Tortilla Soup Offers a Taste of Mexico

Tortilla Soup Offers a Taste of Mexico
A squirt of lime juice brings all the flavors together. (Noel Barnhurst/TNS)

Recently, I visited the seaside community of Punta Mita in Mexico, where I enjoyed different tortilla soups. This recipe is a compilation of the various types of soup I tasted.

Stale or dried corn tortillas are used as a thickener and garnish along with fresh corn kernels for a double dose of corn flavor. I like to toast the tortilla strips to avoid extra fat, but if you prefer them fried, go ahead.

Tortilla soup can be very spicy or rather mild, depending upon what chiles are included. Here, I’ve added a jalapeño to the soup as it cooks. If you like it hot and spicy, just add another jalapeño to the soup. You can also experiment with hotter Mexican chiles, like serrano or habanero, but start with a small amount because they are very hot.

You can serve this soup any time of year as a satisfying starter or a main course. The tortilla strips are added at the last minute to preserve their crisp texture. A squirt of lime juice brings all the flavors together. I often serve a simple salad with romaine lettuce, toasted pepitas, tomatoes, and shrimp to go along with the soup. I like to serve ice-cold Mexican beer with this tortilla soup.

Tasty Tips

Try to find fresh, handmade tortillas for a more authentic flavor. Cut them as below and dry them out by leaving them on the counter for an hour before cooking.

For a heartier version, add 1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips (you can use chicken tenders). This should be added at the end of Step 2 and simmered for about 3 minutes or until the chicken pieces are just cooked through.

Use fresh corn for optimum sweetness and flavor.

Punta Mita Vegetable Tortilla Soup With Corn and Jalapeños

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or substitute)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 corn tortilla, torn into 8 pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, or regular diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Topping

  • 4 corn tortillas, preferably stale or at least dry, halved crosswise and sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or pepper jack
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

In a medium soup pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, making sure the mixture does not burn, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels, jalapeño and tortilla pieces. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cilantro and sauté another minute. Add the tomatoes and cumin; cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Transfer the mixture and puree into a blender until smooth.

Return the soup to the pot. Add the broth, carrots, and zucchini, and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the soup is slightly thickened and the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: To toast the tortilla strips: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tortilla strips on a baking sheet, spreading them evenly over the pan. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until crisp and beginning to brown. Reserve for the garnish. (Don’t do this ahead of time, or they will soften.)

To serve: Ladle the soup evenly into each bowl. Squirt some lime juice over the soup. Garnish with the toasted tortilla strips, cilantro, avocado, and cheese. Serve immediately.

Advance preparation: This may be made through Step 2 one day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Taste for seasoning when reheating.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at Copyright 2021 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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