Chicken Tortilla Soup

When I set my 2012 baking and cooking goals for myself and mentioned that making weekly batches of soup during the cold winter months was among them, there was one popular request from more than  few readers: Chicken Tortilla Soup. More specifically, a copycat recipe of Max & Erma’s tortilla soup. Max & Erma’s is a chain restaurant based out of Ohio, with many locations in the Pittsburgh area and elsewhere in the Midwest and a few in southern states. One of the hallmarks of their menu is the Tortilla Soup – it’s thick and cheesy with bits of chicken, spicy and pretty much tastes like the best taco ever. There are a ton of copycat recipes online, but just about all of them include multiple cans of “cream of” something, which I wasn’t about to use. I’m happy to report that I was able to replicate the famous soup from scratch and that it is every bit as amazing as the original. Perhaps even better.

This soup comes together really easily, especially if you use leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken purchased from the store. Some thoughts on the recipe:

  • A word of warning – this soup is spicy, so if you’re particularly sensitive to spices, you may want to reduce or omit the amount of cayenne pepper in the recipe.
  • Definitely use mild cheddar, not sharp. You can also use 1/2 mild cheddar and 1/2 Monterey Jack if you like.
  • If you have access to Mexican oregano, use that; otherwise regular oregano will work too.
  • This makes 4 servings, and three of us polished it off in one sitting, very quickly. If you want leftovers or are serving more than two adults for a meal, you’ll probably want to double the recipe.

My Chief Culinary Consultant declared this the best bowl of soup he has ever had and I absolutely loved it. It is definitely going into my regular rotation of meals. I’m so happy to finally have a homemade version of this favorite soup!

One year ago: Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie Bars
Two years ago: Whole Grain Brownies
Three years ago: For the Love of Peanut Butter and Cinnamon
Five years ago: Homemade Soft Pretzels

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Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup minced white onion
  • ¼ cup mined Anaheim pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cooked skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 (6-inch) corn tortillas, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup canned diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Tortilla strips, optional, for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add the minced onion, pepper, and garlic and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the minced onion begins to turn translucent.
  2. Whisk the cornstarch into the chicken broth, then add the broth mixture to the pot, along with the chicken, cheddar cheese, minced tortillas, lime juice, diced tomatoes, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, and salt. Increase the heat to medium while stirring constantly to help the cheese melt. When the soup begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve the soup topped with tortilla strips and extra shredded cheese.

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(Recipe adapted from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3)

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