This traditional Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup) recipe is made with a simple, richly-seasoned, tomato-chile broth that is ladled hot over crispy tortilla strips and loaded up with your choice of toppings. Feel free to add chicken and/or cheese if you’d like!
This winter, I’ve been on a mission to learn how to make authentic sopa azteca that tastes more like the tortilla soups I fell in love with in Mexico (and notably less like the modernized Tex-Mex versions I’ve always known in the States). And now that I’ve figured it out, we can’t stop making this one in our house. ♡
During our recent trips to Mexico, I became a bit obsessed with ordering sopa azteca (also called sopa de tortilla or sopa de tortilla azteca) anytime I spied it on menus. Usually served as an appetizer, this tortilla soup was consistently made with the same main ingredients — crispy corn tortilla strips, a piping-hot garlicky tomato-chile caldo (broth), fresh avocado, and a combination of sour cream, fresh cilantro, lime wedges and/or fried chile strips sprinkled on top. Some restaurants also included chicken or soft diced cheese in the soup, while others kept it vegetarian (or vegan). Some kept their soup fairly mild, while others (whew!) had us sweating. Some served the soup pre-assembled, while others served us bowls full of tortilla strips with a side of DIY toppings and then ladled in the steaming hot caldo table-side. But every single bowl of sopa azteca we tried was downright delicious.
The magic of this soup, of course, is all in that delicious, rich, soul-warming caldo. Turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to make in just 20-ish minutes with a blend of tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, chicken or veggie stock and dried pasilla (or ancho) chiles. And yes — I have to insist — the dried chiles are essential here! If you are new to working with dried Mexican chiles, though, please don’t be intimidated. They are super-easy to use and are hands-down the key ingredient to giving the broth the most amazing smoky, earthy, delicious flavor. Feel free to also fry up a few of the chile strips to sprinkle them on top of the soup, which only takes an extra minute or two of extra prep time and is really fun too!
Anyway, after so many years of enjoying various Tex-Mex and modernized versions of tortilla soup in the States, I’ve really appreciated finally learning about the authentic prehispanic Mexican sopa azteca — “la reina de sopas” (queen of soups), as one Mexico City restaurant we loved called it — that inspired them all. If you ask me, nothing beats the original when it comes to this classic. So if you happen to be a fellow tortilla soup super-fan, it’s time to give authentic sopa azteca a try!