Instant Pot or Stovetop Chicken Tortilla Soup + Video

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This flavorful Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe is made in under 30 minutes, with or without an Instant Pot. Chicken thighs and chicken breasts simmer in a spicy tomato broth full of smoky and spicy flavors. The chicken is cooked to tender perfection and then shredded. I have included instructions for both stovetop and Instant Pot cooking methods.

Classic chicken tortilla soup in a white bowl with an assortment of toppings on a platter nearby

Classic tortilla soup, the way I ate it in Mexico City, is simply good chicken broth combined with roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles, and topped with fried corn tortilla strips and an assortment of garnishes. It is food for the soul.

In an effort to bring Mexico to my home in Colorado, I recreated this soup. It transports me to Mexico City whenever the mood strikes.

While I have seen quite a bit of  Tex-Mex chicken tortilla soup recipes online that include corn kernels and black beans, this recipe does not include either. This Mexican soup recipe is traditional, modest, and simple.

How to make the soup base:

The soup base is made from dried New Mexico chiles, fire roasted tomatoes, organic chicken broth, and slightly thickened with a charred corn tortilla for additional smoky flavor.

For either the Instant Pot or stovetop method, you will make this base the same way. First up, soak the chili pods in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes until soft, then drain them. Add the softened chiles, chicken broth, tomatoes, and tortilla to a high powered blender and purée until smooth. Easy, right?

chicken broth and roasted tomatoes on a wooden background

How to make this soup in an Instant Pot:

If you are making this chicken tortilla soup in the Instant Pot, set it to the Sauté function and heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or so. 

TIP: Burned garlic has a very pungent bitter taste. Whenever you are working with garlic, it is a good practice to cook it only until fragrant and then add liquid to ensure the frying stops.

Season your chicken with salt. Add the chicken, soup base, and remaining chicken broth to the pot, give everything a good stir and then secure the lid. Switch the Instant Pot to the pressure cook function and pressure cook on high for 20 minutes, allowing a 10 minute natural release.

corn tortilla Chile pods onion and garlic on a wooden cutting board

How to make this soup on the stovetop

No Instant Pot? No problem! You can totally make this soup the old fashioned way: on the stovetop. In the bottom of a dutch oven, heat your oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. 

Next, add chicken that you have seasoned with salt, the soup base, and the remaining chicken broth. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

How to finish the chicken for the soup

Regardless of what method you used to make this deliciously authentic chicken tortilla soup, you’ll need to shred the chicken when it’s done. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a large bowl.

You can either use two forks to shred the chicken, or bust out your hand-mixer to get it done even faster. Check out this video to see what I mean.

Return the chicken to the broth, then serve with your favorite toppings!

bowl of Classic chicken tortilla soup with diced avocado an d tortilla strips

Why I am obsessed with the Instant Pot.

My family loved this chicken tortilla soup. It was one of those throw-it-all-in-and-press-a-button recipes that is totally hands off. My favorite kind of cooking for a busy weeknight.

As you all might have guessed – I’m slightly obsessed with my Instant Pot. Frijoles de la Olla, Frijoles Charros, Tamales, and even Brownies can all be made in an Instant Pot. I am a tad tardy to the Instant Pot game, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

But don’t worry, my goal is to always share instructions on how to make recipes with and without an Instant Pot. If you want to make this same recipe on the stove top, you can scroll down in the recipe card for the instructions.

Check out this video to see how easy it is to make this authentic chicken tortilla soup.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What type of chile is used in tortilla soup?

I used New Mexico chiles, but feel free to experiment and make using ancho chile or pasilla chile, similar to this other Chicken Tortilla Soup. Check out my post on Mexican chiles to discover which is best for you.

What if I am not a fan of spicy foods?

The broth can be as mild or as spicy as you’d like. I added four chile pods to this recipe, and my son added extra crema to tame the heat in his bowl. If you want a mild soup I would recommend only using two to three chile pods. 

Also, be sure to remove the seeds and membranes of the chilis, as that is where most of the spicy lives!

How should I serve chicken tortilla soup? 

In Mexico City they place a variety of garnishes to make your bowl to your liking. Regardless of whether you pick one or all, prep them while the soup is cooking. That way, as soon as the soup is ready, you can dig in. Here are some suggestions for toppings:

  • fried corn tortilla strips
  • pork skins (chicharrones)
  • diced avocado
  • crumbled queso fresco
  • crema Mexicana
  • lime wedges
  • crunchy roasted chiles
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • diced onion

How should I store this soup?

This soup tastes better with time. This soup lasts in the fridge for up to five days in a resealable container. Just heat and serve.

It freezes well in these plastic containers, which comes in very handy when you are not feeling well, and need comforting.

how to make Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup

LIKE THIS MEXICAN SOUP RECIPE? YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE!

If you made this recipe, please rate and review it below to let me know how it went. And if you want more delicious and authentic Mexican food inspiration delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This flavorful chicken tortilla soup is made in under 30 minutes, with or without an Instant Pot. Classic tortilla soup, the way I ate it in Mexico City, is simply good chicken broth combined with roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles, and topped with fried corn tortilla strips and an assortment of garnishes to make your own special bowl. It’s food for the soul.
chicken tortilla soup in a white bowl next to a platter of assorted toppings
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes
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Ingredients

Tortilla Strips:

  • 12 yellow corn tortillas, sliced into ¼-inch-thick strips
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, for frying tortilla strips

Toppings:

  • fried corn tortilla strips

  • pork skins (chicharrones) 

  • diced avocado

  • crumbled queso fresco

  • crema Mexicana

  • lime wedges

  • crunchy roasted chiles

  • chopped fresh cilantro

  • diced onion

Equipment

  • Large Pot or Instant Pot
  • Blender

Instructions

Stove Top:

  • In a large bowl filled with hot water add dried chiles until the chiles have softened about 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • Blend the softened chiles with torn tortilla pieces, fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 cup chicken broth in a blender. Blend until smooth. 
  • Heat the olive oil in a large (at least 6-quart) pot over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring continuously, until fragrant. Remove from the heat.
  • Lightly sprinkle salt over chicken breasts, and chicken thighs.
  • Add the chicken, tomato mixture from blender, and remaining chicken broth to pot, and give everything a good stir. Let come to a boil; reduce heat. Let simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. 
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken. 
  • Add shredded chicken back to pot and season with salt if needed.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and serve with tortillas strips, avocados, a squeeze of lime juice, and your choice of toppings. 

Instant Pot:

  • In a large bowl filled with hot water add dried chiles until the chiles have softened about 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • Blend the softened chiles with torn tortilla pieces, fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 cup chicken broth in a blender. Blend until smooth. 
  • Select Sauté on the Instant Pot and warm the oil. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic for 1 minute.
  • Lightly sprinkle salt over chicken breasts, and chicken thighs.
  • Add the chicken, tomato mixture from blender, and remaining chicken broth, and give everything a good stir. 
  • Lock the lid in place and turn the valve to Sealing. 
  • Press the Manual/Pressure Cook button and set the cook time for 20 minutes at high pressure.  
  • Let the steam release naturally for about 10 minutes, then turn the valve to Venting to release any residual steam. 
  • Carefully remove the lid and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken. 
  • Add shredded chicken back to pot and season with salt if needed.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and serve with tortillas strips, avocados, a squeeze of lime juice, and your choice of toppings. 

Tortilla Strips:

  • In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat and fry the tortilla strips until lightly browned around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the strips to paper towels to drain.

Video

Notes

  • Tortilla soup goes great with a tall mountain of homemade tortilla strips.
  • This soup tastes better with time. This soup lasts in the fridge for up to five days in a resealable container. Just heat and serve.
  • It freezes well in these plastic containers, which come in very handy when you are not feeling well and need comforting.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving without toppings, Calories: 487kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 791mg, Potassium: 875mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 419IU, Vitamin C: 51mg, Calcium: 93mg, Iron: 3mg

I’d love to see what you cook!

Tag #MUYBUENOCOOKING if you make this recipe.

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Photography by Jenna Sparks