Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup


Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup is a gluten-free, restaurant quality soup you can make at home! 

Hi. My name is Kristin and I can’t stop making restaurant-inspired soups. There, I said it!

Sorry, but similar to finding the perfect pair of jeans (fellow shorties, you will love LOFT’s Petite Modern Flare cut,) the perfect cocktail (not too sweet, but not as boring as vodka soda with lime – I’m still on the hunt) and the perfect shade of bronzer (Physician’s Formula Powder Palette is my go-to) – the perfect Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe can be hard to find.

I just can’t get down with the thin and super-brothy styles that are a little too heavy on the lime flavor, know what I mean? Rather, I need a thick, stick to yar ribs type of Chicken Tortilla Soup that’s spiced with the bold flavors of the southwest, and piled high with a plethora of crisp, yummy toppings.

You know who does it right? Chili’s. Yeah, me and Chili’s go way back to high school when I used to frequent the southwestern-inspired chain on an alarmingly frequent basis for big, piping-hot bowls of their Chicken Tortilla Soup with my friends. Each spoonful was just spicy enough, and packed with tiny tri-color tortilla chip strips that I just couldn’t get enough of.

Always looking to cure my soup cravings at home, I whipped up a big batch of thick, bold, and satisfying Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup to enjoy this week – the first of the season with highs tapping out in the 60s!

Topped with crushed tortilla chips, fresh pico de gallo, and chopped avocado, a bowl of this Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup is a meal in itself and, like any good soup (Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli – I’m looking at you,) just gets better and better as it sits in the fridge.

Start the soup by adding 2 large chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces and 1 small chopped onion to 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil in a big soup pot over medium heat.

Next sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning (or 1 batch homemade taco seasoning,) 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 Tablespoon paprika. Not only will these spices give the soup incredible flavor, but they’ll also give it that signature, deep-orange color. Mmm!

Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

Next add in even more southwest spices: 1/2 teaspoon each chili powder and cumin, and just a dash (or two!) of cayenne pepper. I added about 1/4 teaspoon and the soup ended up being about a 6/10 on the spice scale for me.

Saute the spices with the chicken and onion for 1 minute, then add in the rest of the goodies: 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, pepper (to taste), 1 can rinsed & drained pinto beans, juice of 1/2 lime, and 3-1/2 cups chicken broth.

Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is bubbling away, make some fresh pico de gallo to dallop on top of the finished soup (could totally use store-bought salsa – I just cough crushed the remaining half jar of my beloved Tostitos Restaurant Style Salsa last night and thus had none on hand,) and chop up 1 avocado. Also stir together 2 Tablespoons gluten-free masa (could use gluten-free or all-purpose flour) with 1/2 cup chicken broth in a small bowl. As always, check the labels on store-bought products like masa and chicken broth to ensure they are gluten-free!

The masa will thicken the soup and give it a wonderfully luxurious texture. Don’t panic if you don’t have any on hand – the soup will still be slightly thick and delicious nonetheless! Now, when the soup has simmered for 20 minutes, stir in the masa/chicken broth mixture and let it simmer for 10 more minutes.

Aaaand, we are done here!

Ladle the soup into bowls, then top with lots of crushed tortilla chips, chopped avocado, and pico de gallo.

Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup

serves 4


Restaurant-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup is a gluten-free, restaurant quality soup you can make at home!


  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning or 1 recipe homemade taco seasoning (see notes for recipe)
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • pepper
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 32oz gluten-free chicken broth, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons gluten-free or regular masa (could use flour)
  • Toppings: pico de gallo, chopped avocado, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, lime wedges


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add chicken and onion then sprinkle in taco seasoning, paprika, and salt. Stir well then cook until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper, then saute for one more minute. Add cilantro, pepper to taste, pinto beans, lime juice, and 3-1/2 cups chicken broth then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, make pico de gallo, chop avocado, and combine remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth with masa or cornmeal in a small bowl. When soup is done simmering, drizzle in chicken broth/masa mixture, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve topped with crushed tortilla chips, chopped avocado, and pico de gallo. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.


Adapted from Favorite Family Recipes.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

The flavors in here could not be more delicious. You can taste just a hint of cilantro and lime – just the way I like it – while the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano give this soup an awesome kick.

Many Chicken Tortilla Soup recipes will tell you to add shredded cheddar or jack cheese on top, which I’m not arguing with – what dish couldn’t benefit from the addition of a little cheese?! – but it’s really not necessary. Perfectly yummy on its own!


What are your favorite soups to whip up as the temperatures start to cool down?

I can’t wait to make lots, and LOTS of CHILI! Saw some jalapeno cornbread at Whole Foods the other day that looked perfect to pair with!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Kristen 09.17.2012

    OMG LOVE!!! I attempted to make a copycat Chili’s Chicken enchilada soup when I was pregnant and it called for Velveta cheese. It was the only time I have ever purchased Velveta cheese. My mom yelled at me for buying it. Good thing I burned it!!!

    • Melissa 09.17.2012

      I just made that last week. You are right. You have to stir, stir, stir and watch it like a hawk.

  2. Courtney 09.17.2012

    I just had your chicken tortilla soup last week… loved it! Can’t wait to give the new (thicker one!) a go :) My current favorite is turkey chili… seems lighter than beef. Just right to ease me into hearty soups in the coming weeks. Happy Monday!

  3. Oh my….I love Chili’s tortilla soup…it’s my favorite tortilla soup too! With the cooler weather I’ve started craving chili and taco soup.

  4. Bob 09.17.2012

    Wondering how this compares to Pickerman’s here in Des Moines. Thoughts? They have good chicken tortilla too! Thanks for sharing, Kristin!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      You know, I’ve never tried their version – I’ll have to check it out sometime!

  5. Beth 09.17.2012

    I made Pasta Fagioli for dinner tonight…now I must make Chicken Tortilla soup tomorrow! I love this version too!!! My hubby doesn’t like Mexican food (gasp!) so I always freeze a bunch….

  6. This looks AWESOME. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. Tortilla soup takes me back to my San Antonio roots!! Awesome dish Kristin!

  8. Caitlin 09.17.2012

    Sounds delish! I just made your pork chili inspired by that restaurant in Denver and my fiancé an I both LOVED it. I’m definitely getting more into fall foods!

    My all tonite favorite soup to make is a shrimp and corn chowder that I’ve adapted a bunch and feel that I’ve finally gotten it just right! Helps that my man loves it, too!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      That sounds awesome! Would you be willing to share the recipe? :)

      • Caitlin 09.18.2012

        I can definitely share it. I’ll email the recipe. Hope you like it! It goes really well with biscuits or garlic bread.

  9. Stephanie Doty 09.17.2012

    This looks delicious! I’m from south Texas and the tortilla soup that’s served in Tex-Mex restaurants has rice instead of beans. I’ll be trying out this recipe though!

  10. Sarah 09.17.2012

    I love the sweet potato black bean chili from GoodLife Eats. Its delicious! I think you would like it. That soup looks delicious. I love tortilla soups!

  11. Lauren 09.17.2012

    I’m not sure why you feel the need to title this “restaurant style” because I seriously think just about everything you make is considered “restaurant style.” Looks fantastic as always my dear!

  12. Nikki 09.17.2012

    I love the soup recipes!!!!! Did I say “love”…I meant LOVEEEEEEE!!!! One day could you please teach me how to make the Zuppa Toscana soup from olive garden?? Thank u!!!

  13. Wow this looks Fabulous! I could really use it for this dreaded head cold that I caught. Now I just need someone to make it for me . :-p

  14. Lisa 09.17.2012

    Do you take all the photos of your food? If so, you could have a second career in food styling and photography. They’re beautiful photos. And if course good recipes too! :)

  15. Mrs. McFall 09.17.2012

    Physician’s Formula is the BEST! I wish it were more available, though. I wonder if Ulta has it??

  16. Trisha 09.17.2012

    I already dove headfirst into fall foods with about a billion pumpkin recipes last week, as well as chili and jalapeno cornbread muffins. I took the chili & muffins to a Packers vs. Bears party at our neighbors. Everyone raved about both. While lying in bed that night, I realized I completely forgot to put the eggs in the muffins. FAIL!

  17. Katelyn Rose 09.17.2012

    OMG I agree wholeheartedly 99% with this post! The 1% difference is that I’m a tall, not petite haha. I *cannot* wait to make this soup! Have you ever made it for a tailgate? I’m thinking it would be a good for a game late in the season…hopefully my coworkers agree!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      I haven’t – but I’m sure it’d be a win (pun intended!) People always seems to like things they can add their own toppings to. :)

  18. Don’t think I’ve ever had Chili’s tortilla soup…next time I’m in the states I’ll have to hunt that down. :-)

    I’m thinking a sweet potato and black bean chili needs to happen soon – such a fall food.

  19. Dara @how_to_eat 09.17.2012

    I’ve never had chili’s soup before but this makes me want to find a chili’s near me ASAP! Or just make this soup at home!

    One of my fave fall stews is a pumpkin chill…spicy, sweet, and comforting all in one.

  20. Mary 09.17.2012

    Well, this looks fantastic. Definitely going on the Fall Soups queue. Also, I could not agree with you more about the Loft petite jeans. The only pair of classic straight leg jeans this 4’11 (and 3/4″!!) gal can wear!

  21. I am loving the soup recipes! They are perfect for this Fall-like weather.

  22. Elicia 09.18.2012

    I made a pumpkin, sausage and sage soup a few years ago and it was divine! I need to dig out that recipe soon since my mother-in-law sent five pumpkins home with us. :O

  23. Jackie 09.18.2012

    As far as bronzer goes, I use “Laguna” from Nars. It’s a tad on the pricey side, but it lasts forever and it’s a really nice sun-kissed shade.

  24. Sara 09.18.2012

    I am for sure making that tonight since I woke up and central Iowa was 45 degrees today! Brrrrrr
    I love to make my mama’s Lasagna Soup and also a classic homemade chicken noodle with homemade noodles (sometimes I do gnoochi instead) I love fall!

  25. Jeri 09.18.2012

    I just recently found a recipe for Italian Wedding Soup…..was it yours?? Gosh, now I can’t remember. I am obsessed because I used to get it in those microwavable bowls from Campbell’s. That’s all I would eat for lunch in college. I had to make my own mini meatballs, though. But that was ok, because I make a bunch and freeze them ahead of time.

  26. Erin 09.18.2012

    This looks pretty yummy! Wanted to pass along my favorite Chicken Tortilla soup because it seems to have a slightly different flavor profile than yours, and thickens on it’s own. The only changes I make are that I use Cotija cheese, fire roasted tomoatoes and I add some cumin.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      Looks awesome! Is the pasilla chili similar to an ancho? There are piles and piles of anchos at the market and grocery store these days, and I never know what to do with them!

      • Erin 09.18.2012

        Kinda! The pasilla is the same as the poblano chile, and an ancho is a dried poblano. Took me a few minutes in the store to figure it out when I first bought it :) I’ve never tried using the ancho but would go with the fresh poblano and roast it on your own. The roasting develops the flavor nicely and softens the heat slightly. I’ll be interested though if you find some good uses for the ancho!

        • Iowa Girl Eats 09.19.2012

          Ohhh duh – now I feel silly. I saw ANCHOS for the first time unpacakged and in a bin at Whole Foods the other day, which is why I had them on the brain, but what I meant is I’ve been seeing piles of fresh POBLANOS at the market and stores lately! Glad to know they are similar to the pasilla! I might have to work them into a recipe before they disappear for the season…

          • Erin 09.19.2012

            Haha, that’s ok! The first time I bought the poblano pepper, I stood there staring at the pepper display looking for the label for the pasilla! Thank goodness for iphones :)

  27. Terry C 09.18.2012

    Looks great! I swear I pin just about every recipe you post these days!

  28. Kristen 09.18.2012

    I have the answer to the perfect cocktail that isn’t just vodka, soda and lime. You simply add flavored bitters to that combo! They add the extra kick to the classic drink!

  29. Lizzie 09.18.2012

    Max & Erma’s tortilla soup is my favorite! My friends and I went there for it all the time in high school, too. Theirs is really cheesy, but this one looks like a healthier alternative!

    Cornmeal would work in place of masa?

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      Yep! I use it to thicken my chili verde and it works great!

      • Lizzie 10.01.2012

        I made this last night with black beans instead of pinto. Really really good!

  30. Meaghan 09.18.2012

    Kristin! I just love your recipes and the way you describe them…it just makes me hungry! And, I often find myself changing our dinner plans to try one of your creations!

    Although I love Chili’s chicken tortilla soup…My NEW FAVORITE is Emeril Lagasse’s Broccoli and Cheese Soup with Croutons. After making it, I talked about it – no, raved about it for days. It is a life-changing broccoli cheese soup! Here’s the link:

  31. Brenda 09.18.2012

    I am so happy to see this recipe. I have about a half dozen recipes that I’ve tried for Chicken Tortilla Soup. They were either too brothy or too cheesy. Can’t wait to try cornmeal/masa as a thickener.

  32. Tracy 09.18.2012

    Add a splash of OJ and cranberry juice to your vodka soda with lime and VOILA a slightly sweetened not too sweet cocktail. AND it’s pretty, too!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      Ah yes, I always forget about the splash of OJ or cran – love the idea of mixing both. :)

  33. morgan 09.18.2012

    Have you tried the Pioneer Woman’s tortilla soup? It’s sort of labor intensive, but absolutely divine. Highly recommend!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.18.2012

      I haven’t but I’ve never had a PW recipe fail me yet. I’ll give it a whirl sometime!

  34. I absolutely hate super liquidy, brothy soup, and I feel like tortilla soup is usually the biggest offender. I love the addition of masa – it thickens it up and sticks with the Southwestern theme!

  35. Rachel 09.18.2012

    Smokey Row has wonderful Chicken Tortilla Soup! Wanted to let you know in case you ever feel like going on ad adventure around DSM trying out everyone’s Chicken Tortilla Soup.

    This recipe looks super fallvorfull ;)

  36. Jessica 09.18.2012

    That looks so yummy! I will definitely try it this week. Thank you!! Fall = soup season! :)

  37. Sara 09.18.2012

    I can’t wait to make this! Looks delish! I stumbled upon your site a couple weeks ago when I was making the Crispy Pest Gonocchi with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese that I had pinned. (It was awesome by the way!) Ever since I have found your site, I have pinned all sorts of recipes and I have also thouroughly enjoyed reading your blog. I loved reading about your trip to wine country. We went a few years ago and it is by far one of my most favorite trips. I also find I really enjoy your exercise blogs, they are great motivation for me, and lord knows I need all the motivation I can get! Keep up the great work!

  38. Kate 09.19.2012

    I also love the LOFT petite jeans! Am waiting for it to cool off a little here in Texas before I get a pair of the colored corduroys. As for the perfect cocktail, have you tried an american mule? It’s 1 part ginger infused vodka to 2 parts ginger ale (i use diet) with a wedge of lime. So good. I love your blog and love all of your recipes! Thanks for sharing :).

  39. Allison 09.19.2012

    This looks so good! I made your pork tacos with cherry and peach salsa this week and it was a huge hit! Sooo delicious even though I had to use frozen cherries.

    Also, for a good cocktail to try: blueberry vodka, soda water, splash of cranberry and a lime wedge. Drink cautiously :)

  40. Rachel 09.19.2012

    I think everyone is craving soup right now! I just posted up my favorite taco soup with turkey, but I’ll definitely try this sometime this fall/winter — I’ve never had Chili’s Chicken soup so this will be new!

    Thanks for posting :)

  41. Jennifer L 09.19.2012

    this looks soooo perfect for a chilly fall day (like today where I’m from!). I love that wood bowl for your soup bowl… I need to get something like that, because I’m always putting hot bowls of soup into other bowls… it does not look so nice and pretty :)

  42. Susie 09.20.2012

    Made it for dinner tonight, a hit with the family! Thank You!

  43. Cindy 09.23.2012

    Very rarely do I manage to get over my laziness to post a comment about a recipe but this soup was so delicious I had to give you props!! I made just the soup-no toppings since I was too la zy to do that as well. The soup was so good even by itself, it didn’t feel like it was missing a thing. Can’t wait to try it again with the extras!

  44. Pat 09.24.2012

    How many one-cup servings does this recipe make?? Sounds yummy.

  45. I used to work at Chilis and LOVED ordering a cup of “encha” after work! :)

    This is going on my Friday Favorites! Must make this! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever made any soup besides chicken noodle soup…which is pretty stinkin awesome if I do say so myself.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  46. Halite and Pepper 10.14.2012

    […] Tortilla Soup Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats Serves […]

  47. Kate 10.21.2012

    I’m just as intrigued by your recommendation of jeans as I am by this soup! So, do tell…how tall are you? I’m 5’4″ and petite jeans are almost always just a little too short, but I have to get the long ones hemmed! Love AT Loft, though, so I’m hopeful!

  48. Natalie 10.28.2012

    This was perfect. Thank you for sharing! If only it would remain cool enough it Texas for me to make it again before our two weeks of “winter!”

  49. […] Restaurant Style Tortilla Soup by Iowa Girl Eats […]

  50. Susanne Lord 12.07.2012

    Can you create a copycat recipe for Chic Fil A’s chicken tortilla soup?

Leave a Comment