This traditional Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup) recipe is made with a simple, richly-seasoned, tomato-chile broth that is ladled hot over crispy tortilla strips and loaded up with your choice of toppings. See notes above for possible ingredient variations!
- 2 large dried pasilla chiles (or dried ancho chiles*), stemmed and seeded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 3/4 pounds Roma tomatoes, diced (or 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes*, with their juices)
- 8 cups good-quality vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 epazote sprig (optional)
- fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Soup Add-Ins (Choose Your Favorites):
- fried corn tortilla strips* (or crumbled corn tortilla chips)
- diced panela cheese (or oaxaca, cotija, or any other cheese you prefer)
- diced or sliced avocado
- shredded cooked chicken
- toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream (or Mexican crema), lime wedges, fried pasilla chile strips*
- Toast the chiles. Briefly toast the chiles by using tongs to carefully holding each chile an inch over a gas flame, turning for a few seconds until the chile is blistered and fragrant. (Or alternately, if you have an electric stove, you can heat a skillet over medium-high heat and press the chiles down onto the hot skillet on each side for a few seconds until blistered and fragrant.) Transfer the chiles to a blender or food processor and set aside.
- Sauté the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more until fragrant, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to the blender along with the chiles.
- Blend the broth. Add the tomatoes to the blender, along with 1 cup or so of the stock (enough to help the mixture purée easily). Then purée until completely smooth and no large chile flakes remain.
- Simmer. Transfer the blended broth mixture to the stockpot, add the remaining stock, oregano and epazote sprig (if using). Cook over medium-high heat until the broth reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the add-ins. While the soup simmers, go ahead and prep all of your add-ins. (See notes below for instructions on how to fry tortilla and chile strips, if desired.) Fill each serving bowl with a handful of tortilla strips and cooked chicken (if using), and set aside.
- Season the broth. Give the broth a taste and season with however much salt and pepper you think it needs.
- Serve. Ladle the hot broth into each serving bowl over the tortilla strips, top with a generous helping of avocado and cheese (if using). Then load each bowl up with lots of your favorite toppings. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Pasilla chile substitutions: As mentioned above, different regions of Mexico often turn to different dried chiles to make this soup. If you can’t find dried pasilla chiles, you can use dried ancho chiles as an alternative, which have a sweeter flavor and are also less spicy. I recommend using 2 large pasilla or ancho chiles for this recipe, but feel free to just use 1 chile if you are sensitive to heat or 3-4 chiles if you would like an even more intensely-flavored broth.
How to fry the tortilla strips (and chile strips): Pour enough frying oil (such as vegetable, canola or avocado oil) in a large saucepan or sauté pan until it is 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is 350°F. Carefully add in a handful of thinly-sliced corn tortillas and fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the strips are lightly golden and crispy. Use a spider strainer to transfer the tortillas to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, spread them out in an even layer, and cool until they reach room temperature. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips. Then, to fry the chiles, use a knife or kitchen scissors to thinly slice the (stemmed and seeded) chiles. Add the chile slices to the hot oil and fry for 30 to 60 seconds until crispy. Transfer the chiles to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet and cool to room temperature.