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Sometimes it takes only one ingredient to make a recipe go from edible to incredible and you go from dinner fixer to – ah-hem – chef.

Chipotle chili pepper is the humble performer, the drummer of the band if you will, in this oh-so simple chicken tortilla soup. And, the chipotle, which is the dried smoky jalapeño pepper used in Mexican cuisine, is neither exotic, challenging, or seemingly found in remote Mexican villages reachable only by mule. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is find and use.

These packaged dried pods, you thought were for other people, hang on a rack at Whole Foods, major grocers, and certainly Latin markets, should you be so lucky to have those close by. You can also hop on the back of your Internet mule and drive into my favorite seasoning provider to trade for your own chipotle supply. Make no mistake, this chicken tortilla soup is well worth brewing without the smoldering infusion of chipotle, but invest a few pesos in dried peppers to give any of your Mexican foods the rounded out flavor that even kids like.

I adapted the soup recipe from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food the bookin which nearly every concoction is attainable and wow-able. Alice Waters who knows how to use basic foods, especially vegetables, better than most, crafts food combinations that elevate the dish of the simplest ingredients.This is my real food go-to cookbook when I say things like “what can people like me make with rhubarb?”.

You can make this soup tonight. With chicken, it’s a hearty enough one pot meal. With tortilla strips, it will distract kids from the healthiness of it all. With the chipotle, a pod you throw in the pot and fish out before serving, you are nearly faking your chefdom.


chicken tortilla soup, rapido y ahumado

preptime: 10 minutes servings 3-4

cooktime: 55 minutes, most inactive

1 1/2 qt chicken stock

1 chicken breast half*

1 T olive oil

1 Anaheim or jalapeno pepper seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 medium onion thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves thinly sliced


2 tomatoes peeled seeded, and diced or 2 cans whole or crushed tomatoes

1 dried chipotle chile, seeds removed


*I use boneless/skinless chicken breast to make my soup lean and mean, but most of the chicken flavor is found in the bones and skin. You decide: skin and bones for you or skin and bones for your soup.

cook’s option: chop your vegetables for kids. they don’t favor long stringy vegetables.

possible toppings: tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, lime juice

  1. Heat chicken stock to a simmer in med size pot.
  2. Add chicken breast and let simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and remove chicken breast to a plate.
  3. In large pot, heat olive oil.
  4. Add in pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook until soft, about five minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes and chipotle pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook 30 minutes.
  7. While the soup simmers, shred the chicken breast with a fork.
  8. Add chicken to soup at the end and just heat through.
  9. To serve, ladle soup and add toppings or provide toppings in serving pieces table-side and let diners add their own toppings.


  1. Heather says Jun 28th 2011 3:40 pm

    Great recipe. Found you from the post about you at prudent baby. I have just discovered how wonderful chipotle peppers are. I’ll have to give this recipe a try. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Elizabeth says Nov 7th 2011 6:13 pm

    Delicious. And easy. It looked like I worked so hard and didn’t! Thanks.

    • Sherri says Nov 9th 2011 8:53 am

      Thanks Elizabeth. That’s the best kind of cooking.

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