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Max and Erma’s Copy Cat Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Copy Cat Max and Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup is cheesy, has a nice strong kick at the end, and is filled with hunks of tender chicken.

Max and Erma's Copy Cat Tortilla Soup

Have I told you before how much I love soup?

Well, I do.

And Chicken Tortilla Soup just so happens to be one of my all time favorites.

But there’s this problem. You see, I have this thing with tortilla soup.

I like Max and Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup.

And only Max and Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Max and Erma’s is a chain restaurant that started right here in Columbus. We live about 5 minutes away from the original location, which is a great place to catch a football or basketball game. The Mr. loves the burgers. I love the chicken tortilla soup. We both love the warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies.

They even have a burger based on the tortilla soup which is served with, you guessed it, a bowl of the soup for dipping. That’s right. They take a juicy burger loaded with spicy pepper jack cheese and tortilla strips then give you a bowl of spicy, cheesy soup to dunk it in.

Um, yes please. Sign me up. I’d like that in my face every day.

Copy Cat Max and Erma's Chicken Tortilla Soup

But here’s the thing. I’ve never wanted to make tortilla soup myself. In my mind, if it wasn’t Max and Erma’s, it wasn’t worth eating.

But then I found a Copy Cat Max and Erma’s Tortilla Soup recipe on Brown Eyed Baker.

This was fantastic news for several reasons:

A. This soup tastes remarkably close to the original. It’s cheesy, has a nice strong kick at the end, and is filled with hunks of tender chicken. I might even go so far as to say it’s better than the original. (Forgive me Max. And also Erma.)

B. I learned that chicken tortilla soup actually has tortillas in it. (Imagine that!) This soup owes at least part of it’s thick, creamy texture to the bits of tortillas that are cooked right along with the veggies.

C. It’s easy to make. If you have an extra chicken breast or rotisserie chicken around, this soup can be made in about 45 minutes, and most of that is hands off simmer time. That’s less time than it takes to drives to Max and Erma’s and order it yourself (even if you do only live 5 minutes away).

D. I can make this stuff by the VAT. No more being limited to a bowl here and there. This stuff can be made en masse then enjoyed for days on end.

Menu for the week? Planned.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Prep Time 20 minsPrep Time
Cook Time 40 minsCook Time
Total Time 1 hr Total Time
Yields 4


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, minced, seeds included
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large boneless chicken breast, cooked and cut into bit size pieces
  • 8 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 corn tortillas, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • Tortilla strips or chips, for garnish


  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and let cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth then add it to the pot. Add the chicken cheese, chopped tortillas, lime juice, diced tomatoes, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and salt. Increase the heat to medium high and stir frequently as the cheese melts. You may also want to run a spatula along the bottom of the pan occasionally to ensure the cheese isn't sticking to the bottom.
  3. When the cheese is melted and the soup begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and fresh cilantro.


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Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker who thanks Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3

{ 21 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Ashley Beachy January 10, 2013, 10:56 AM

    I’m going to try this recipe! I have a “Mock Max & Erma’s Tortilla Soup” recipe that calls for just about every kind of “cream of” soup. I like that these ingredients are much fresher (and healthier!). Thanks for sharing!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 10, 2013, 11:05 AM

      I found that recipe when I was looking for this one. I didn’t try it because I wasn’t thrilled about all the “cream ofs” either. This one probably takes a little more effort, but it tastes wonderful and is a whole lot better for you! 🙂

  • Erin May 16, 2013, 7:09 PM

    This recipe is excellent! Love to put diced avocado and sour cream on top too! Keeper recipe! Thanks!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood May 19, 2013, 3:00 PM

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for coming back to leave a comment. It always makes me happy to hear that others enjoyed the recipe too!

  • Lisa September 30, 2013, 1:20 PM

    What size tortillas did you use?

  • Kerry October 15, 2014, 11:09 PM

    I am making this Friday. I cannot wait! I cannot find Anaheim peppers anywhere though…

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood October 16, 2014, 9:02 AM

      Great! If you can’t find Anaheims, you can substitute poblano peppers or buy canned green chilies and use those.

  • Jennifer October 28, 2014, 4:21 PM

    This was really tasty! I too was happy to find a recipe that didn’t involve canned “cream of” soups and Velveeta, and it was very close to Max & Erma’s, even with my substitutions of omitting both the Anaheim and red bell peppers and using a whole can of Ro-Tel tomatoes & green chiles in place of the 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes. The only other thing I’ll change next time is to halve the amount of cumin – it seemed like a bit much. I threw everything but the chicken and tortilla strips (both of which I baked in a NuWave oven) in my Vitamix so it was so easy!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood October 28, 2014, 6:07 PM

      The Ro-Tel actually sounds like a great shortcut! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for taking the time to come back and let me know how it turned out!

      • Jennifer October 29, 2014, 10:32 AM

        You’re welcome! 🙂 I just used what I had on hand (hence not using the peppers) so I had to adapt and overcome, LOL. By the way, for anyone else reading this, I am just not a huge cumin fan in general, so for the general population the amount of cumin is probably perfect. Just wanted to clarify that. 🙂

  • Sue Mark January 14, 2017, 7:54 PM

    Want to view this recipe, but this seems too much to go through to see a recipe. I’m sure I can go to another web site to get it!!!

  • Meg Owens January 20, 2017, 8:01 PM

    Great! Thanks for making without all those dumb cans of processed soup! Very awesome!

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