Deeply flavorful chicken tortilla soup benefits from a long simmer in the slow cooker. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]
Rich chicken tortilla soup, made from slow-simmered chicken thighs, joins quintessential toppings—avocado, red onion, sour cream, cilantro cheese, tortillas, limes and hot sauce—in this simple, sustaining slow-cooker meal. The broth gets its depth from inclusions such as apple cider vinegar, ancho chile powder and unsweetened cocoa powder, and smokiness from a canned chipotle en adobo, fire-roasted tomatoes and cumin.
Why this recipe works:
- Browning the chicken and sautéing the vegetables in advance help build flavor.
- Canned chipotle pepper, ancho chile powder, cumin, and a touch of unsweetened cocoa powder create layered flavors.
- Apple cider vinegar added at the beginning of cooking ensures the soup stays bright and flavorful through its slow simmer.
- A slew of toppings allows for customization.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 large jalapeño, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup lager-style beer
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 chipotle chile en adobo, minced
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies
- 6 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- To Serve:
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- Sour cream
- Chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Crushed tortilla chips or fried fresh corn tortillas cut into strips
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Hot sauce
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, brown chicken on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer chicken to the bowl of a slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add onion and jalapeño to the same pan and cook, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan until they start to soften, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add chili powder, cumin, and cocoa powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beer, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
Transfer to the slow cooker along with the bay leaves, thyme, chipotle pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, green chiles, and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low setting or until chicken is cooked through and fall-apart tender, at least 4 hours.
Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Shred chicken using two forks. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with avocado, onion, cilantro, cheddar and a sprinkle of tortilla chips. Pass limes and hot sauce at the table.
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