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Carnitas Caldo (Carnitas Soup)

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I mentioned on Instagram recently that my family is unashamedly obsessed with Mexican food. We love it local, we love it authentic, we love it good, and we love it OFTEN. So of course, even while we were in Chicago celebrating Thanksgiving for a few days, we had to get our Mexi fix. So we ended up trying XOCO, one of Rick Bayless‘ restaurants. The line on Black Friday was practically out the door, but we were freezing and once I saw the long menu of caldos (soups), I was hooked. I had a minor crisis trying to decide what to order (they literally ALL looked amazing!), but I read that the XOCO carnitas caldo was the most popular soup. So I had to try it. Let’s just say that my family was a little stunned when I finished the entire bowl.  It was massive. But holy cow – I had to. This soup was insane. Based on the most yummy spicy broth, this soup had everything from tender carnitas, to yummy avocado, these amazing little potato-masa dumplings, amassive bunch of fresh cilantro and arugula on top, and all garnished with lots of lime. Without a doubt, one of the best soups I’ve had in my life. (And I don’t say that lightly.) So of course, I had to come home and try to recreate it. I would never presume to top (or match) a Rick Bayless recipe, since the guy is a Mexican food genius. But I have to say that this recipe turned out pretty awesome. I even succeeded with the little potato-masa dumplings! (Although you could easily just use diced potatoes.)  ;)  It definitely took a bit of time to prep when making the carnitas from scratch. But let me tell you, the final product is completely worth it. And it’s also one of those soups that tastes better and better each time you warm it up for leftovers.

What are some of your favorite Mexican soups? Has anyone been to XOCO?

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Carnitas Caldo (Carnitas Soup)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.4 from 5 reviews
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x


An amazing carnitas caldo (carnitas soup), inspired by Rick Bayless’ XOXO restaurant in Chicago.



Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 chayote, skin and core removed, then sliced into matchsticks
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 56 cups cooked pork carnitas
  • 13 roasted serrano peppers (add to taste, instructions below)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups potato-masa dumplings
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 68 cups fresh baby arugula
  • lime wedges for garnish.

Potato-Masa Dumplings Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup masa harina
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


To Make The Caldo (Soup):

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the white onion and chayote, and saute for 5 minutes until cooked and the onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, carnitas, and serrano peppers (add one at a time to test out the level of heat) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Season generously with salt and pepper. Then ladle the soup into serving bowls, filling them about half full. Then add in a small handful of potato dumplings, avocados and fresh cilantro to each bowl. Then top each with a large handful of baby arugula. Serve with lime wedges for garnish.

To Make The Potato Dumplings:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together until blended. Use your hands to knead the mixture a few times until smooth. Then pinch off about 1/4 cup of the mixture and roll it into a long tube about 1/2-inch wide in diameter. Use a knife to slice the tube into small coins, about 1/8-inch wide. Repeat with remaining dough to make dumplings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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41 comments on “Carnitas Caldo (Carnitas Soup)”

  1. This looks AMAZING! I love Rick Bayless. I’ve never eaten in one of his restaurants but I’ve got a few of his cookbooks and became a lifelong fan watching him on Top Chef. I just pinned the recipe and will definitely be making it this winter!

  2. This soup sounds bursting with flavour and so light and bright. I can’t wait to give this a try!

  3. This looks delicious! I’ve never been to XOCO, but I’ve heard great things. I love posole – I tried it for the first time while I was in Oaxaca and it was SO good.

  4. I’m obsessed with Rick Bayless! But I’m NOT obsessed with how he and his daughter act on camera. Ew.

    But now I’m going to obsess over this souuuuup omg.

  5. this looks fabulous! i’m originally from san antonio and can never get enough great mexican food recipes and ideas. those dumplings sound so good, and the carnitas.. well, goes without saying. great recipe!!

  6. Oh my gosh–this looks and sounds so good. I love carnitas but have never thought to add it to soup. Love this recipe. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Chicken tortilla soup at Mi Ranchito! YUM!

  8. Ali,
    Silly question, but do the dumplings have to cook at all in the broth? Am thinking about making this for a cookie exchange party this weekend.



  9. This is exactly what I want to eat right now! So exactly my kind of soup. I live only a few hours from the Mexican boarder, so, as you can imagine, I am all about the Mexican food.

  10. Our entire house is sick and this soup is EXACTLY what I’m craving!!!!

  11. Oh wow..we are Mex food eaters too, especially food like this. How lucky were you to go to that restaurant!

  12. i’m thinking i need to make this until i get a chance to try xoco out!!

  13. Oh YUM! The only time I’ve had carnitas was with pizza but this sounds perfect for the season!

  14. I’m not a big Mexican food fan but this is so darn creative. Carnitas soup?! Your friends must be very, very happy to know you. :)

  15. Wow, this looks so heartwarming and full of meat, meat, and meat! I try to stay vegetarian when Jason isn’t home but let’s be real – I’m making this for him when he gets back and we’ll eat all the meat!

  16. I came back here to print this out. I am going to make it for Christmas eve dinner. We LOVE Mexican food too. I have been making Mexican food for Christmas eve for several years now – we have non traditional traditions. And I usually make my chicken tortilla soup recipe but I want to try this soup – it looks amazing. Chicken tortilla soup is my favorite Mexican soup – I always order it whenever we go out to any Mexican restaurant to see if its A. better than my recipe and B. if it is how I can figure out how to make my recipe just as good. ha ha. I can’t wait to make this!

  17. Just returned home from a 6-day vacation in Chi-town. Husband and I discovered Xoco after reading reviews on Yelp. OMG!! We ended up eating there two nights, which gave me time to try to different dishes – the carnitas caldo being the second night. Holy cow (or pig… LOL)… I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I love soup anyway, but the flavors in this little gem are Amazing!!! In fact, my husband laughed because I talked about it for all the rest of our vacation and told him I was coming home to find the recipe, buy a cookbook, … find that recipe! Glad I stumbled on to your blog. :)

  18. sounds like a delicious use of our leftover carnitas (tacos) – with the dumplings, do you cook them in water first? or dump them into the broth and cook first? (raw egg) – how long do you cook them if they are quarter sized (quarter sized sphere) –
    thanks! yum!

    • I was wondering about precooking the dumplings, too. Anybody tried it?

    • I have a similar recipe for another soup, where you drop the dumplings into the soup and let them boil for about a minute before serving. That’s what I’ll be doing with these.

  19. OH MY! LOVE this! Thanks for the recipe. I have only been to XOCO once (been to Frontera Grill several times), but had this soup and absolutely loved it. So excited to make it sometime soon now! :)

  20. When you say “mashed potatoes” as an ingredient, do you mean simply cooked potatoes that have been mashed, or do you mean actual mashed potatoes made with milk and butter?

  21. Hi! I tried steaming the dumplings and they ended up just falling apart in the caldo. It was still delicious, but texture was a bit off. Are we supposed to just throw in the coins without steaming them first? Does this cook the egg in them completely?

  22. I’m so in love with this soup! Tempted to skip the dumplings, SO glad I didn’t – they add a really special flavor. I put mine in a side bowl, ladled some broth, microwaved 1 min, then added to the individual serving bowls. Worked beautifully. Thank You, thank you. Keeper!

  23.  I made a few substitutions because of what I had on hand, but this was still delicious. I used a roasted poblano pepper, and because I was out of masa but had some tortillas that I made the previous day, I cut the tortillas into little squares and dropped them all in the pot. Instead of arugula, I added  some roughly chopped spinach into the pot.  And, I did not have a chayote, so I used a zucchini.  My family loved it, and I think we will make this a regular on our rotation 

    • Thanks for sharing with us, Jennifer! We’re so happy you and your family enjoyed this!

  24. I swapped the potato dumplings for hominy. Even my kids love it!

  25. It’s not called XOCO anymore, it’s called Fonda Frontera now. I’m actually sitting here now and just ordered the soup! It’s my favorite and I just did a search and your recipe came up! I can’t wait to try it! Thank you! I’m going to attempt it with my instant pot this fall!

  26. Definitely your carnitas caldo carnitas soup is awesomeness! This is a great recipe Ali, as you know I made it a short while ago and it was lovely, in fact have made it again since. Thanks for sharing!

  27. We had leftover pork carnita from taco night. I thought I would try this recipe because I had all the ingredients and it didn’t take very long to make. It was probably one of my most proudest meals! It was delicious and full of flavor! Our boys, 8 and 5, loved it with avacdo and tortilla strips. I will def make this soup a thousand more times!

  28. I had a similar carnitas caldo carnitas soup at a restaurant recently and found myself craving it and wondering if I could recreate it today. Thanks, Ali!

  29. Can you respond about the dumplings? I ended up grilling the medallions in a cast iron skillet.

  30. Can you explain what to do with the dumpling dough? Seems like there have been others wondering too. Sounds yummy!

  31. We had taco night pork leftover carnita. I figured I was going to try this recipe because I had all the ingredients and it did not take much time to create this recipe. Perhaps one of my fiercest food! It was tasty and juicy! Our boys, ages 8 and 5, enjoyed it with tortillas and avacdotas. A thousand more times I’ll def make this broth!

  32. Disappointed by the numerous questions regarding dumplings and no response…

  33. Do you just add the dumplings straight from the fridge into the soup right before serving? You don’t cook it?!

  34. I’ve tried the soup and it was delicious, surprisingly the fresh cilantro really made this recipe. I did not try it with the potato dumplings last time but going to this time. Do you just put the refrigerated dumplings into the hot soup, or is there another process to heat them before adding to the soup?