Tortilla Soup for A January Summer


Let’s pretend for just a tiny moment that it has not been in the 80s here in Los Angeles over the past few days. We can also pretend that I did not lay outside in shorts and no t-shirt in the sun on a big madras print blanket with a book and three small dogs who insisted on standing on my back, butt and head. And let’s also pretend that yesterday I didn’t get home and fight the urge to run straight to the grill with a beer in my hand.

Let’s just pretend, shall we?

It’s during these chilly months that we turn to soup and all things comfort.  With the chillier



I really wanted to wrap myself in the briskness of a Southern California winter but damnit it’s just not going to happen! It’s hot here — as in yes, you will sweat if you stand outside — and it’s throwing my seasonal eating outta whack something terrible! How on earth can I crave comfort foods when it not only seems like summer but smells like it, too? It’s hot and all my plans of braising and roasting just really don’t make that much sense. And you know it’s bad when you stroll around the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market looking in earnest for summer vegetables when you know it’s smack dab in the middle of January.

It’s wrong wrong wrong.

So something funny happened as I began working on this post. I wanted something warm and homey but wouldn’t you know it the temps soared and I was distracted. And then I realized that tortilla soup actually worked for everyone: it’ll warm you up in the dead of winter and it’ll also warm you up (and cool you down provided you keep plenty of cold cerveza nearby) in the, um, JanuarySummer of Southern California.

Tortilla Soup

I grew up with Caldo De Res, Menudo and Albondigas soups and stews and didn’t discover the pleasures of Tortilla Soup until I was an adult. And even then it seems like a funny invention to me. Why not Enchilada Soup or Taco Soup? Luckily this recipe isn’t really about throwing something else in a bowl with liquid and giving it a new fast name as much as it’s a very simple soup with some crunchy bits on top. Because we all love crunchy bits, don’t we? And once again the cuisine of my peeps is so ever adaptable and can be made brighter and snappier (limes! lemons!) or mas caliente (salsa! peppers!) or ever thicker and cheesier (cheese! cheese! cheese!). I’ll go ahead and stop now with the snappy! remarks! because I’m sure I’m annoying you.

But seriously, this soup is really simple and delicious and hits the spot.

8 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves with skin on
1/2 yellow onion
8 cups chicken stock (you can easily use vegetable stock too!)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 anaheim chiles
1/2 cup water
8 corn tortillas (and of course you can fry more if you want, I certainly wouldn’t mind)
oil for frying
1 cup Oaxacan cheese

Broil the tomatoes, onions, chiles and garlic in the oven til blackened. Make sure to flip over and broil them completely. Once done remove the skin from the tomatoes, garlic and chiles.

Place the tomatoes, onion, chiles and garlic in a blender with 1/2 cup of water and puree. Strain the mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium high heat and add the pureed mixture. Boil it until it thickens and turks a dark red, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and salt to taste and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Cut the tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Careful not to burn them! Dry them on paper towels to remove excess oil.

To serve the soup place the tortilla strips in the bowl and ladle the soup over them. Garnish with cheese and a wedge of lime and if you’re feeling colorful you can add chopped cilantro on top.


  1. says

    Well it’s pretty chilly here in germany, so I’ll give the soup a try this evening. Thanks for the recipe!

    P.S.: I can see you holding a giant white cardboard in the spoons :)

  2. says

    HAHAHA! I wondered if anyone would comment on that! Thank you Martin! And I
    thought about photoshopping them out but then thought “heck, why?” I
    consider them tiny concave portraits :)

  3. says

    Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. I have some left over pork shoulder from a Sunday taco dinner. This will be an excellent way to use it all up! Thank you for the simple and oh-so-fabulous recipe!

  4. says

    Add me to the list of people freezin’…
    Though today, it’s a mild and pleasant 5 degrees (about 40 Farenheit), not raining and not snowing here in Vancouver. I’ll take it.

  5. says

    Feeling frigid in Jersey and longing to lay in the sun with anything, especially some fresh picked jersey tomatoes with course salt sprinkled on them . . . Ohh and they would be so good in your soup!

  6. says

    I love the spoon self-portrait and the warm bowl of soup recipe! I’ll be sure to take it with me when I go back to Boston…Those people (my people) could use this one!

  7. says

    It’s the middle summer of here in Australia and today in particular is a scorcher but even so this recipe for soup looks too delicious to wait until winter to try so I might just have to crank up the air-con and make it winter inside.

  8. Arlene says

    We’re having some nice sunny weather here in Tucson, too. I believe it’s never too hot to have tortilla soup. I’m going to give your recipe a try, looks delish. One thing I’ll add it a little chopped avocado. The creaminess of the avocado gives the soup great texture and flavor.

  9. says

    Oh, you had to rub in your lovely CA weather, didn’t you? :) We’re below zero here (that’s Fahrenheit) and I’m living on soup and other warming meals. Your tortilla soup sounds great!

  10. says

    I’ve so been wanting to cook winter stews and have hot cocoa every night but it’s so hard when it’s so warm! Here in the San Jose area it hasn’t quite hit 80 but it’s still in the mid 70’s which is way to warm for winter food in my book. May have to break out the BBQ this weekend and also try this soup.

  11. says

    This sounds like perfection right now! I could live on anything involving tortillas! We’re somewhere in between not too cold (thank god!) but not freezing either. Think you might be able to smuggle a pot o’ this stuff on the plane? 😉

  12. Polly says

    I’ve been looking for a good Tortilla Soup recipe … and this sounds like the one I need! Cheers.

  13. says

    NO FAIR!
    It is 11 degrees here–the National Weather Service says with the wind chill, it feels like 2 degrees.

    How would you and your spouse like to hang out in my backyard? We have 2″ of snow on the deck… At least the beer would be cold!

  14. says

    i totally agree with this crazy cold weather throwing off my favorite time of year for cozy comfort food craving! we really can’t complain about the warm days but i’d kind of like to have a little chill in the air. just discovered your blog and am loving it so far – thanks!

  15. says

    My mom always makes tortilla soup but I never had. Maybe now is the time. Wish I were in sunny California, though. It’s freeeezing in nyc.

  16. molly says

    it’s been warm in san francisco too, but tortilla soup is my all time favorite. even when it’s 90 degrees outside it tastes good. if you’re looking for a delicious version of this soup and it’s lunch time and you forgot to pack a lunch and you live in S CA, try Wahoo’s.

  17. says

    I’ve really never even considered a tortilla soup; perhaps that shows how closed minded I am, despite trying hard not to be.

    Yours looks delicious and reasonably easy – enough for a guy like me to handle, anyway!

  18. says

    Well, it might be sweating weather where you are but here in the Ozarks it’s bleeding cold and this tortilla soup looks like a nice warmer-upper to me.

    The only question I have is since anaheim chiles and Oaxacan cheese are, well, let’s just say kinda hard to come by in this neck of the woods. Any suggestions for substitutions that might be easier to come by (think Wal Mart, it’s nearly the only store in this area)

  19. says

    It is SO cold in Chicago! This sounds like a perfect remedy.Sad to say, it was in the teens today and that’s the warmest it’s been in a week! I could use a bowl of tortilla soup to transport me somewhere warmer! Thank you!

  20. says

    I also made Tortilla Soup this week but we had a colder weather. I wish I could have find the Oaxacan cheese. That probably gives a nice flavor to the soup.

  21. says

    Heeeeey, from Austin, TX, where it was 78 degrees F today….gorgeous, but we know it won’t last. Cold front expected for the weekend, so it’ll be soup making weather again. Thanks for the delicious sounding recipe.

    Why is it that soup is such a turn-off in the warm weather, but we eat lasagna and other hot foods just fine? Can’t eat salads when it’s cold either!

  22. says

    Matt – We made this soup last night and it was absolutely wonderful. I added two teaspoons of adobo sauce because I had it in the fridge, and topped each bowl with lime juice, the cheese, diced avocado, and cilantro. Love, love, love the flavor. We will definitely make this one again. Thanks!

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