My inspiration for making soup is often a convergence of too many vegetables in the refrigerator with homemade stock and leftovers from a roast chicken. This recipe is not an authentic tortilla soup, as I managed to empty most of the contents of my veggie drawer into it. It’s chock-a-block full of corn, beans, zucchini and peppers, simmered with a few “must have” aromatics, onion and garlic, and pantry staples, canned Italian plum tomatoes and black beans.

 I spiced up the stock with warming Southwestern spices in defiance of the dreary drizzle outside and finished the soup with a shower of shattered tortilla chips, which happened to be left over remnants in the bottom of the bag — too small for swiping through a bowl of salsa. Leftovers never tasted so good.

 If you don’t have leftover chicken on hand, a store bought rotisserie chicken and packaged stock will do the trick. 

Season and spice the soup to taste. Ideally, it should have a little heat. But since our family is divided on what constitutes “spicy,” I pass a bottle of hot sauce around the table so everyone can fire up the soup to their taste. This soup is meant to be thick. More chicken stock may be added for a soupier consistency.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6


1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

1 sweet red pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 cups of chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can of Italian plum tomatoes with juice

1/4 cup of tomato paste

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

3/4 pound of shredded, cooked chicken

1 cup of fresh corn kernels

1 cup of cooked black beans

1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped

Tortilla chips, broken in pieces, for garnish


Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute until crisp-tender, about two minutes. Stir in the garlic and zucchini and saute briefly, about one minute.

Add the chicken stock, plum tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne and cloves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer — partially covered — for 20 minutes.

Stir in the chicken, corn and beans. Simmer — partially covered — until thoroughly heated through. 

Taste for seasoning.

Stir in the cilantro leaves and serve warm, garnished with the tortilla chips.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat and a dog. She studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Her favorite activities include hiking, cooking dinners for her friends and family, and planning her next travel destination.

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