We Made The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, and It Lived Up to Our Expectations

ThePioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup is our new favorite version of this classic soup recipe.

Toh Horizontal Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup Gettyimages 149669032 Lauren Habermehl JveditLauren Habermehl for Taste of home, Getty Images

Ree Drummond has a knack for turning complicated comfort food recipes into weeknight-friendly family favorites that don’t sacrifice flavor (hello, Pioneer Woman Chili).

That’s why when I saw her easy 5-star recipe for chicken tortilla soup, I knew I had to put it to the test (just like Ree Drummond’s Chicken Soup recipe).

What Is Chicken Tortilla Soup?

While nobody knows who invented chicken tortilla soup, the first tortilla soup can be traced back to Mexico City, Mexico, where variations of this famed recipe have been around for generations.

The authentic Mexican version consists of fried corn tortilla pieces stirred into a flavorful tomato-based broth loaded with spices, roasted chiles, onions and garlic. Chicharron (fried pork belly or pork rinds), rather than chicken, is a common addition too. In the U.S., the recipe often gets a Tex-Mex or southwest spin with additions like black beans, corn and a simplified spice profile.

With that being said, authentic or not, I’ve never met a chicken tortilla soup recipe (or turkey tortilla soup) I didn’t like. Keep reading to see if Ree’s recipe lives up to the hype (it’s fair to say the odds are in her favor).

How to Make Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This recipe yields 8 generous servings of soup.

Ingredients

Optional toppings:

Directions

Step 1: Season the chicken

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Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Then stir together the cumin, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, garlic powder and salt in a small dish. Drizzle the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season on all sides with about 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Set the rest of the spice mixture aside.

Step 2: Cook and chop

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Bake the chicken until it is fully cooked and reaches an internal temperature of 165º. Then remove it from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting it into bite-sized cubes.

Editor’s Tip: The total amount of time you’ll need to cook the chicken will vary depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts. Some may cook in as little as 15 to 20 minutes, while thicker breasts may take up to 30 minutes. For best results, use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. For more tips, don’t miss this guide on how to bake chicken breasts.

Step 3: Saute

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Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, toss in the onions, bell peppers and garlic until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Season with the remaining spice mixture, adding additional chili powder (up to 1/4 teaspoon) for heat, if desired.

Step 4: Combine

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Add the cooked chicken and diced tomatoes (with their juices) to the vegetables. Stir to combine, then pour in the chicken broth, hot water and tomato paste. (Here’s how to use up the remaining tomato paste in your can.) Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a low simmer.

Step 5: Add the beans and cornmeal

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In a separate small bowl, mix the cornmeal with 1/2 cup water. Add the mixture to the pot, along with the drained black beans. Let the soup simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, adding additional salt, to taste.

Editor’s Note: Ree advises the soup will taste best when it is properly seasoned with salt. Don’t go overboard but don’t be stingy either. Salt is important because it really wakes up and enhances the flavors of the other ingredients in this soup.

Step 6: Cut the tortillas

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Using a sharp knife, slice the tortillas into 2- to 3-in. strips. Stir them into the soup just before serving, reserving some for final garnish on individual bowls. (Feeling adventurous? Make your own corn tortillas.)

Step 7: Serve with plenty of toppings

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with your favorite toppings.

Here’s What I Thought

This Pioneer Woman chicken tortilla soup didn’t disappoint. What I loved most about the recipe was how easily it came together and how flavorful the end result was. I appreciated the fact that while the recipe list is long, most of the ingredients are items I keep stocked in my kitchen regularly. That made this dish an accessible last-minute dinner option.

My only suggestion? Add a few squeezes of fresh lime juice to your bowl before digging in. It really takes this soup to next-level yum!

Tips for Making Chicken Tortilla Soup

How do I thicken tortilla soup?

If you would like your Pioneer Woman chicken tortilla soup to have a thicker, stew-like consistency, you have a few options. The easiest is to stir in additional cornmeal (or try masa harina) to the soup. Ree’s recipe already calls for 1/4 cup, but you could add more for a thicker consistency.

The other option would be to let the soup simmer longer on the stovetop, which will allow the soup to reduce, become thicker and help the flavors to become more concentrated.

How to serve tortilla soup

To quote the Pioneer Woman herself, “the more toppings on tortilla soup, the merrier.” Load up your bowl with your favorite toppings. There are no hard or fast rules as to what goes well on tortilla soup. Basically, if it’s something you might put on a taco or in a bowl of chili, it will likely taste divine on a steaming bowl of chicken tortilla soup.

How to store chicken tortilla soup

Chicken tortilla soup may be stored for four to five days in the fridge. If you’re planning to enjoy leftovers, we recommend omitting the tortilla strips from the soup so they don’t become soggy. Instead, add fresh tortilla strips to leftover chicken tortilla soup after reheating, just before serving.

Can you freeze tortilla soup?

Yes. Chicken tortilla soup is an excellent freezer-meal option (along with these other freezer-friendly soups). However, we advise omitting the tortilla strips before freezing. To freeze tortilla soup, store it in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to three months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before reheating and serving with fresh tortilla strips.

Can’t get enough Pioneer Woman? Don’t miss these other soup recipes inspired by Ree Drummond.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.