It all starts with the broth. Homemade broth. Mmmmm there is nothing like homemade chicken broth! I get so excited when we roast whole chickens because it means I have bones for boiling! And then once I have the broth, I get even more excited to make homemade chicken tortilla soup. Authentic chicken tortilla soup. Mmmm there is nothing like authentic chicken tortilla soup! No tomatoes, no peppers (besides chile peppers, of course!), no beans, no corn - nothing but the quality, traditional ingredients that make this soup burst with flavor and culture. This recipe is a little... laborious... but it is really fun to make and also absolutely delicious, so it's worth every minute of prep!

authentic chicken tortilla soup

for the soup:
5 dried ancho chiles (oftentimes labeled "chile pasilla" *note on this at the end)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (or to taste, depending on how salty your chicken stock is)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3-4 twists of freshly ground pepper
5-6 cups chicken stock (best if homemade!!)
2-3 cups shredded, roasted chicken

for serving:
10 red chiles
Corn tortillas, cut into strips (usually about 2-3 per person)
Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup sour cream
Lime, 1 for lime crema sauce, extras for garnish, if desired
Cilantro, washed, rinsed, and removed from stems
Jalapeños, sliced finely

Boil the ancho chiles with 3 cups of water until soft. Blend with an immersion blender in about 1/2 cup of the water used for boiling, and adding any additional water as needed so that the peppers puree well. Sauté the onion in a deep pot (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven) over medium heat until translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, and freshly ground pepper and stir to combine. Add the pureed ancho chiles and the remaining water used to boil them. Stir in the fresh chicken stock and shredded chicken, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, boil the red chiles in about 1 cup water until soft. Puree the chiles in the minimum amount of water used to boil the chiles in that is needed for the immersion blender to function. This will be salsa for those who would like spicier soups.

While the soup continues to simmer, fry the tortilla strips by placing about 8-10 strips at a time in a large frying pan filled with about 1/2" canola oil over high medium high heat. Lay the strips out in a single layer in the pan (taking care to not burn yourself by splattering oil when you place them in the pan!). Wait about 15-20 seconds until the bottom side begins to turn golden-brown, then flip each strip over. By the time you've finished flipping all of the strips, the first one you flipped should be ready to be removed from the oil and placed on a paper-towel lined plate to cool. You can salt your strips as soon as you move them to the plate, if you would like. Continue to fry until all of your desired strips have been fried to a golden brown.

Make a lime crema sauce by mixing the finely grated zest and squeezed juice of 1 lime with 1/2 cup sour cream.

Once the soup is ready for serving, fill each bowl with tortilla strips, cilantro, cheese, and jalapeño. Pour the soup into each bowl and garnish with lime crema sauce and any extra toppings/salsas each person would like.

I can't lie-there are a few things that I make that people drool over... this is one of them! So definitely worth the effort. You'll have people begging you for the recipe!

*When I was trying to create this recipe, I really wanted it to be authentic. So I spent a lot of time reading about the traditional peppers used for various Mexican dishes. I found quite a few discrepancies in the peppers used for tortilla soup, and finally figured out why. Apparently, a lot of times dried poblano peppers, "ancho chiles," are incorrectly labelled "chile pasilla"which are dried chicala peppers, and also known as "chile negros." Confusing right? That all being said, it's difficult to shop for these peppers! The good news is either will do the job. But, traditionally, tortilla soup is made with ancho chiles which are slightly sweeter than chile pasilla, so that's what I went with in this recipe!