Rick Bayless' chicken Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chard

April 27, 2012
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 6 cups, serving 4 to 6 as a starter
Author Notes

Rick Bayless has been including variations of tortilla soup in most of his cookbooks since 1987. In his headnote to this recipe, he said, "I wrote a classic but flexible recipe for it in Authentic Mexican, but I still have more to say." Don't expect it to be spicy -- pasillas (also called chiles negros) do something more surprising: they're dark, smoky, and fruity. Adapted slightly from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine (Scribner, 1996) —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas, preferably stale store-bought ones
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 to 5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded (also called chilles negros)
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 medium-large round ripe tomato (drained canned tomatoes can be substituted -- see note)
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled, halved, and sliced 1/8 thick
  • 6 cups good broth, preferably chicken
  • Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon, depending on saltiness of broth
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Mexican Chihuahua cheese, or other melting cheese such as brick or Monterey Jack
  • 1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges
  • 4 cups loosely packed, thinly sliced (preferably red) chard leaves (you’ll need about 2/3 of a 12-ounce bunch)
  1. Slice the tortillas in half and then into 1/8-inch-wide strips. Heat 1/3 cup of the vegetable oil in a medium-size (8-to-9 inch) skillet over medium-high. When hot, add about 1/3 of the tortilla strips and fry, turning frequently, until they are crisp on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Fry the remaining strips in 2 batches.
  2. Cut chiles into rough 1-inch squares using kitchen shears. Reduce the heat under the oil to medium-low, let cool a minute, then fry the squares very briefly to toast them, 3 or 4 seconds; immediately remove and drain on paper towels. Place 1/3 of the chiles in a small bowl, cover with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water. Set aside the remaining fried chiles.
  3. Roast the garlic and tomato on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened and blistered on one side, about 6 minutes; flip and broil the other side. Cool, then peel both, collecting any juices. Note: Alternately, substitute a 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes (drained) and roast the garlic in a dry skillet on the stovetop.
  4. In a medium-size (4-quart) pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low. Add the onion and fry until brown, about 10 minutes. Place the rehydrated chiles in a food processor or blender along with the roasted garlic, tomato and 1 cup of the broth; puree until smooth. Raise the temperature under the pot to medium-high, and, when noticeably hotter, press the tomato-chile puree through a medium-mesh strainer into the fried onion. Stir for several minutes as the mixture thickens and darkens. Mix in the remaining 5 cups of broth, then simmer uncovered over medium-low, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Season with salt.
  5. Set out the garnishes: Make mounds of the fried tortilla strips, fried chiles, cheese and lime on a large platter. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the sliced chard and simmer until the chard is tender, 5 or 6 minutes. Ladle into warm soup bowls and pass the garnishes for each guest to use al gusto.
  6. Notes for advance preparation — The soup itself can be prepared several days ahead, but the chard will be freshest if you add it only as you're reheating the soup in the last few minutes. The fried tortillas will keep for a day wrapped in foil on the counter. Reheat the broth and set out the garnishes just before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • samanthaalison
  • Michael McGlothlin
    Michael McGlothlin
  • RavensFeast
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

12 Reviews

samanthaalison February 11, 2019
We liked this but not as much as the Cooks Illustrated one we've made in the past. I loved the complex flavor that the pasillas brought to the broth and would probably add those in the future. I didn't like the fried pasillas as topping - they were bitter and not very crunchy. I prefer to bake the tortilla strips anyway. I also disliked the big chunks of onion in my soup, but that's definitely just personal preference.
Michael M. May 1, 2014
Fantastic! Follow the recipe to the tee, which I seldom do. I'm in an amateur chef competition this week doing a Stilton/Cheddar Cheese soup, and wish the program had already not gone to print. Really good. Looking forward to next year!
RavensFeast April 5, 2014
Rick Bayless's "Mexican Kitchen" has been a favorite cookbook amongst hundreds on my shelf for years. And this recipe is undoubtedly the one that gets the most use. I love the addition of chard to this classic recipe as well as the deep flavors of the roasted and fried tomatoes, garlic and chilies. If you really want to cook up the most flavor here, don't skip blistering the tomatoes in place of canned. I've always opted for a crumbly/salty cotija or queso fresco in lieu of melting cheese.
Tebay January 14, 2014
Quite a bit of prep, but this was absolutely delicious. Amazing, bright flavors. I like to put cubes of queso fresco in this kind of brothy soup - they soften but don't melt. I'll definitely make this again.
Julie B. October 24, 2013
What is "nbsp"?
beejay45 September 20, 2015
Non-breaking space. ;) Some of the HTML seems to have slipped through.
za'atar June 11, 2013
This soup has a really interesting flavor, but it's not something I would necessarily describe as "delicious." I enjoyed eating it in small portions, but our family of three had a hard time finishing a half-recipe. Because the soup is a bit labor-intensive and I preferred a smaller serving size, I would definitely make it again, but only for some kind of dinner party.
jasonnewyork212 March 3, 2013
Made this today. Sensational. So rich and interesting. It's a must try.
Cade April 27, 2012
thank you!!!! :)))
Cade April 27, 2012
thank you!!!! :)))
Cade April 27, 2012
where is the rest of the recipe?
Kristen M. April 27, 2012
Apologies -- 2 steps went MIA, but should be there now!