Chicken Tortilla Soup

This easy Chicken Tortilla Soup is creamy, full of spice and can be made on the stovetop or in the crockpot. A great copycat of Max & Erma’s popular soup!

A bowl of chicken tortilla soup with bread and spoons in the background.

Wayyyyy back in 2012, I decided to set baking and cooking goals for myself, and among them was to make weekly batches of soup during the cold winter months. When I mentioned this, I got a deluge of requests from readers who asked for a copycat recipe of Max & Erma’s chicken tortilla soup.

If you’re not familiar, Max & Erma’s is a restaurant chain 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, it’s 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, but I really wanted something completely authentic and homemade. I was thrilled to be able to replicate the famous soup from scratch and found that it is every bit as amazing as the original. Actually, it’s even better!

A pot with all of the ingredients for chicken tortilla soup inside.

How to Make Chicken Tortilla Soup

This soup comes together really easily, especially if you use leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken purchased from the store. Here’s what’s involved:

  • Saute white onion, Anaheim pepper, and garlic until nice and soft (no crunchy soup here!).
  • Whisk cornstarch into chicken broth (this helps to thicken the soup).
  • Add the chicken broth along with the chopped chicken, minced corn tortillas (also helps to flavor and thicken!), tomatoes, cheese and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve.

This definitely falls into the camp of a simple and quick weeknight soup that does not require multiple steps or hours of cook time. Win!

A pot with chicken tortilla soup after it's done simmering.

Additional Recipe Notes

A few quick notes on the recipe:

  • 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. The Anaheim pepper is mild, no need to omit that.
  • If you cannot find Anaheim peppers, a good alternative is poblano, although it is not quite as mild as the Anaheim.
  • Be sure to use mild cheddar cheese, not sharp, as it can be too overpowering in this recipe. You can also use half mild cheddar and half Monterey Jack for variety, if you’d like.
  • This soup is an excellent candidate for the slow cooker! Complete step 1, then transfer all of the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
  • This recipe makes four servings, and three of us polished it off in one sitting, very quickly. If you want leftovers or are serving more than two adults and using this soup as a main course, you’ll probably want to double the recipe.

An overhead shot of a bowl of chicken tortilla soup.

If Mexican food is your jam and you love a nice hot bowl of soup for lunch or dinner, you’ve landed on the perfect recipe! Top it off with some strips of corn tortillas (or crushed tortilla chips) and more shredded cheese and you’re set.

If You Like This Chicken Tortilla Soup, Try These:

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

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Servings 4 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Total 1 hour
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Author: Michelle
This easy Chicken Tortilla Soup is creamy, full of spice and can be made on the stovetop or in the crockpot. A great copycat of Max & Erma's popular soup!


  • 2
    vegetable oil
  • ¼
    minced white onion
  • ¼
    mined Anaheim pepper
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
    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
    mild cheddar cheese
  • 3
    6-inch corn tortillas, minced
  • 2
    lime juice
  • ¼
    canned diced tomatoes
  • ½
    ground cumin
  • ½
    ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼
    Mexican oregano
  • ¼
  • 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.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and stir constantly to help the cheese melt. When the soup begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Serve the soup topped with tortilla strips and extra shredded cheese. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 4 days.

Recipe Notes:

  • To freeze this soup, allow it to cool completely, then place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat over low heat on the stove, or in the microwave.
  • Poblano pepper can be substituted for Anaheim.
  • If you cannot find Mexican oregano, you can substitute regular.
  • You can use half cheddar cheese and half Monterey Jack for a varied flavor.
  • This soup is an excellent candidate for the slow cooker! Complete step 1, then transfer all of the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
Nutritional values are based on one serving


Calories: 407kcal
Fat: 28g
Saturated fat: 18g
Cholesterol: 64mg
Sodium: 833mg
Potassium: 419mg
Carbohydrates: 17g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 25g
Vitamin A: 710%
Vitamin C: 22.4%
Calcium: 448%
Iron: 1.8%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in February 2012. It was updated in October 2018 with new photos and additional recipe notes.

[photos by The Almond Eater]