This sopa de tortilla or tortilla soup recipe is a combination of a tortilla soup I’ve been making for many years, since our first trip to Mexico in the Nineties, and a tortilla soup I recently learnt from the lovely Marilau at her cooking school here in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
I know we ate sopa de tortilla (tortilla soup) many times on our first trip to Mexico City in the Nineties although I can’t remember exactly where, and I can’t recall whether there is even a sopa de tortilla recipe is even in Diana Kennedy’s tome on Mexican cuisine, The Art of Mexican Cooking, which I used for many years. What I do know is that I’ve been making this soup for longer than I can remember.
Sopa de tortilla is very simple to make, although it’s also easy to make a bad version of it. Trust me, I’ve had plenty of horrid versions of it: too weak, too many tomatoes, under-seasoned. And that was just on this trip to Mexico. So why is it so hard to find — even in Mexico — someone who can follow a good sopa de tortilla recipe? Even Marilau, whose excellent cooking class we just did here in San Miguel de Allende, couldn’t understand why and shook her head.
I made this sopa de tortilla for lunch today in the kitchen of the colourful casita that is our home away from home in San Miguel de Allende for two weeks while Lara made an authentic guacamole recipe and we washed it all down with classic margaritas and the micheladas we’ve been enjoying over the last month in Mexico City and Austin, Texas. This is the life.
Sopa de Tortilla Recipe or Tortilla Soup Recipe from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Firstly, it’s very important to get the stock right for this sopa de tortilla recipe. Most stock-based soups were invented to extend the yield from meats that are used in a kitchen. But the quality of the stock made is as important as the quality of meat purchased.
Even if you only make stock as a home cook a few times in your life, at least try it. Only then can you judge other stocks and compare them to the store-bought varieties — most of which I find way too salty — the saltiness is there to disguise the lack of depth of flavour in the actual stock.
How important is stock to cooking? I’ve never been in a Michelin-star kitchen during prep and not seen an apprentice chef dutifully clarifying stocks. It’s that important.
After the stock, the next ingredient of importance to this sopa de tortilla recipe are the chiles. You have to use the right chiles and you have to treat them well.
If you can’t get the chiles listed in this recipe, honestly, don’t bother making it. It has an incredible bearing on the flavour.
Lastly, let people garnish their own tortilla soup at the table. Some people don’t like certain garnishes, some people like more fried tortilla strips than others. Whatever you do, don’t deliver a tortilla soup with soggy tortilla chips. Ever.
When I attended Marilau’s excellent cooking class here in San Miguel de Allende, I told her that I wanted to learn her version of sopa de tortilla. Thankfully, my tortilla soup was very similar to her broth. Phew.
I’ve combined a few tips from Marilau’s recipe with my old recipe that I’ve been using for years. I’ve used Marilau’s amount of chilis in the recipe below, but I actually prefer a spicier tortilla soup so have used two Ancho chiles in mine.
But try this sopa de tortilla recipe first — as you can always add toasted and sliced chilis to the bowl of soup later if it’s not hot enough for you.
Update: if you’re planning a full Mexican food feast, also see our recipes for an easy red tomato salsa, tacos al pastor inspired by the tacos at Salón Corona in Mexico City, the Mexican char-grilled corn on the cob street food snack elotes and grilled corn salad, along with chili con carne, quesadillas, and Lara’s ultimate nachos. Of course, a couple of those are Tex-Mex rather than Mexican recipes, but they’re all muy deliciosa.
Mexican Sopa de Tortilla or Tortilla Soup Recipe
- 1 Chile Ancho or 2 Chiles Guajillos
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or lard
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
- 8 white corn tortillas one day old
- 4 cups hearty chicken stock I’ll look the other way if you want to use store-bought stock
- Quality freshly-ground salt and pepper to taste
- Tortilla strips
- ½ large avocado or one whole small diced just before serving
- 3 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro
- Sour cream
- Mexican Manchego cheese cow’s cheese
- 1 lime wedge per serving
- In a pan over medium heat, toast the chile(s) a little, turning constantly, until you can detect a whiff of strong chile.
- In a pan of water just off the boil, place the chile(s) in the water; you can cut the corner of the chile(s) to help them stay under the water. Soak for 15–20 minutes.
- Carefully de-vein and de-seed the chile(s) and chop roughly.
- Place the chile(s), onion, garlic, tomatoes and one cup of stock in a blender.
- Puree the ingredients and strain through a sieve.
- Add the rest of the chicken stock and season to taste.
- Cut two of the tortillas into thin strips and the rest into small squares. Heat the oil on a pan and over high heat fry the tortilla strips until they’re coloured and crispy. Do the same with the squares and place them on paper towels to soak up any oil.
- When you’re ready to serve, prepare the garnishes.
- Serve the soup in the bowls and add some tortilla strips to add a little texture and sprinkle with a little coriander/cilantro to make it pretty. If you’re feeling creative you can also finish with a little flourish of sour cream.
- Serve with plenty of cold beer or a spicy, icy Michelada.
Do let us know if you make our sopa de tortilla (tortilla soup) recipe from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.