Tag Archives: soup

Sunday is for Sopa Azteca

tortilla soup 2
There are thick, pureed soups, soups that are like winter blanket—you just want to wrap yourself in them when it starts snowing outside.Mexican Weekend_Logo_POST_170x177

And then there’s tortilla soupsopa Azteca, if you want to be authentic about it. A beautiful broth enriched with chiles, poured over chicken, topped with crunchy tortilla strips and finished with crema. It’s not a winter blanket soup—it’s more like a light jacket. And that makes it perfect for the first weekend—your first Mexican Weekend, if you will—in October.

Tortilla Soup
Recipe from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes.  It’s a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony. Earthy dark pasilla chile. The softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas. Soul-satisfying broth.  And creamy-rich avocado and cheese.

A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile:  Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, it’s ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy). Though for these everyday recipes I’ve relied heavily on the easier-to-use powdered dried chile, finding powdered pasilla (negro) can be harder than finding the whole pod. Should powdered chile be at your finger tips (be it powdered pasilla (negro), ancho or beyond), add about 1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion.

In Mexico, it’s more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as we do in our restaurants.

Servings: 4to 6 people


  • 1largedried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 115-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 2tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2quarts chicken broth
  • 1largeepazote sprig, if you have one
  • 2cup shredded, cooked rotisserie chicken
  • 1large ripeavocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
  • A generous 4cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips
  • 1/2cupMexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish
  • 1large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving


Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).

Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema. Pass the lime separately.


Thanksgiving just got a little more calm

Stuffing, potatoes, turkey, pie. The traditional Thanksgiving lineup doesn’t leave a lot of room for soup. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to fit it in. A first course of soup can be a moment of calm before you unleash the crowd to the buffet. And in that moment of calm, you can give thanks. (The “thanks” in Thanksgiving is there for a reason, you know.)

This is a beautiful soup with which to start a major meal, the silky squash spiked with the bite of chile and sweetness of apple. Just a little bit, perhaps served in a teacup, is enough to perk up everybody’s tastebuds. And if there’s soup leftover for the next day? There’s only one thing to do: Bolster it with some shredded turkey.

Kuri (or Butternut or Pumpkin) Soup with Ancho and Apple

Crema de Calabaza con Chile Ancho y Manzana
Servings: 4


  • 1medium (3 pound) kuri squash or sugar (a.k.a. pie) pumpkin OR 1 small (2 pound) butternut
  • 2tablespoons butter
  • 1medium onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
  • 1 medium apple, cored, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • 1/2teaspooncinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
  • Salt
  • Sugar


Peel the squash or pumpkin, chop off the stem end and cut it in half lengthwise, slicing through the cavity that holds the seeds. Wrap and refrigerate half for another use; from the other half, scoop out the seeds and pull off the stringy fibers that entangle them (if a few remain, that’s okay). Scoop the seeds into a small bowl (you should have about ¼ cup) and chop the squash or pumpkin into roughly 1-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups).

Melt the butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan set over medium heat. Add the seeds and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are richly golden and the seeds have started to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the chile pieces and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until they are fragrant and lightly toasted. Add the squash (or pumpkin), apple, pepper, cinnamon and 1 quart water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer until everything is very tender, about 30 minutes. Ladle into a blender, loosely cover and blend until completely smooth. (A large, high-powered blender like Vitamix works best here; if yours is smaller, blend in batches. An immersion blender, while easy, will barely blend the seeds.) Set a medium-mesh strainer over the pot and pass the soup through. Season with salt (usually about 1 teaspoon) and a little sugar (½ teaspoon or so brings out the flavor of the apple). Serve warm in warm bowls.