Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup is everything you love about chicken enchiladas in soup form!

This Chicken Enchilada Soup is comforting, hearty, savory, filling, lusciously creamy and cheesy and bursting with fiesta flavors. It’s a meal-in-one made with pantry staples so you can make this soup any night of the week! This creamy soup is made with my easy homemade enchilada sauce with a mole flair and thickened with masa harina for the BEST Chicken Enchilada Soup you ever tasted AKA restaurant delicious, jaw dropping delicious, can’t stop, don’t-want-to-stop slurping delicious.  This recipe is loaded with juicy, tender shredded chicken, hearty black beans, sweet corn, fire roasted tomatoes, tangy green chiles, aromatic onions and garlic, seasoned to perfection, creamified with cream cheese and cheese then topped with your favorite enchilada toppings – sour cream, jalapenos, cilantro, etc.  It’s also incredibly easy to make – the majority of “making” this soup is simply dumping in cans and spices. This cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe also is great to make ahead for meal prep or to freeze because it tastes even better the next day!

(Photos updated 2/3/22, same delicious recipe)

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top view of a bowl of Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe showing how to garnish with cilantro, sour cream and tortilla chips

CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP RECIPE

I am all about soups during this quarantine time – and all the time.  They are easy to make, a meal-in-one and make fantastic leftovers.  And of course, some of my favorite soups are my Mexican Soups:  Chicken Tortilla Soup, Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder, Chicken Fajita and Rice Soup,  Caldo de Pollo, Albondigas Soup, Cheesy Taco Soup, White Chicken Chili and Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup

So, you might be thinking – do I need another Mexican Soup?  Is Chicken Enchilada Soup different than the other Mexican soups?  The answer is yes and yes!  Unlike Chicken Tortilla Soup that is broth-y and tomato-y, Chicken Enchilada Soup is thick, creamy and cheesy with a mole flair.  It is 100% unique in flavor and texture and a MUST MAKE recipe!

After I shared my sensational enchilada sauce recipe, I had several requests for a Chicken Enchilada Soup using that recipe – you guys have great taste.  My enchilada sauce is layered with Mexican seasonings plus a hint of cocoa powder, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon to mimic Mexican chocolate and infuse the sauce with a hint of mole.  It creates a deeply complex flavor profile that’s absolutely mesmerizing – but is also super easy to make!  

To make this creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe, all we do is brown the chicken (or you can use rotisserie chicken) add the seasonings to the onions, then combine them with tomato paste and chicken broth along with the black beans, corn, etc. So, you essentially get authentic Mexican flavor with homemade enchilada sauce without any extra work!

The other distinguishing factor of this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe is the masa harina. Masa harina is a treated, finely ground corn that is available in any grocery store.  It is the same flour used to make corn tortillas and infuses the soup with corn flavor and helps thicken it along with cream cheese and cheddar to its velvety, creamy, cheesy glory.

So, do you need this cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe?  Yes, and yes!   With one bite, you’ll be wondering how you ever lived without it!

showing how to serve cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup by stirring cilantro into the soup

WHAT DO YOU PUT IN CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

The majority of ingredients in Chicken Enchilada Soup are either pantry staple cans or spices you dump into the soup so you can make this meal-in-one any night of the week!

  • Chicken:  I highly recommend chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in) for this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe. I didn’t always use chicken thighs for my soup recipes, but once I started, there was NO going back. Chicken thighs are dark meat which means they are inherently juicier, richer tasting and produce far more tender chicken than chicken breasts.  They are also harder to overcook and stay tender for days with a more palate pleasing texture, even when reheated for leftovers.  In addition, chicken thighs are browned first which adds an important layer of flavor to the overall soup as all those golden, flavorful bits become part of the broth.
  • Masa harina:  should be easy to find at your grocery store in the flour aisle or Latin aisle. Look for finely ground as opposed to coarse ground which is used in tamales.  The most common type is white masa harina, which is made from dried white corn or you can also use yellow masa harina, which is made from dried yellow corn. The white is a bit sweeter, but both will work.  You may or may not see “instant” on the label – both will work great.  
  • Chicken broth: use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
  • Tomato paste:  adds the signature tomato flavor.
  • Onion:  you can substitute the onion with 1 teaspoon onion powder for an easy, no chopping soup.
  • Garlic cloves:  you can substitute the garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  •  Fire roasted tomatoes boast a wonderful smoky flavor and are sweeter with less acidity than regular diced tomatoes.  Most grocery stores carry them but if you can’t find them, then substitute regular diced tomatoes.  
  • Canned mild diced green chilies:  make sure you purchase mild green chiles – I have accidentally used the hot chilies before and they are HOT!  Mild green chiles, however are more tangy than hot so you don’t have to worry about them making your soup spicy. 
  • Canned black beans:  you can substitute with pinto beans, kidney beans, cannellini bean or your favorite beans. 
  • Canned sweet corn:  I use canned corn for this creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe for convenience but feel free to use corn fresh off the cob if you prefer.  You can also use frozen corn but add it towards the end of cooking, just so it has time to warm through, otherwise it can breakdown.  
  • Cream cheese:  makes the soup wonderfully creamy and adds a refreshing tanginess.  You may use ⅓ fat cream cheese but it will not melt quite as well.  You can use more or less cream cheese depending on how creamy you would like your soup.
  • Cheese:  use freshly shredded cheeses as opposed to pre-packaged cheeses so the cheese will melt seamlessly.  Packaged cheeses are treated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevents the cheese from melting as well.
  • Lime juice:  gets stirred directly into the finished Chicken Enchilada Soup but you can also add more to taste to your own individual servings.
  • Cilantro:  also gets stirred directly into the soup to add a pop of earthy, zesty, citrus flavor. Use more or less to taste or add to individual servings.

CAN I USE CHICKEN BREASTS?

Absolutely!  You can still use chicken breasts but because they are leaner than chicken thighs, they will not be as juicy or as flavorful.  If using chicken breasts, I suggest bone-in chicken breasts but boneless will also work.  Also be aware that chicken breasts will require 5-10 minutes longer to simmer in the broth unless you use thin chicken breast or fillets.  

CAN I USE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN?

Yes!  Rotisserie chicken is my second choice to use in this cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe after chicken thighs.   Rotisserie chicken comes lightly seasoned for an added depth of flavor and is a mix of both light and dark meat.  It also comes perfectly tender and ready to slurp up.

To use rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken, discarding the bones and add about 3 cups shredded chicken to the soup at the end of cooking with the cilantro and heat through.

CAN I USE LEFTOVER CHICKEN?

Absolutely! Add about 3 cups shredded or chopped leftover chicken to the soup along with the cilantro.

a bowl of creamy chicken enchilada soup garnished with sour cream, cilantro chips and avocados

What is Masa Harina and Do I Have to use it?

Masa harina is a type of naturally gluten-free flour, often used to make tortillas, tamales and to thicken Mexican soups – but it isn’t just corn flour or cornmeal – they are NOT 100% interchangeable.  To make masa harina, corn is treated with an alkali solution which gives it a distinctive flavor as well as making it easier for the body to digest.  It is then rinsed, dried and ground.  Corn flour, on the other hand, is just plain ground corn corn.

Masa harina is important in this Chicken Enchilada Soup as it infuses the soup with corn flavor much like corn tortillas and also thickens the soup.

What Can I substitute for Masa Harina?

As previously mentioned, you cannot simply substitute masa harina with corn flour or cornmeal and expect the same results, especially when making tortillas. Instead, the best substitute is stale corn tortillas because they are already made with masa harina.  You can also use ground hominy, cornmeal + flour or cornstarch:

  • Corn tortillas:  simply add stale corn tortillas to your food processor and grind into a fine powder.
  • Hominy: is made of alkali treated corn kernels just like masa harina which makes it a great substitute.  Simply grind the corn in a food processor.  Hominy can either by found in the Latin section of your grocery store or next to the canned corn and beans.
  • Cornmeal+ flour:  If you’re in a bind, you can use finely ground yellow cornmeal and flour to thicken the soup.  The flavor and texture will not be the same because the cornmeal is not treated with the limewater and will always be coarser than finely-ground masa harina.  Mixing the cornmeal with the flour helps achieve a texture more similar to masa harina but you do lose out on some flavor.  To substitute the ¾ cup masa harina, use 5 tablespoons cornmeal and 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
  • Cornstarch:  will not give you the corn flavor but will thicken the soup.  Use half the amount of masa harina.  If you would still like a thicker soup, then make a slurry with 1-2 tablespoons additional cornstarch and ¼ water and stir into the soup then simmer.

What do I do with Leftover Tomato Paste?

This Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe only requires ¼ cup tomato paste.  I often don’t use a whole can of tomato paste in a week, so I always freeze it by the tablespoon.  To do this, place parchment paper on a small baking sheet or plate – something that can easily fit in your freezer.  Drop tomato paste by the tablespoon on parchment paper a few inches apart in rows then freeze until solid, about 1 hour.  Cut a grid around the tomato paste so each tablespoon has its own parchment square.  Wrap up the parchment paper around the tomato paste and place in a plastic bag.  Freeze for up to 6 months, taking out one tablespoon of tomato paste as needed.

Alternatively, you can use leftover tomato paste in:

CAN I USE DIFFERENT CHEESE?

Cheese infuses the Chicken Enchilada soup with flavor and cuts through the earthy seasonings.  Sharp cheddar is fabulous but feel free to go crazy and mix it up with Pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack or a combination of cheeses. 

Do I have to add the cheese and cream cheese?

 Nope!  This Chicken Enchilada Soup is gorgeously creamy due to the cheese and cream cheese but you can omit them if you are trying to save calories and instead just add cheese to individual bowls.  The cream cheese and cheese help thicken the soup, so if omitting, I suggest increasing the masa harina to 1 cup.  Also, keep in mind that the cream cheese helps temper the robust flavors, so you will want to add sour cream or Greek yogurt to your individual servings. You can also stir sour cream or Greek yogurt directly into the soup.  

top view showing  how thick Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe is by scooping up the soup

WHAT SPICES DO YOU PUT IN CREAMY CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

No skimping on seasonings here! This creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup is bursting with flavor that comes from blooming the spices with the onions. It is also spiked with a pinch of cinnamon, cocoa powder and sugar (to mimic Mexican chocolate) for true authentic Mexican flavor that adds a hint of warm sweet, spicy complexity – everything Enchilada Chicken Soup should be. You will need:

  • Chili powder:  is where most of the flavor comes from so please use a quality brand such as McCormick.  INTERNATIONAL WARNING: American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% chile pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
  • Seasonings:  in addition to chili powder, we create homemade enchilada sauce by adding ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, and salt. They all work together to create a deep, satisfying complexity.
  • Cocoa Powder + sugar + cinnamon:  this is an easy substitute for Mexican chocolate which I’m pretty sure most of you don’t keep stocked.  It adds a depth of flavor you will LOVE and that mole flair.

HOW DO YOU MAKE CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

This Chicken Enchilada Soup is wonderfully easy to make!

Step 1- Sear chicken

  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drying the chicken allows the seasonings to stick.
  • Sear chicken in a large Dutch oven/ soup pot until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate but leave drippings. 
  • Searing the chicken results in the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning, and as we know, color= flavor!  The delicious brown bits left in the bottom of the pan will be season the entire Chicken Enchilada Soup as they permeate the broth.
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup by searing chicken thighs in a Dutch oven

Step 2- Bloom spices 

  • Add one additional tablespoon olive oil over and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and all seasonings; sauté for 4 minutes scaping up the golden bits on the bottom of the pan.  Stir in tomato paste and garlic and sauté an additional 60 seconds.
  • Cooking the spices with the onion’s “bloom” the seasonings, or release more of the flavor to create the most jaw dropping soup with some seriously explosive flavor.
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe by cooking onions and chili powder, ground cumin and smoked paprika

Step 3- Add all soup ingredients   

  • Now all that’s left to do is add the chicken back to the soup along with the most of the Chicken Enchilada Soup ingredients consisting of diced green chiles, fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, sweet corn, chicken broth, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk masa harina with remaining chicken broth until no lumps remain then stir into soup.
showing how to make creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup by adding tomatoes, black beans, corn and green chilie to soup
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup by masa harina with chicken broth until smooth
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup by adding masa harina to the soup

Step 4 – Simmer soup

  • Cover the soup to bring to a simmer, then displace the lid so it’s partially covering the pot, with about a one-inch opening.
  • We simmer our Chicken Enchilada Soup for 12-15 minutes in order to develop and meld the flavors and for the chicken to cook until juicy and tender in the bubbly broth.
  • Cooking chicken this way in which it is covered and gently simmered until cooked through is known as poaching.  I LOVE this fool proof method for cooking chicken as the moist heat gently cooks the chicken and prevents it from overcooking too quickly so you get succulent, tender chicken every time – as long as you don’t overcook your chicken which is pretty hard to do. That being said, I recommend checking your chicken right at 12 minutes or even earlier if you have extra thin chicken thighs.  You will know they are ready when they easily shred with a fork.

Step 5 – Shred chicken

  • Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces after 5 minutes (don’t add back to soup yet).
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe by shredding chicken on a cutting board with two forks

Step 5 – Make it cheesy!

  • Meanwhile, reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese until melted followed by shredded cheese until melted.
showing how to make cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup by adding cheddar cheese to soup

Step 6 – Final Touches

  • Stir chicken back into soup followed by cilantro and a splash of lime juice and – and viola – gourmet tasting creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup!   
Showing how to make cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup stirring shredded chicken back into soup.
showing how to make creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup by stirring in cilantro

Step 6 – Toppings

  • One of the best parts of creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup or any Mexican soup is all the toppings!  Don’t underestimate the power of cheeeeese, sour cream, tomatoes and avocados!
showing how to make Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe by serving with toppings:  sour cream, jalapenos, cilantro, avocados, lime juice and crushed tortilla chips

WHAT GOES WITH CHEESY CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

Topping your Chicken Enchilada Soup with your favorite garnishes is half of the fun and the most important part for added texture and flavor.  You can create a toppings bar and let everyone pile on their favorites of:

  • Sour cream:  a must in my book!  It adds a wonderful creaminess but most importantly, cuts through the richness of the cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup. You can also use fat free sour cream or Greek yogurt.  
  • Cheese:  use freshly grated cheese for superior taste and melting ability. In addition to cheddar, you can also use Pepper Jack cheese for added heat.
  • Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips: you can’t beat the CRUNCH of salty, chips or strips!   You can use store bought or homemade tortilla strips (recipe below) or crushed tortilla chips.
  • Cilantro:  chopped cilantro adds a fresh, zesty flair. 
  • Lime juice:  although it’s added directly to the soup, you may want to lime up your own bowl as it awakens the flavors of the entire soup.  You may use bottled juice or fresh lime juice. 
  • Avocado:  chopped or sliced avocados add a wonderful creaminess. 
  • Tomatoes: quartered cherry tomatoes or seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes or skip the plain tomatoes and use pico de gallo.
  • Pico de gallo:  a spoonful of pico de gallo adds a depth of freshness I love.
  • Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce so individuals can customize the heat.
  • Sliced jalapenos: also, a fabulous topping for those who want to add some heat.

HOW DO I THICKEN CHICKEN ENCHILDA SOUP?

I don’t think you’ll need to thicken this creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup because the masa harina and the cream cheese already make it luxuriously thick and creamy.  Still, if you would still like a thicker soup, then you can use additional masa or cornstarch.

  • Masa harina: whisk 3 tablespoons masa harina with 1 cup of water until a smooth.  Add to the soup and bring to a simmer until thickened.    
  • Cornstarch:  whisk 2 tablespoons cornstarch with ½ cup water until smooth.  Add to the soup at the end of cooking and bring to a simmer until thickened.

How spicy is Chicken Enchilada Soup?

This Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe has a medium kick to it which I think will be perfect for most people. If you are very sensitive to spice or want to make this very kid friendly then reduce the chili powder to 2 tablespoons. 

HOW DO I SPICE UP MY SOUP?

Hot sauce is my preferred method to spice up this cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup.   You can serve your big pot of soup with a bottle of hot sauce on the table or with the toppings so everyone can customize their own spice level. If you know everyone likes a spicier soup, then you can also add cayenne pepper directly to the soup.

TIPS FOR BEST CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP

  • Prep Ahead.  You can trim your chicken, chop your onions and garlic and prep all your topping ahead of time.
  • Make it less thick. I love my soup thick BUT the consistency of this Chicken Enchilada Soup is totally up to you!.  For a thinner soup, simply add additional chicken broth.
  • Use soft cream cheese. In order for your cream cheese to melt seamlessly, it needs to be very soft. Cube the cream cheese and microwave for 20-30 seconds until very soft.
  • Make it less creamy.  You can use more or less cream cheese depending on how creamy you would like your soup. You can even omit it completely and add some sour cream and extra cheese.
  • Cheese:  Use freshly shredded cheeses as opposed to pre-packaged cheeses so the cheese will melt seamlessly.  Packaged cheeses are treated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevents the cheese from melting as well.
  • Double the recipe. This soup is fabulous for crowds and can be easily doubled ahead of time and reheated later.
  • Season to taste.  Spice it up with hot sauce or cayenne pepper, add lime juice for more tanginess, add salt to enhance the flavors.
up close of scooping chicken enchilada soup showing how creamy it is

WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?

This creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe is very simple but it does require some prep work as far as trimming the chicken. You can save time by:

  • Trim chicken.  Trim off excess fat from chicken then store chicken in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. 
  • Pep aromatics.  Dice onions and mince garlic then store in an separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.   You can also chop the cilantro.
  • Measure Spices. It doesn’t take long to measure out the spices, but you can certainly do it beforehand and store the mix in an airtight bag or container. 
  • Shred cheese. Prep cheese and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Prep Toppings. Chop tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos etc. and/or make tortilla strips.

HOW LONG DOES CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP LAST?

Chicken Enchilada Soup tastes even better the next day!  It will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

HOW DO I REHEAT CREAMY CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

You can reheat Chicken Enchilada Soup on the stove, in the microwave or crockpot. In each method, you may need to add additional chicken broth or water to thin to desired consistency as it twill thicken in the refrigerator.

  • Stove:  reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes.
  • Microwave:  transfer individual servings to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lids or paper towel.  Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
  • Crockpot:  transfer soup to a crockpot and heat on low for 1-3 hours.  The time will depend on how much soup you have remaining.

CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP RECIPE VARIATIONS

This Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe is fabulous as written or feel free to make it your own with different veggies, adding rice, etc.

  • Add rice.  Add 1 cup long grain white rice and the last 10-12 minutes of cooking.  You will need to add additional chicken broth to accommodate the rice.
  • Swap protein.  You can make this “beef enchilada soup” by omitting the chicken and browning ground beef or turkey with the onions.
  • Add vegetables. Add any of your favorite veggies such as bell peppers, zucchini, chayote, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.
  • Omit dairy.  Make the soup less creamy (it will still be thick due to the masa harina) by omitting the cream cheese and cheddar.

HOW DO I MAKE CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP IN THE CROCK POT?

This easy Chicken Tortilla Soup can easily be adapted to your slow cooker, much like my Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup.  The crockpot is fabulous if you are going to be away and can’t babysit the stove.

To make Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup we are going to use all of the same ingredients with the exception of the olive oil.  We will eliminate the olive oil and instead use cooking spray.

top view of a bowl of chicken enchiladas soup recipe to show how cheesy it is

HOW TO MAKE CROCK POT CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP:

  1. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and add chicken.
  2. Add all remaining Chicken Enchilada Soup ingredients except cream cheese, cheese, cilantro, and lime juice and give the top ingredients a stir to combine.
  3. Cook on LOW for 5-7 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours (longer if using chicken breasts) or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
  4. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let rest 5 minutes, then shred chicken.
  5. Meanwhile, stir in cream cheese until combined, followed by cheese until melted. 
  6. Return chicken to slow cooker along with cilantro and lime juice and cook on LOW for 10 minutes so the chicken can soak up more flavor.
  7. Stir in additional chicken broth for a less chunky soup if desired and season with salt/pepper/hot sauce to taste.
  8. Top individual servings with desired toppings.

CAN I FREEZE CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP?

Chicken Enchilada Soup freezes very well without the addition of the cheese and cream cheese as dairy tends to separate when frozen.  If you know you want to freeze the soup, omit the cheese and cream cheese.

HOW TO FREEZE CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP:

  1. Omit dairy.  Prepare soup according to directions but omit the cream cheese and cheddar.
  2. Cool. Cool Chicken Enchilada Soup completely before freezing.
  3. Package soup in a freezer safe container.  You can use sandwich size plastic bags for individual soup portions, quart size bags or freezer bags.  To easy fill these bags, place them in a container that you can wrap the top around the edge of – for example, place a sandwich size bag in a mug then cuff the edges around the mug.  This keeps the bag open and prevents it from collapsing when you are pouring in your Chicken Enchilada Soup.   Final packaging tip, make sure to let out any excess air before you seal.
  4. Label. Make sure to label your bags so it doesn’t’ become a freezer mystery.  You also want to label so you can be sure to use your soup within 3 months.
  5. Freeze. Once the bag is solid you can lay it flat in a single layer so it’s stackable to save space.
  6. Defrost/Reheat. The easiest way to thaw your soup is in your refrigerator overnight then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  7. Add dairy. Once the soup is warm, stir in cream cheese until melted followed by cheese until melted.

If you forget to thaw your soup beforehand or are hit with a need-Chicken Tortilla Soup-now craving then you can defrost the soup in the microwave.  Transfer frozen soup into a microwave-safe container, partially cover and microwave for 2-3 increments, until the soup has become slushy, stirring in between so it thaws evenly.

HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE Chicken Enchilada Soup Recipe

  • Dutch oven: is one of my most used pots!  Dutch ovens are ideal for soups with their superior heat distribution and retention for even cooking.  I have both a more expensive Le Creuset (keep in mind the price varies by color) and a less expensive Cuisinart (not sold on Amazon) which both work excellent. This less expensive AmazonBasics also has excellent reviews.
  • Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!  Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well.  If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
  • Cutting Board:  I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment.  This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
  • Garlic press:  I use this every single day!   It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze.  Unlike other presses, this garlic press has beveled holes that finely cut the clove rather than bruising it, bringing out the best flavor.
  • Onion chopper:  onions make me cry like crazy so I LOVE this onion chopper!   It’s made with stainless steel discs for chopping/dicing the hardest vegetables/cheeses with 1 easy motion.  It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty- and I can guarantee way less tears!

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showing how to garnish Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe by topping with avocados, tomatoes, cilantro and tortilla chips

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Chicken Enchilada Soup

This Chicken Enchilada Soup is comforting, hearty, savory, filling, lusciously creamy and cheesy and bursting with fiesta flavors. It’s a meal-in-one made with pantry staples so you can make this soup any night of the week! It's made with my easy homemade enchilada sauce with a mole flair and thickened with masa harina for the BEST Chicken Enchilada Soup you ever tasted AKA restaurant delicious, jaw dropping delicious, can’t stop, don’t-want-to-stop slurping delicious.  It’s also incredibly easy to make – the majority of “making” this soup is simply dumping in cans and spices. This cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe also is great to make ahead for meal prep or to freeze because it tastes even better the next day!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Total Time: 35 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs patted dry OR rotisserie chicken (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (NOT cayenne pepper-see notes)
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, salt, dried oregano
  • 1 yellow onion, diced may sub 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced may sub 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 9 cups reduced sodium chicken broth divided
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes not drained
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can sweet corn rinsed and drained
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 3/4 cup masa harina see notes

Add later:

Toppings

  • Tortilla chips or crushed tortilla strips
  • sour cream
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • cilantro
  • lime juice

Instructions

  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Season chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper then sear until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate but leave drippings.
  • While the chicken is searing, whisk together all of the seasonings (chili powder through oregano); set aside.
  • To the now empty pot, add one additional tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and all seasonings; sauté for 4 minutes scraping up the golden bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and sauté an additional 60 seconds.
  • Reduce the heat to low then add chicken back to pan. Reserve two cups chicken broth (eyeball it), and add the rest to the pot along with cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and green chilies. In a separate bowl, whisk masa harina with remaining chicken broth until no lumps remain then stir into soup.
  • Cover the soup to bring to a simmer, then displace the lid so it’s partially covering the pot, with about a one-inch opening. Simmer the soup for 12-15 minutes or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
  • Remove chicken to a cutting board. Let chicken rest 5 minutes then shred into bite-size pieces (don’t add back to soup yet).
  • Meanwhile, reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese until melted followed by shredded cheese until melted. Stir chicken back into soup. Stir in cilantro and lime juice to taste. Add additional chicken broth if desired to thin to desired consistency if desired. Season with additional salt/pepper/hot sauce to taste. Serve with desired toppings.

Notes

TIPS AND TRICKS 

  • Rotisserie chicken:  sub chicken thighs with about 3 cups shredded chicken to the soup at the end of cooking with the cilantro and heat through.
  • Masa harina:  should be easy to find at your grocery store in the flour aisle or Latin aisle. Look for finely ground as opposed to coarse ground which is used in tamales.  The most common type is white masa harina, which is made from dried white corn or you can also use yellow masa harina, which is made from dried yellow corn. The white is a bit sweeter, but both will work.  You may or may not see “instant” on the label – both will work great.  See post for masa harina substitutions. 
  • CHILI POWDER INTERNATIONAL WARNING: American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% chile pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
  • Prep Ahead.  You can trim the chicken, chop your onions, garlic and cilantro in advance and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You can prep all your topping ahead of time or while yours soup is simmering.
  • Make it less thick. I love my soup thick BUT the consistency of this Chicken Enchilada Soup is totally up to you!.  For a thinner soup, simply add additional chicken broth.
  • Use soft cream cheese. In order for your cream cheese to melt seamlessly, it needs to be very soft. Cube the cream cheese and microwave for 20-30 seconds until very soft.
  • Make it less creamy.  You can use more or less cream cheese depending on how creamy you would like your soup. You can even omit it completely and add some sour cream and extra cheese.
  • Cheese:  Use freshly shredded cheeses as opposed to pre-packaged cheeses so the cheese will melt seamlessly.  Packaged cheeses are treated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevents the cheese from melting as well.
  • Double the recipe. This soup is fabulous for crowds and can be easily doubled ahead of time and reheated later.
  • Season to taste.  Spice it up with hot sauce or cayenne pepper, add lime juice for more tanginess, add salt to enhance the flavors.

HOW TO FREEZE 

Chicken Enchilada Soup freezes very well without the addition of the cheese and cream cheese as dairy tends to separate when frozen.  If you know you want to freeze the soup, omit the cheese and cream cheese.
  1. Omit dairy.  Prepare soup according to directions but omit the cream cheese and cheddar.
  2. Cool. Cool Chicken Enchilada Soup completely before freezing.
  3. Package soup in a freezer safe container.  You can use sandwich size plastic bags for individual soup portions, quart size bags or freezer bags.  To easy fill these bags, place them in a container that you can wrap the top around the edge of – for example, place a sandwich size bag in a mug then cuff the edges around the mug.  This keeps the bag open and prevents it from collapsing when you are pouring in your Chicken Enchilada Soup.   Final packaging tip, make sure to let out any excess air before you seal.
  4. Label. Make sure to label your bags so it doesn’t’ become a freezer mystery.  You also want to label so you can be sure to use your soup within 3 months.
  5. Freeze. Once the bag is solid you can lay it flat in a single layer so it’s stackable to save space.
  6. Defrost/Reheat. The easiest way to thaw your soup is in your refrigerator overnight then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  7. Add dairy. Once the soup is warm, stir in cream cheese until melted followed by cheese until melted.

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18 Comments

  1. Stephanie S. says

    Yay, you made it! You KNOW I will be making this soup in the next few days, your enchilada sauce is to die for 🙂

    • Jen says

      Thank you Stephanie – inspired by you 😉

  2. Debra Steeb says

    Can you tell me what the nutritional content is for this recipe? Thank you!

  3. Anne says

    Thrilled to see this recipe. During winter quarantine and now again this fall, we have been doing “Soup Sunday” and this looks incredible! Question for you…. i have some of your enchilada sauce left over. Is there a way you would recommend using that with the other ingredients of the soup. I have about a cup and a half of the sauce. I’m willing to try anything and will report back!
    Thanks!!!

    • Jen says

      What a fun tradition! I would omit the chili powder and the tomato paste and reduce the chicken broth to 6 cups and use all of your remaining enchilada sauce. Good luck!

  4. Jerry says

    Soup looks delicious, but we don’t et corn so is there a substitute to use instead of the corn.

    • Jen says

      I would just skip it, enjoy!

  5. Charlene says

    This soup is amazing and I love all of the flavors in it! Thank you for all of your creations!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Charlene, thank you so much for making my recipes!

  6. Beck says

    When do we add the spices that we set aside back into the soup?

    • Jen says

      Hi Beck, it’s in step 3: “To the now empty pot, add one additional tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and all seasonings” Enjoy!

      • Beck says

        Thanks for the reply! Made this and loved it. Also I wanted to let you know how ALl your recipes have been a hit for us . You come up with the perfect spice mixture !!!

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much Beck, I’m honored you are loving my recipes! I’m so pleased this was another hit!

  7. Nikki says

    Another hit with the family. We all really enjoyed this recipe, a definite keeper. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy to hear that, thanks Nikki!

  8. Brooke Hunkele says

    I know a few ingredients in this recipe are different than your creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe, but may I ask really what is the difference in taste?? They both sound delicious

    • Jen says

      Hi Brooke, while it’s just a few ingredients, the masa harina, sugar and cocoa powder make huge difference. The masa harina adds a very “corn” flour flavor hearty texture.

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