Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup packed with shredded chicken, beans, corn, and crispy tortilla strips is the perfect hearty and filling meal.
Chicken Tortilla Soup is a family favorite and the easiest way to make it is in the slow cooker. With less than 10 minutes of prep work, this crockpot tortilla soup is packed with flavor and great for feeding a crowd.
The other great thing about this crockpot chicken tortilla soup is that it is so easy to customize. Not only can you customize the protein, beans, and veggies, but you can also customize the toppings building the perfect bowl of soup for everyone.
What is Chicken Tortilla Soup?
Chicken tortilla soup can be completely different depending on where you are. There is a Mexican chicken tortilla soup and a more Tex-Mex, southwestern chicken tortilla soup. They have some similarities but are actually quite different.
- Tex Mex Chicken Tortilla Soup: This is the soup you see in American restaurants most often with shredded chicken, beans, and corn in a chicken and tomato broth. It’s usually topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and crispy tortilla chips.
- Traditional Mexican Tortilla Soup: In Mexico, tortilla soup is a slightly spicy soup made with tomatoes, chicken, broth, garlic, onions, and chili peppers. It is thickened with day-old corn tortillas or masa. It is usually served with queso fresco, crispy fried tortilla slices, avocado, dried chipotle peppers, and sometimes pork rinds (chicharrones).
The recipe I am sharing today is for a more Tex-Mex chicken tortilla soup. If you want a more traditional tortilla soup, check out this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. Or you may enjoy this Mexican Chicken Soup or Albondigas Soup.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make this delicious tortilla soup, plus easy substitutions depending on what you have on hand. This soup recipe is flexible and easy to customize.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs are the easiest options for this soup. You can also swap in browned ground beef, turkey, or chicken. Rotisserie chicken or precooked shredded chicken can be added before serving as well.
- Onion, garlic, and jalapeno: Fresh ingredients help build the flavor of this soup. Saute them first for an even deeper flavor. If you want to tone down the spice, swap in a poblano pepper or bell pepper. Or use canned diced green chilies.
- Beans: Black or pinto beans are the most common in chicken tortilla soup, but any beans can be used.
- Spices: To add some smokiness to the soup, add some cumin and ancho chili powder. Regular chili powder can be used as well. For more taco flavor, use taco seasoning instead.
- Diced tomatoes: To add tomato flavor to the broth, canned diced tomatoes are the easiest option. I like to combine regular or fire-roasted tomatoes and Rotel tomatoes or any tomatoes with green chilies. Use any tomatoes you like.
- Corn: Fresh, canned, or frozen corn can be added to the soup.
- Chicken broth: For the best flavor, use bone broth or homemade broth. Any chicken broth or vegetable broth can be used.
- Cilantro and lime: To brighten up the soup before serving, make sure to add some fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice.
- Tortillas: In the US, chicken tortilla soup is usually served with crispy tortilla strips or chips. For a more authentic twist, toast some corn tortillas over a gas oven flame. Once slightly charred, tear them into strips and add them to the soup.
How to Make Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
This soup is easy to make and the slow cooker does most of the hard work.
1. Saute the Aromatics and Spices
Start by sauteing the onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Add the spices in the last minute to bring out their full flavor.
In a rush? You can skip this step and simply add the raw ingredients to the slow cooker. Sauteing them first will make for a more flavorful broth but both methods create a tasty, delicious soup.
2. Build Flavor in the Slow Cooker
Add the sauteed vegetables, spices, chicken, tomatoes, and broth to the slow cooker. Then let everything cook for 3-4 hours on low. This low and slow cooking process is what builds rich flavor in the broth.
If you need to cook it longer, 6-8+ hours, then I recommend using chicken thighs so the chicken doesn’t dry out. Or add shredded rotisserie chicken at the end.
3. Shred Chicken
After the soup has cooked, remove the chicken and shred it with two forks. Many people also like to shred the chicken using a stand mixer for a hands-free option.
Once the chicken is shredded, add it back to the crock pot along with the beans and corn. These two ingredients can be added at the beginning as well, but I like to add them later so they don’t get too mushy.
Taste the soup and season it as needed with extra salt, pepper, chili powder, or spices.
4. Make the Crispy Tortilla Strips
While the soup continues to cook, make the tortilla strips. Cut corn tortillas into thin strips. Brush them with olive oil or spray them with cooking spray. Then bake them in a 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes on each side.
5. Add Toppings and Serve
Make sure to add plenty of fresh cilantro and lime juice. Then serve the chicken tortilla soup in bowls with the crispy tortilla chips and any additional toppings you like. Think sour cream, sliced jalapenos, or avocado.
6. Stovetop and Instant Pot Options
This soup can also be made on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot.
- Stovetop: Saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil until just tender. Stir in the spices. Add the chicken breasts, beans, corn, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Shred the chicken and add it back to the soup. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cilantro and lime juice.
- Instant Pot: Saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno for 3-5 minutes in the Instant Pot. Add the spices and cook for one minute. Add the chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Cook on high for 8 minutes and let naturally release for at least 15 minutes. Shred the chicken. Add it back to the pot with the cilantro and lime juice.
The Best Tortilla Soup Toppings
There are so many delicious ways to add flavor to this tortilla soup with toppings. Here are some of our favorites:
- Crispy tortilla strips to chips
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Sliced jalapenos
- Shredded Mexican or cheddar cheese
- Extra cilantro
- Extra lime juice
- Green onions or pickled onions
- Salsa or pico de gallo
Shortcuts and Recipe Ideas
There are lots of ways to customize this tortilla soup and make it your own.
- Use rotisserie chicken If you prefer using rotisserie chicken, simply add it during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. That way it soaks up the flavor of the broth but doesn’t dry out.
- Make it creamy: If you like a creamy chicken tortilla soup, add ½ cup of sour cream, heavy cream, or cream cheese to the soup before serving, Stir it so it melts and combines into the soup.
- Make it heartier: Add cooked rice or extra beans to the soup for a heartier version.
- Add taco seasoning: Many recipes call for a packet of taco seasoning. This changes the flavor and makes it a bit more like taco soup, but is still delicious.
- Add bell peppers: Saute some diced bell peppers with the onions and garlic for extra veggies and flavor.
- Add enchilada sauce: For a smokier soup or more enchilada-style soup, add a can of enchilada sauce in place of some of the chicken broth or diced tomatoes.
- Skip the beans: This soup can be made without beans and/or corn if you prefer. You may want to add an extra chicken breast to keep the soup hearty and filling.
Side Dishes and Serving Ideas
This soup is hearty enough on its own to be a complete meal, but if you want a side dish consider adding:
- Some healthy chicken quesadillas
- Mexican chopped salad
- Mexican street corn salad
- Serve the soup over steamed white rice, brown rice, or quinoa
- Black bean salad
Storing Leftovers and Freezing
This chicken tortilla soup only gets better after a night in the fridge.
- Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
- Freezer for up to 3 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to the most common questions about making chicken tortilla soup.
The most traditional way to thicken tortilla soup is with masa harina or day-old corn tortillas. Once they have soaked into the broth, they can be blended to thicken up the soup.
If you don't want to use masa or corn tortilla to thicken the soup, consider adding a can of refried beans to the tortilla soup to thicken it.
Sopa Azteca is a traditional soup from Mexico that is a Mexican-style tortilla soup made with tomato, chicken, and chipotle broth.
It normally is thickened with tortillas or masa harina. It sometimes has chicken, but often is simply the rich broth served with soft or fried corn tortillas, avocado, cubes of queso fresco, lime juice, and crema on the side.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
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- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, minced (seeded and deveined)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp ancho chili powder (or regular)
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
- 14 oz canned diced tomato with green chilies (or fire roasted)
- 14 oz canned diced tomatoes (with juices)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 14 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1.5 cups corn (frozen or canned)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 lime
- Salt and pepper
- 6 corn tortillas
- Cooking spray
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To make baked tortilla strips. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tortillas in a stack. Cut them in half and then into ½ inch strips. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the strips on a baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the tops with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 5 minutes. Shake the pan and bake for 5 more minutes or until golden brown.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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