Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is hearty, lusciously creamy, cheesy, comfort food bursting with fiesta flavors all made in one pot!

This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is everything you love about traditional Tortilla Soup with its satisfying symphony of bold Tex-Mex flavors and textures BUT in tantalizing CREAMY form! This easy recipe is loaded with juicy, tender shredded chicken, hearty black beans, sweet corn, fire roasted tomatoes, tangy green chiles, zesty cilantro, earthy enchilada sauce, and fiesta seasonings made creamy with cream cheese and cheddar then topped with crispy, salty homemade BAKED tortilla strips!  This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is easy to make, extremely versatile and pantry friendly, reheats beautifully and is great for entertaining.  Serve it alongside Sweet Cornbread, Mexican Salad and Tres Leches Cake to complete the feast!

Mexican inspired soups are some of our favorites, layered with crave worthy Tex-Mex flavors and textures! If you’re a fan like us, don’t miss Crockpot Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup, Cheesy Taco Soup, Chicken Fajita Soup, Albondigas Soup
Chicken Enchilada Soup and Caldo de Pollo.

HOW TO MAKE Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup VIDEo

top view of creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe in a bowl being served with homemade tortilla strips, avocados and cilantro
up close of creamy chicken tortilla soup being ladled from the pot showing how creamy it is

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup Ingredients

This recipe is made with the same ingredients as classic Chicken Tortilla Soup but with the addition of cornstarch, cream cheese and cheddar. The cream cheese makes the broth silky smooth and adds a subtle tanginess that pairs beautifully with the earthy Tex-Mex seasonings. Let’s review the ingredients you’ll need to make the soup (measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Butter: I use Danish Creamery Butter because it’s made with high quality cream from pasture-raised cows since 1895.  It’s wrapped in foil to preserve its flavor and aroma, – you can literally taste the velvety, rich difference!  It’s divine as it infuses the onions and peppers with its buttery goodness. It’s equally fabulous as the buttery base of creamy sauces, sweet and savory sauces, baked goods or just on toast!
  • Chicken: This recipe uses 1-pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs that simmer with the soup. Chicken thighs are dark meat which is inherently juicier, richer tasting, more tender and more difficult to overcook than chicken breasts. Feel free to swap out for chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken if you prefer.
  • Onion: You may substitute the onion with 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder if you’re in a bind, but as always, fresh is best!
  • Poblano pepper: These peppers boast a very mild heat, nothing like a jalapeno, so don’t be afraid of them! You can substitute with one chopped green bell pepper if you prefer.
  • Bell pepper: This recipe calls for one sweet red bell pepper, but you may also use yellow or orange.  
  • Garlic: Fresh is best but you may substitute with 1 teaspoon garlic powder if needed.
  • Chicken broth: Use reduced sodium chicken broth so we can control the amount of salt in the sauce and have the wiggle room to add chicken bouillon.
  • Chicken bouillon2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon imparts a complex, savory, goodness to the sauce (it’s like salt with FLAVOR). You may use granulated chicken bouillon, crushed bouillon cubes, or bouillon base (like Better Than Bouillon or !Zoup). Add the bouillon directly to the soup, do not dissolve it in water first.
  • Fire roasted tomatoes: These boast a wonderful smoky flavor and are sweeter and less acidic than regular diced tomatoes.  Most grocery stores carry them but if you can’t find them, substitute regular diced tomatoes.  
  • Black beans: These hearty beans pair beautifully with the creaminess of the soup, but you may use pinto beans or another favorite bean. 
  • Corn: I use canned corn for convenience, but feel free to use corn fresh off the cob if you prefer. You may also use frozen corn but add it towards the end of cooking just to warm through, otherwise, it can disintegrate
  • Diced green chiles: 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. 
  • Enchilada sauce: Grab a can from the store or feel free to use your favorite homemade enchilada sauce if you prefer (like mine with RAVE reviews!). I suggest using mild enchilada sauce because you can always add more heat, but it is hard to take away.
  • Spices: This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe is seasoned with chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt and cayenne pepper.  You can omit the cayenne pepper or use more or less to taste.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: PLEASE buy a block of quality cheddar and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded, bagged cheese contains anti-caking agents that can make your soup grainy rather than smooth and creamy. 
  • Cream cheese: Use full-fat block cream cheese because it melts better and is less likely to curdle.
  • Cilantro:  Three tablespoons minced cilantro stirred into the soup at the end infuses it with a zesty freshness.
  • Lime Juice: You can use bottled juice or fresh lime juice, but whatever you do – don’t skip! The lime juice awakens the flavors of the entire soup and helps cut through the creamy broth. 
top view showing how to serve chicken tortilla soup by adding to a bowl and topping with tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, fresh limes and tomatoes

How to Make Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is quick and easy to prepare, especially if you’re using leftover or rotisserie chicken! Detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post, but here’s an overview of how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos: 

  • Step 1: Sear the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat some oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Once hot, add the chicken and sear until golden. It will not be cooked through at this point, but that’s what you want! Remove the chicken to a plate but leave the drippings. (Drippings = FLAVOR!)
showing how to make creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe by searing the chicken until golden in a Dutch oven soup pot
  • Step 2: Sauté the veggies. Melt the Danish Creamery Butter in the same pot, then sauté the onions, poblano pepper and red bell pepper until the onions are softened. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds.
showing how to make creamy chicken tortilla soup by sautéing onions, bell peppers and poblano pepper in butter
  • Step 3: Simmer the soup. Add the chicken back to the pot, followed by all of the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the cheese, cream cheese, cilantro and lime juice. Simmer the soup, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred. 
showing how to make creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe by adding tomatoes, corn, black beans, chicken broth and spices to the chicken, onions and bell pepper and bringing to a simmer
  • Step 4: Add the cheeses. Stir in the cream cheese until melted, followed by the shredded cheddar until melted.  Lastly, finish with fresh cilantro and a couple tablespoons of lime juice. 
a collage showing how to make creamy chicken tortilla soup by stirring in cheese until melted followed by shredded chicken, cilantro and lime juice
  • Step 5: Garnish and serve. I’ve shared my favorite toppings below. I’ve also given instructions on how to make homemade tortilla strips – SO good!
top view of creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe with a ladle of soup showing how thick and creamy it is
  • Tortilla Strips: Tortilla strips are the tortilla in Creamy Chicken TORTILLA Soup! You can use store-bought or homemade (recipe below), or crushed tortilla chips work great too.  Fritos are also super tasty!
  • Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt:  A healthy dollop of either adds a depth of creaminess and rich tanginess to cut through the rich soup.
  • Avocado: Chopped or sliced avocados add a wonderful creaminess. I prefer chopped so I can get a bite of avocado in every spoonful.  
  • Pico de gallo: This fresh salsa adds a depth of vibrancy I love. It’s especially nice with a creamy soup like this one. You can make your own or pick up store-bought in the deli section.
  • Fresh tomatoes:  If you skip the pico, consider freshy chopped tomatoes as seen here- yum!
  • Sliced jalapenos: These are a fabulous topping for those who like it hot!
  • Hot Sauce: Customize the heat of your chili with as much or as little hot sauce as you like.
  • Cilantro: Additional minced cilantro adds a fresh, zesty flair. 
  • Lime Juice: You may want additional lime juice, but as always, taste first!

HOW DO YOU MAKE TORTILLA STRIPS?

Making your own tortilla strips is SO easy and healthier because they are BAKED, not fried. To make tortilla strips, all you need are corn tortillas, oil and salt to achieve crunchy, salty, tortilla chip results. They also don’t add any prep time to the recipe because you make them while the soup simmers.

How To make tortilla strips:

  • Step 1: Prepare the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray a large baking sheet/jelly roll pan with cooking spray or use two half sheets.
  • Step 2: Cut tortillas into ½ inch strips. I have found the easiest way to do this is to stack the tortillas together, then use a pizza cutter to cut them all at once. It literally takes 1-2 minutes to cut them all.
Showing How to Make Tortilla Strips for Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe by cutting corn tortillas on a cutting board with a pizza cutter
  • Step 3: Season the tortilla strips. Add the tortilla strips to the baking sheet(s) and toss with 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil.  Arrange the strips in a single layer so they aren’t touching and season with freshly cracked salt.
Showing How to Make Tortilla Strips for Chicken Tortilla Soup by tossing tortilla strips with vegetable oil and lining on a baking sheet
  • Step 4: Bake. Bake the tortilla strips at 425 degrees F for about 12 minutes or until light golden brown and crunchy.
Showing How to Make Tortilla Strips for Chicken Tortilla Soup by baking on baking sheet until golden
  • For the juiciest chicken: This recipe will work with chicken breasts or chicken thighs, but for best flavor, use chicken thighs or shredded rotisserie chicken.
  • Rotisserie chicken hack: Stock shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken portioned into 2 1/2-cup freezer bags so you always have chicken ready to add to any soup.
  • Don’t burn the bits: When searing the chicken, you don’t want blackened bits, or they will make your soup taste burnt. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down.
  • Simmer chicken until tender: Whether using chicken thighs or breasts, check the pieces individually for tenderness because they may cook unevenly. Be prepared to remove pieces of chicken at different times. The chicken is ready when it easily pulls apart with two forks, not any sooner.
  • 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 it for 20-30 seconds, until you can easily stick your finger in it.
  • Use full fat cream cheese:  I don’t recommend swapping the cream for a lower fat alternative because lower fat is more likely to curdle.
  • Consistency: The “chunkiness” of the soup is personal preference.  For a less chunky soup, simply add additional broth, half and half, or heavy cream at the end of cooking.
  • Prep Ahead: Prep all your topping while your soup is simmering so you dive in as soon as the soup is ready.
  • Scale up or down: This recipe can easily be scaled up or down by using the sliding scale next to the servings in the recipe card.
up close of creamy chicken tortilla soup in a pot with chicken, beans, corn and tomatoes in a rich and creamy, cheesy broth
  • Swap protein: You can use any of your favorite proteins in place of the chicken – lean ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, etc. 
  • Swap beans: Replace the black beans with kidney beans, cannellini beans or pinto beans. 
  • Swap the poblano pepper: If you can’t find poblanos in your area or are out, add an extra bell pepper to the soup to compensate. 
  • Add vegetables: Add any of your favorite veggies such as zucchini, chayote, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc., keeping in mind different vegetable cooking times.
  • Use dried herbs and spices: Don’t have the time or desire to prep fresh onion and garlic? Use garlic and onion powders instead. 
  • Use green enchilada sauce: Instead of red enchilada sauce, swap in green or salsa verde.
  • Make it more or less spicy: Add more cayenne pepper or hot sauce for spicier or omit the cayenne for less spicy.  
  • Make it dairy free:  It won’t be creamy but still tasty!
  • Make it gluten-free: Double check that your enchilada sauce is gluten-free.
showing how to serve creamy chicken tortilla soup recipe by adding to a bowl and loading with toppings

up close of creamy chicken tortilla soup in a bowl showing how creamy this recipe is

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top view showing how to serve chicken tortilla soup by adding to a bowl and topping with tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, fresh limes and tomatoes

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is everything you love about traditional Tortilla Soup with its satisfying symphony of Tex-Mex flavors and textures BUT in tantalizing CREAMY form! This easy recipe is loaded with juicy, tender shredded chicken, hearty black beans, sweet corn, fire roasted tomatoes, tangy green chiles, zesty cilantro, earthy enchilada sauce, and fiesta seasonings made creamy with cream cheese and cheddar then topped with crispy, salty homemade BAKED tortilla strips!  This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is easy to make, extremely versatile and pantry friendly, reheats beautifully and is great for entertaining.  Serve it alongside Sweet Cornbread, Mexican Salad and Tres Leches Cake to complete the feast!
Servings: 8 servings
Total Time: 50 mins
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Danish Creamery Premium Butter
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs OR 2 ½ cups rotisserie chicken (see notes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped (may sub 1 green bell pepper)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated chicken bouillon, base, or crushed cubes
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt
  • pinch-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 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 15 oz. can mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken broth (for even creamier, swap 1 cup for 1 cup heavy cream)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

ADD LATER:

HOMEMADE TORTILLA STRIPS (Optional)

  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • freshly cracked salt

GARNISH (pick your favs)

  • tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • avocados
  • tomatoes
  • lime juice
  • jalapenos
  • hot sauce

Instructions

  • If making tortilla strips, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Season chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Once hot, add the chicken and sear until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate but leave the drippings.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the chicken drippings over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, bell pepper and poblano pepper and sauté until the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken back to the pot followed by all of the remaining soup ingredients up to the cornstarch. Whisk the cornstarch with part of the chicken broth to dissolve (I use a liquid measuring cup), then add to the pot along with the remaining chicken broth.
  • Partially cover the soup with a 1-inch gap and bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer over medium-low or low if your stove runs hot. Simmer until the chicken shreds easily with two forks, about 15-20 minutes. You can make the Tortilla Strips (instructions below) while the soup simmers. Remove the chicken and let rest 5 minutes before shredding. Meanwhile…
  • Reduce heat to low and whisk in the cream cheese until melted, followed by the cheese until melted. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro and shredded chicken. Taste and season with additional salt/lime juice/cayenne to taste. Stir in additional chicken broth if you would like a less chunky soup.
  • Serve with tortilla chips and desired toppings.

TORTILLA STRIPS (optional)

  • Light spray a large baking sheet (21×15) with cooking spray or use two half sheets.
  • Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch strips. (I stack them and use my pizza cutter.)
  • Add tortilla strips to baking sheet(s) and toss with 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil. Arrange strips in a single layer then lightly season with freshly cracked salt.
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for 12-16 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crispy.

Video

Notes

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Rotisserie Chicken: Shredded Rotisserie chicken is fabulous in this recipe.  Use approximately 2 ½ cups and add it at the end of cooking with the cilantro and heat through.
  • Chicken breasts: You can use chicken breasts for this recipe if you prefer but I don’t find them as juicy or flavorful, especially if overcooked. Use small or medium chicken breasts and cook closer to 20-25 minutes.
  • Poblano Peppers: These peppers boast a very mild heat, nothing like a jalapeno, so don’t be afraid of them! You can substitute with one chopped green bell pepper if you prefer.
  • Chicken bouillon2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon imparts a complex, savory, goodness to the sauce (it’s like salt with FLAVOR). You may use granulated chicken bouillon, crushed bouillon cubes, or bouillon base (like Better Than Bouillon or !Zoup). Add the bouillon directly to the soup, do not dissolve it in water first.
  • Meal Prep: The chicken can be trimmed, the vegetables and aromatics chops and the cheese shredded ahead time and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.  The tortilla strips can be baked, cooled, then stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.
  • Storage: Let the soup cool to room temperature, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
 

Crockpot Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup can easily be adapted to your slow cooker by omitting the olive oil and butter and using the rest of the same ingredients:
1. Add the chicken to a lightly greased slow cooker, followed by all of the remaining soup ingredients except the cream cheese, cheese, cilantro, and lime juice. Give the top ingredients a stir to combine.
2. 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. You’ll know your soup is done when the chicken easily shreds with a fork. If it’s not easily pulling away, cook on!
3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let rest 5 minutes, then shred chicken.
4. Meanwhile, stir in the cream cheese until melted, followed by the cheese until melted. 
5. Return the shredded chicken to the crockpot along with the cilantro and lime juice.
6.   Stir in additional chicken broth for a less chunky soup if desired and season with salt/cayenne, lime juice to taste.
7.   Top individual servings with desired toppings.

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2 Comments

  1. Renee says

    The soup was fabulous. I omitted the boulion cubes. It had so much flavor without the boulion. I garnished with avocado and cilantro. One
    Of the best tortilla soups I have made.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the high praise Renee! I’m so pleased you loved it!

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