Sopa de Tortilla

Topped with diced avocado, Oaxacan-style cheese, and a squeeze of lime juice, this brothy, smoky soup is a meal in itself. It gets much of its rich flavor from the pasilla chile (also known as chile negro), which is the dried form of the chilaca chile, a relatively mild chile that has a pungent, complex taste. If pasillas are not available, an ancho chile can be substituted. The dish also includes epazote, a leafy green with a singular citrus-pine flavor. A combination of cilantro, oregano, and savory can be used instead, or it can be omitted entirely. For a spicier soup, include some of the pasilla chile seeds in the puree.


  • 1 dried pasilla chile
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
  • 6 to 8 cups chicken broth (homemade, if possible)
  • 2 small sprigs fresh epazote, or 1/2 teaspoon dried (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups tortilla chips (homemade, if possible)
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
  • 3 avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • 7 ounces queso Chihuahua (Mexican string cheese, sometimes called “Oaxacan-style cheese”), grated or shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2 limes, quartered


Split the chile in half. Remove the stem and scrape out and discard the seeds. Put the chile in a bowl of hot water and set aside to rehydrate for 20 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and rehydrated chile until smooth.

In a large saucepan, heat the lard over medium heat, being careful not to let it smoke and burn. Add the puree to the saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook until it has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Add 6 cups of the broth to the saucepan, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has slightly reduced and the flavor has concentrated, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the soup becomes too thick, add more broth. Add the epazote and simmer for 15 minutes more. Season with salt.

To assemble, place a handful of chips, chicken, and avocado in a bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowl and top with cheese and a squeeze of lime juice.


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6 to 8 servings, 6 cups