This creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup is a perfect copy cat of Max and Erma’s famous tortilla soup! Made from scratch, this soup is cheesy, loaded with chicken and veggies, and has the perfect amount of spice!
From the months of September to April, soup is on the menu at least once a week in our house. Making a giant, steaming pot of soup is therapy for cold, gray days. Plus, it makes great leftovers.
Luckily, the world of soup offers us plenty of variety to get us through the winter months. We dive into Butternut Squash Soup at the first hint of fall, curb a Panera craving with Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and turn to classic 30 Minute Chicken Noodle Soup anytime someone gets the sniffles.
But when we want something creamy and comforting, but not too heavy, we turn to this Chicken Tortilla Soup.
There are many, many iterations of this spicy chicken soup, but this one is modeled after my all time favorite restaurant version: Max and Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s cheesy, creamy, has a nice kick at the end, and is loaded with crunchy tortilla chips!
Why Max and Erma’s Makes the Best Chicken Tortilla Soup
Max and Erma’s is a chain restaurant that started right here in Columbus. They’re known for their burgers, but also for this soup. They even have a Tortilla Burger that’s served with a little bowl of cheesy tortilla soup for dunking.
Um, yes please, this is my kind of place.
There are a couple things that separate Max and Erma’s Tortilla Soup from the pack:
- It’s made from scratch, without any canned soups, and it’s loaded with fresh veggies, cheese, and broth.
- It’s nice and creamy without using cream! This tortilla soup has a (not so) secret weapon: corn tortillas! The corn tortillas melt into the broth, thickening it as it cooks.
- This soup strikes the perfect balance between tomato-y and cheesy. It’s not toooo cheesy (I don’t want to feel like I’m eating a block of Velveeta, after all), but it’s also not too tomato-y or bean-y (this isn’t chili, guys).
- This tortilla soup recipe has LAYERS of flavor–a hint of lime juice and just the right amount of heat and spices to warm up the coldest night.
What is Chicken Tortilla Soup Made Of?
Here’s what you’ll need to make this soup. Don’t let the long-ish ingredient list scare you. It comes together quickly and is mostly a dump and go recipe!
- Onion + Bell Pepper + Garlic + Oil for sauteeing
- Chicken broth + cornstarch for thickening
- 2-3 cups cubed chicken–I often use leftover rotisserie chicken for this, but this Spicy Marinated Chicken is also excellent.
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
- Lime juice
- Canned green chiles
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Cumin + Cayenne pepper + Oregano + Salt for seasoning
How to Make Cheesy Tortilla Soup
- Heat the oil in a large dutch oven (this one is my favorite), and saute the onion and bell pepper until softened. Add the garlic, sauteeing until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Whisk cornstarch into the chicken broth then stir it into the pot along with the chicken, cheddar, cheese, corn tortillas, lime juice, green chiles, canned tomatoes, and seasonings.
- Increase the heat to medium high and stir frequently until the cheese is melted. Be sure to scrape the spatula along the bottom so the cheese doesn’t stick.
- When the soup starts to bubble, reduce the heat and continue to cook until tortillas have mostly dissolved (though some remaining is fine) and soup is thickened, about 20 minutes.
- Serve with lots of crunchy tortilla strips and cilantro!
What to Serve with Chicken Tortilla Soup
If you want something heartier, add a side of Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas.
You could also play it up like Max and Erma’s and serve these Taco Burgers with a side of tortilla soup for dunking!
And, of course, don’t forget a side of Air Fryer Tortilla Chips to scoop up any leftovers.
More Soup Recipes You Might Enjoy
Did I mention we eat a lot of soup? Yeah, we eat a lot of soup.
- Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
- Creamy Ham and Potato Soup
- Italian Sausage Stew with White Beans
- Guinness Beef Stew
- Creamy Mushroom Soup
- Green Pea Soup with Caramelized Bacon
- Creamy Chicken Sausage and Tortellini Soup
- Creamy Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
- 4 corn tortillas, chopped into small pieces
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 can diced green chiles
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- Tortilla strips or chips, for garnish
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and cook until translucent, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute, until fragrant.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth then add it to the pot. Add the chicken, chopped tortillas, lime juice, diced tomatoes, green chiles, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and salt.
- Increase the heat to medium high. When the soup begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tortillas are very soft and mostly melted into the soup.
- Lower the heat to medium low and add cheese. Stir continuously, running the spatula along the bottom and sides of the pan, until the cheese is melted into the soup. Be sure to run your spatula along the bottom of the pan occasionally to ensure the cheese isn't sticking to the bottom. Serve with crunchy tortilla chips and chopped cilantro.
- Leftover soup keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
- Reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
- Chicken tortilla soup can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove top.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 506Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 811mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 31g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.