when it sits in the fridge, which also enhances the flavor of this dish.  Enjoy same day, but best the next!

Chicken Tortilla Soup  

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 whole chipotle peppers (or 1 if you are not a spice fan)
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • Optional: ¼ tsp chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In pan, saute onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, lightly heating to release flavor.  In a food processor or high power blender, add the cooked garlic and onions to the tomatoes and chipotle peppers and blend until pureed.  

In a large pot, add 6 cups of chicken broth, the puree, chicken breasts, bay leaf and desired spices.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  You can use a meat thermometer for this or simply cut open the breast to ensure it is completely white.

Remove the chicken from the broth and using two forks shred the chicken.  It take some work, but it is well worth the effort.  Click here for a quick article on shredding chicken. 

While you shred the chicken, add in the quinoa.  Next,  place the shredded chicken back into the simmering broth.  When quinoa is thoroughly cooked, remove bay leaf and add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy topped with crushed tortilla chips, guacamole, chopped avocado, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, cheese or any combination of these!






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