Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tomatillo Salsa

by Feb 24, 2023

I’ve adapted this recipe from the outstanding original from Romney Steele’s cookbook, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur. If you have time to make stock from a whole chicken, make the tomatillo salsa, and do all the chopping for the soup, by all means, do it sometime, the results are worth it. In the meantime, here’s a simplified version.

Use leftover roast chicken or a rotisserie bird. The new grocery in town even has pulled rotisserie chicken in a little container for you if you’d like to save even more time.

For tomatillo salsa, please see my Roasted Tomatillo Salsa recipe. Nepenthe’s version is similar, they boil the tomatillos for 15 minutes instead of roasting. This is a great condiment to have around and you can use it to dress up rice and beans, add a cup to slow cooker chicken chile verde, or enjoy with huevos rancheros or a simple fried egg.

How to adapt to what you have on hand: Start out with a frozen pack of chicken thighs and make a stock by simmering with a couple halved onions and a bay leaf, chicken done by 45 minutes (you can do this early in the day and make the soup at dinnertime); use any salsa you happen to have in the fridge; if you forgot to buy jalapeños (again! shoot! this happens to me all the time) but have some picked ones from Roots Kitchen and Cannery in the fridge, add those towards the end of cooking.

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Tomatillo Salsa

adapted from My Nepenthe

Servings 4 people


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, chopped yellow, red, or orange
  • 1 red onion, chopped reserve a few tablespoons for garnish
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes Whole Foods 365 Diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic is great
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (optional, substitute black pepper)
  • 2 cups chicken stock or bone broth Bare Bones 16-ounce package is worth the expense but Swanson and Imagine are good
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 sprigs cilantro, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine if you've got it otherwise just chop some cilantro and put it in the pot
  • ¼ cup tomatillo salsa (optional) purchased or homemade, recipe on RIPE
  • juice from 1 lime
  • cooked chicken, amount up to you, shredded

Toppings: tortilla chips (or strips of corn or flour tortilla tossed with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and toasted in the oven or in a frying pan on the stove), cilantro leaves, red onion, shredded cheddar, and lime wedges for spritzing


  1. Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add the chopped bell peppers, red onion, and jalapeño. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring now and then, until all is softened, about 5 minutes.

  2. Drain off the liquid from the canned tomatoes and add them to the pot with the cumin, salt, white pepper, and juice of lime. Cook for a minute or two, stirring.

  3. Add the broth, water, bundle of cilantro, optional tomatillo salsa, and squeeze in the lime juice. Bring to boil then vent lid, lower heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the cooked chicken about halfway through cooking time. When done, taste broth and add additional salt and white/black pepper to suit your taste.

  4. Set out toppings for people to add to their bowls: cilantro leaves, chopped red onion, shredded cheddar, tortilla chips or strips, and lime wedges.

Recipe Notes / Tips

  • Make in advance: soup can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for up to a month

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