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    Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca) with Homemade Chile Oil

    Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the southwest, which heavily influenced my cooking. Sopa Azteca, or tortilla soup, was one of those simple and classic Mexican dishes that I’ve come back to time and time again throughout the years.

    To be truly authentic — well, I can hardly be called an expert. For that, I suggest you read up here. What I can say is tortilla soup is a deeply satisfying meal. The soul: its intensely flavorful broth made by frying a puree of roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, and earthy dried chilies before adding good-quality chicken broth.

    To serve, everyone adds their own touch. But, diced avocado, cheese, crema, and fried tortillas are typical. I love to spoon homemade chile oil on top that’s made with smoky ancho chiles. You can also easily make this vegetarian or vegan or however, you like it!

    How to make Sopa Azteca (tortilla soup)

    Tortilla Soup is easy and quick to prepare. Seriously good cold-weather food. Here are some tips on preparing the broth. Toppings, while recommended, are up to you.

    • Use canned fired roasted tomatoes or roast your own, about 4 seeded Roma tomatoes
    • Be sure to fry the tomato puree for the full time
    • Use a good-quality, preferably homemade chicken stock
    • Keep in mind that different dried chiles will change the flavor of the broth — guajillo and pasilla are typical
    • Use a 1/2 tsp of Mexican oregano if epazote isn’t available

    How to make (my favorite) homemade chile oil

    Chile oil is a staple in my house, and I keep a large jar of it on hand to add to just about everything from eggs to marinades. It’s versatile stuff and will keep for weeks if stored in the refrigerator.

    • Use a blend of dried ancho and chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor
    • Add Chiles de Árbol to taste — they are spicy!
    • Frying the chiles and garlic in oil creates a flavor-packed oil — don’t skip this step

    Chile, chili, bang, bang — different types of chiles

    • Ancho (1,000-2,000 Scoville Heat Units) — an ancho chile is a wide dried poblano pepper that that has a mild, smoky flavor. Deep, deep red in color, they are great in soups, salas, and sauces.
    • Pasilla (1,000-2,500 Scoville Heat Units) — a pasilla chile, or “little rasin”, is the dried chilaca pepper. It has a dark, rich flavor full of earthy undertones and hints of cocoa and cinnamon.
    • Guajillo (2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units) — a guajillo chile is a dried mirasol pepper that has red skin and the shape of an elongated oval. The flavor is typically described as earthy, with hints of cocoa and cinnamon.
    • Chipotle (2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units) — a chipotle chile results from stewing ripe jalapeños over smoking burlap sacks for several hours. The end result is a chipotle pepper that has a deep red-brown color and rich, smoky flavor. The peppers are typically used in salsas and adobos. Still, they can also be put in grilled meats or other dishes to add depth of flavor or spiciness to food.
    • Chiles de Árbol (15,000-65,000 Scoville Heat Units) — a chiles de Árbol is a small, thin pepper, spicy pepper not to be confused with Thai Bird’s Eye chiles. These bright-red peppers have a slightly smoky flavor and are a tad milder than cayenne peppers.

    Tortilla soup is a simple, yet satisfying meal topped with fried tortillas, cheese, avocado, crema, and chile oil. If you want to make your tortilla soup vegetarian or vegan, just swap out the chicken broth for vegetable stock. The homemade chile oil is entirely optional but highly recommended. Give it a try and let me know in the comments below if you made this tortilla soup!

    A bowl of tortilla soup

    Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca) with Homemade Chile Oil

    Evan Kalman
    Sopa Azteca, or tortilla soup, is a classic Mexican soup with a flavorful broth topped with avocado, cheese, crema, fried tortillas & homemade chile oil.
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 35 minutes
    Total Time 45 minutes
    Course Soup
    Cuisine Mexican
    Servings 4 people


    Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca)

    • 3 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
    • 2 Tbsp 30 ml olive oil, divided
    • 1 cup 145 g chopped white onion
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 14.5 oz can 410 g fire-roasted tomatoes
    • 6 cups 1.42 l chicken stock
    • 1 sprig epazote, optional
    • 6 corn tortillas, cut into ½-inch strips
    • Vegetable oil, for frying
    • 6 oz cotija cheese
    • ½ cup 120 ml Mexican crema, or sour cream
    • 1 ripe avocado, halved, seeded, and diced
    • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
    • ¼ cup 5 g fresh cilantro, chopped

    Homemade Chile Oil

    • 2 cups 480 ml neutral oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 5 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into ½-inch pieces
    • 5 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into ½-inch pieces
    • 5 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed and seeded
    • ½ tsp dried Mexican oregano
    • Salt, to taste


    Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca)

    • Toast 3 guajillo chiles in a hot, dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat, about 1 minute per side.
    • In the same skillet, heat 1 Tbsp [15 ml] oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup [145 g] of diced white onion and 2 cloves of smashed garlic and cook until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat. Transfer the chiles, onions, and garlic to a blender. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth.
    • Bring the pot back to medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil and pour in the tomato puree. Cook, stirring frequently, until the puree is dark red and thick like tomato paste, about 6-7 minutes. Add 6 cups [48 oz] chicken broth, epazote, and reduce to medium-low simmer for 15 minutes. Before serving, taste and season with salt and remove the epazote.
    • Pour 2-inches of vegetable oil into a 3-4 quart pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F. Fry the tortilla strips in small batches using a wire skimmer or slotted spot to stir the tortilla until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Using the skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the tortillas to a paper toil to drain and season with salt.
    • Serve the soup in bowls with tortilla chips, cotija cheese, crema, avocado, lime, cilantro, and chile oil.

    Homemade Chile Oil

    • In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat 2 cups (16 oz) oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 4 cloves garlic and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the chiles. Let cool for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor with 1 Tbsp [15 mL] vinegar and ½ tsp oregano and pulse until everything is chopped but not smooth. Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.
    Keyword guajillo chile, tomato
    Did ya eat that? Mention @add1tbsp or tag #add1tbsp!

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