Tortilla Soup is a Mexican dish that is made with tomato broth and fried tortillas. It originated in the Tlaxcala state of Mexico. Yet, it has become a significant part of the Tex-Mex cuisine. Here, cheese is commonly added and the tortillas are rather sautéed, baked, fried, or even added while it’s soft. Thus, not only that this food bridges the gap between Mexico and the United States, but it also stands as a healthy comfort food for everyone. A complex combination of tang, spice, herb, and earthy notes constitute the flavor profile of this wonderful meal.
Tortilla Soup Trivia
- Tortilla soups are packed with antioxidants that can reduce the risk of cancer development and neurological problems.
- In California, tortillas are grounded and used as a soup thickener.
- Tortilla soups are also known as Sopa Azteca de Tortilla; Aztecs were the original settlers of central and southern Mexico where the soup originated and popularized.
- There is a Mexican version of chicken stock that is being said to be the secret ingredient for an authentic tortilla soup.
Tortilla Soup Buying Guide
While it is best to make a tortilla soup at home, it is possible to buy a ready-made tortilla soup that only needs to be reheated before service. However, since the tortillas have been added to the soup ahead of time, be sure not to expect the crispy texture of a freshly-fried or baked tortilla. Here are some tips when you are buying a commercially-prepared tortilla soup:
- Check out the sodium content. The product should have less than 500mg of sodium per serving. Or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium.
- Look for the bad stuff. Preservatives, additives, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils can weaken your heart tissues and can contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you don’t want that.
- Check out the difference between the manufacturing date and the expiration date. Since tortilla soups are made with tomatoes that are highly perishable, it is most likely that the product shouldn’t last a year. Otherwise, a long shelf-life may indicate that the product contains tons of preservatives, additives, or even chemicals.
- As always, look for a product with the least amount of ingredients. In addition, make sure that these ingredients are easy to pronounce.
Tortilla Soup Production & Farming in Texas
In Texas, tortilla soup is traditionally prepared with chicken and garnished with Monterey Jack cheese. Some prefer to top it off with avocados. Beans and corn can also be added for extra nutrition and flavor. Nevertheless, a true Tex-Mex tortilla soup couldn’t be called one if there are no chili peppers and spices in it. Texas is the third-largest producer of chili peppers in the United States, with Jalapeño pepper being the official pepper of the state. Thus, jalapeño, poblano, and capsicum peppers are expected, if not all, when you’re concocting this warm and comforting soup. Organic tomatoes are also farmed locally in the state and tortilla factories are scattered nationwide.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
As we all know, commercially-produced tortilla soup would never be our best option, as most of these products are high in sodium and may contain tons of bad stuff. We went to some local grocers and found out these additives on some products:
- Modified Food Starch – this additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
- Yeast extracts – These are added as a flavor enhancer and possesses the same side effects just like MSG. You may want to avoid products with these ingredients especially if you have blood pressure problems or sodium-related concerns.
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are usually chemically-formulated products that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. Although they are labeled as such due to its very small quantitative participation in the product, it’s always a better option if we stay away from these ingredients. For tortilla soup, some of which come in the following names: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, sodium phosphate, soy protein isolate, and alike.
Commercially-prepared tortilla soup usually comes in either four or eight-pound pouches. You can buy it online or at your local grocers. The soup also comes in easy-open cans, but it is quite rare to find one. However, if it’s hard to find both, you may always opt for its canned ingredients and just mix them when you get home. On the other hand, local artisans sell ready-made tortilla soup in a mason jar.
Enjoying Tortilla Soup
Tortilla soup has been a significant part of the Tex-Mex cuisine that can be consumed in a variety of ways. You can roll the tortillas up, sip a spoonful of the soup, and bite off some part of the tortilla. Inversely, you may first dip the tortillas in the soup and eat it before taking a sip of the soup. You can also use the tortilla as a soup spoon, or you can simply top the soup with freshly fried or baked tortillas and eat the whole bowl using a spoon. Nevertheless, tortilla soup is a versatile food that can be served with almost anything like coleslaw, salad, or cheese quesadillas.
Store-bought tortilla soup, especially when it’s filled with tons of preservatives, could last up to 21 months in the freezer and up to 3 months in the refrigerator unopened. Upon opening, it is advisable to consume it within 5 to 7 days. On the other hand, homemade tortilla soup should be stored in an air-tight container or high-quality freezer bags. It can last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and 4 to 6 months in the freezer.
Make your own tortilla soup:
Got 30 minutes of your time? This quick and easy Tex-Mex chicken tortilla soup recipe will definitely bring your heart one step closer to Texas and Mexico.
- 4 cups chicken broth, preferably close to no sodium (see our chicken broth recipe for a scratch-made broth)
- 12 tomatillos or tomatoes, whichever is available, husked and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3 chili peppers, seeded and chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup shredded chicken breast, skin-off
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil spray
- Flour, corn, or Spanish tortillas, as needed
- 1 oz Monterey Jack cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.
- Place the first six ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Purée the mixture using a handheld blender or a food processor. Return to the saucepan over low heat.
- Add the chopped tomato, parsley, and chicken breast. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Season to taste.
- Meanwhile, place the tortillas in a baking tray and spray with vegetable oil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cheese. Serve the freshly baked tortillas on side or top it on the soup.