Chicken Tortilla Soup with Kale


There’s lots of flexibility in how you make this soup – quickly and simply, or totally from scratch with a few more steps, or anything in between. 

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

  • 4-6 corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade (or corn chips)
  • lots of lard (or other cooking fat of choice)
  • 2-3 tried pasilla chiles, stemmed & seeded (get this from a latin american market – this ingredient is key to getting the flavor right)
  • 2-4 unpeeled garlic cloves (or, for quick & easy, peeled and minced)
  • 1 fresh tomato (or 1 small jar Barbie’s canned tomatoes)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp powdered cumin
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz grated Meadowbreeze colby, supreme swiss, pizzarella or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lime
  • 3-4 cups loosely packed kale, ribs removed and sliced
  • 1 avocado
  • salt  & pepper
  • (Optional) shredded precooked chicken  or shredded rotisserie chicken from the store
  • (Optional) minced cilantro for garnish

Easy prep: tear the dried chiles into pieces and discard the seeds. Then soak for at least 30 minutes in hot water. Drain, then put the soaked chiles, tomatoes and 1 cup of broth into a blender (I use an immersion blender) and blend.


More flavorful/authentic prep: Roast the whole tomato under broiler until the skin is blackened. Separately, put the unpeeled garlic cloves into a dry, heated skillet and occasionally toss around the pan for 8-15 minutes until it’s blackened and softened a bit. While the garlic cloves are cooking, tear open the dried chiles, discard stem & seeds and then toast the chile in the same skillet the garlic cloves are in by pressing down with a spatula, flipping over, and repeating until they are fragrant and a bit darkened. Then soak the toasted chiles in hot water at least 30 min.  Drain the chiles and add to a blender along with the roasted tomato, the peeled softened garlic cloves and 1 cup of the broth.


Main Soup Base: Heat some lard in a soup pot over medium heat and sauté the onions until just beginning to brown a bit – 10 min or so. Add the cumin and stir-fry 2 more minutes (add the minced garlic if you didn’t already blend it).

Add the broth and kale to the pot. Then set a medium mesh strainer over the pot and pour in the pureed chile mixture (the strainer removes the tomato skin, seeds you missed, etc) and press as much of it through the strainer as you can.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 min or so. I usually do this earlier in the day and leave the mixture to gently cool to room temp on its own, then I quickly reheat before serving. Now add a LOT of salt – double the amount you think you need. Taste, and add as much as is needed for the flavor to really come out. Now add some pepper to taste. Don’t worry about over-salting – if you do this, just add a bit more water or broth.

Prep for Serving: Preparing the last-minute garnishes/toppings: Cut the tortillas into strips and deep fry in some hot lard, then set aside. Alternatively, just break some tortilla chips into pieces.

If using, slice the avocado up and toss with the juice of a lime.

Mince some cilantro for topping if using.

Reheat the broth and add the chicken if using. As it’s heating, distribute the garnishes to 4-6 empty soup bowls:  shredded cheese, lime-soaked avocado, cilantro. Pour the hot broth over and let everyone add the tortilla chips/strips to their soup.



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