This Smoked Chicken Tortilla Soup is a delicious way to use up leftover smoked chicken or turkey! It’s packed with healthy ingredients like black beans, tomatoes, corn, and peppers, this tortilla soup packs a smoky punch from smoked chicken and smoked paprika, thickened with a masa slurry that adds a toasty corn flavor to the whole thing. Top with crispy tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, and other fixings for the ultimate comfort in a bowl!
Do you have leftover smoked turkey from Thanksgiving? Here’s what to do with it! Make this delicious tortilla soup that’s easy to make in one pot, with 20 minutes of prep, and is freezable.
I like to make a batch and freeze half of it – come those cold January winter nights, it’s a welcome item to run into in your freezer for a quick and easy, warm and cozy dinner.
This batch was made with a leftover half smoked chicken from my favorite BBQ food truck, Crimson Creek BBQ, in Austin. I got a little extra and even made smoked chicken stock from the carcass (and some leftover rib bones) for the base of the soup. HIGHLY RECOMMEND, if you have the time (I’ll explain how below).
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Smoked Chicken or Turkey – the star of the soup! You can make this recipe with any other cooked shredded chicken or turkey if you like.
- Bell Pepper – any color will do (I used yellow)
- Jalapeño peppers – leave all or some of the seeds in for a spicy version. You can sub with diced canned chipotle chiles in adobo, which will also enhance the smoky flavor and up the spicy level, if you like.
- Garlic Powder, Cumin, Smoked Paprika, and Ground Coriander – feel free to leave out the coriander if you don’t have it, and use fresh garlic instead if you prefer.
- Tomato Paste
- Chicken Stock/Broth – homemade chicken stock, store bought, or bouillon based is fine.
- Canned black beans
- Canned diced tomatoes – preferably fire roasted
- Frozen corn – or fresh
- Fresh lime juice
- Fixings for topping – crispy tortilla strips or chips, avocado, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced onion, etc.
How to make Smoked Chicken Tortilla Soup
- First, SAUTÉ the peppers, jalapeños, and onion in olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.
- Then ADD the spices – cumin, coriander, garlic powder, and smoked paprika, and stir to coat and sauté for a little longer, to develop the flavors and toast the spices.
- ADD the tomato paste – stir to coat and sauté for a little longer.
- POUR in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- MAKE a masa slurry – mix masa (corn flour- NOT starch or cornmeal, see below) with some cold water or more stock until a smooth slurry is formed.
- ADD the beans, chicken, and corn.
- POUR in the masa slurry and stir together.
- COVER AND SIMMER for about 20 minutes.
- Finally, turn off the heat and ADD the fresh lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- SERVE topped with fixings.
How to make homemade smoked chicken/turkey stock
Using homemade chicken stock in any form adds TONS of flavor to soups and other recipes, as well as nutrition. The collagen from the skin and connective tissue breaks down and makes the stock gelatinous – it’s what makes bone broth so healthy.
You can read all about making homemade chicken stock here – I always save scraps in my freezer until I’m ready to cook.
Using smoked chicken stock in this tortilla soup recipe is optional, but adds a ton of flavor. To make smoked chicken or turkey stock, simply:
- Remove the meat from the bones (and set aside for the soup)
- Add the bones, wing tips, skin… any part of the carcass to a large pot (leave skin out for a lower fat version)
- Add a quartered onion (skin on), two carrots cut into chunks, and 3-4 stalks celery (alternatively, use scraps that have been saved in the freezer for vegetable or chicken stock).
- Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for a minimum of 3 hours.
- Remove solids with a slotted spoon, then strain the stock through a mesh sieve into a storage container or jar (lined with cheesecloth for an extra clear stock). Once it cools you can skim the fat off the top if you like and discard or repurpose (you can use it to sauté the veggies in this recipe, for example).
The longer you cook it, the more collage will break down and the more rich and flavorful and healthy the stock will be. So if you have time, let it go for longer. You can also do this in your slow cooker!
1. What is masa?
Masa is flour made from corn. You may see it in your grocery store under the brand name Maseca, or it might be labeled “masa harina.” You can use instant or regular in this recipe. Masa is the base for corn tortillas made from scratch as well.
Masa is NOT corn starch and it is NOT cornmeal.
2. How do I make the crispy tortilla strips from scratch?
It’s easy! Just cut corn tortillas into strips and fry in canola or vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet. Then, remove to a paper towel and add salt.
You can also follow this recipe for homemade baked tortilla chips. Just cut the tortillas into strips rather than triangles.
3. Can I make this ahead and reheat or freeze it?
Yes! This soup is wonderful leftover. I gets even better after the flavors develop more.
You can refrigerate it in an airtight container for about 3-5 days and enjoy throughout the week for lunch.
You can freeze it in an airtight container for up to 6 months. I like to run hot water over the container to loosen it, and just plop the frozen block of soup directly into a pot. Then I a little bit of water and heat to defrost directly on the stove.
4. Do I have to use smoked chicken?
Nope! You can definitely make this smoked tortilla soup recipe using any shredded cooked chicken or turkey, such as rotisserie, leftover roast chicken, or shredded Mexican chicken. Just make a couple of adjustments to intensify the smoky flavor in other ways.
To get more smoky flavor, add a little more smoked paprika and/or use chipotle chiles instead of jalapeños. You can also stir in a little of the adobo from the can of chipotle chiles when you add the tomato paste.
Other Tortilla Soup Recipes
- Quick and Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup – this recipe poaches chicken breasts directly in the soup for an easy and healthy option.
- Vegetarian Tortilla Soup – this recipe is super hearty with sweet potatoes added in.
Other Southwest and Mexican-Inspired Recipes
- Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- Mexican Roasted Zucchini
- One-Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta
- Avocado Chicken Salad
- Tex Mex Tuna Melts
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Smoked Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven
- 1 bell pepper any color, diced
- 2 jalapeño peppers seeded, ribs removed, and finely diced
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 6 oz. tomato paste (one small can)
- 6 cups chicken stock/broth see notes
- 1/4 cup masa (corn flour)
- 2 cups shredded smoked chicken or turkey
- 30 oz. canned black beans drained and rinsed (two small cans or one big can)
- 15 oz. canned diced tomatoes preferably fire roasted (one small can)
- 1 cup frozen corn or fresh kernels
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- juice of 1 lime
- fried tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges for serving, optional
- Heat the olive oil (2 tablespoons) in a large pot with a lid or Dutch oven. Sauté the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapeños until softened and starting to brown (about 5 minutes).
- Add the garlic powder (1 teaspoon), smoked paprika (1 teaspoon), cumin (1 teaspoon), and ground coriander (1 teaspoon). Stir to coat the veggies in the spices and sauté for 30 seconds to a minute, until the spices are fragrant and a bit toasted.
- Add the tomato paste (6 oz.) and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
- Pour in the chicken broth (6 cups). Stir to scrape up any stuck-on bits at the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, mix masa (1/4 cup) with 1/4 – 1/2 cup cold water or more chicken broth in a small bowl or pyrex measuring cup until dissolved to make a slurry.
- Stir in the shredded smoked chicken (2 cups), black beans (30 oz.), diced tomatoes (15 oz.), and frozen corn (1 cup). Pour in the masa slurry to the soup and stir. Cover and simmer for 20 more minutes.
- Turn off heat. Stir lime juice to soup and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Serve topped with crispy tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges, if desired.
- This soup can be made in bulk and frozen for up to 6 months in an airtight container.
- Make fried tortilla strips from scratch: cut corn tortillas into strips about 1/2″ wide. Fry the strips in oil in a cast iron skillet until crisp, but not too brown. Remove to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt. Alternatively, you may brush with olive oil and make baked tortilla chips in the oven at 375 degrees F on a parchment lined baking sheet until crisp (about 12-15 minutes).
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious on April 3, 2014. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.