Chicken Tortilla Soup (Inspired by Tommy Bahama’s)

5 stars based on 11 votes

tortilla soup

Whenever we visit my parents in Longboat Key, we spend a lot of time hanging out at St. Armand’s Circle in nearby Lido. It’s the heart of the island…the kind of place where you stroll in and out of boutiques, people-watch at sidewalk cafés, walk around with drippy ice cream cones, and ask every stranger with a dog if your children can pet it. One of our favorite restaurants there is Tommy Bahama’s. The food’s always good and we love sitting at a big round table under gently spinning wicker fans, listening to a one-man band play endless Jimmy Buffet tunes.


We all have our favorite dishes at Tommy’s, but one thing everyone agrees upon is the chicken tortilla soup. It’s a silky purée of vegetables, corn tortillas, chicken broth and spices with tender chunks of grilled chicken and a nest of tortilla matchsticks heaped over top.

Tortilla soup 16

I found the recipe in the Tommy Bahama cookbook, Life is One Long Weekend, and while it was easy enough, it called for the equivalent of two sticks of butter. Yikes! No wonder we all love it. For this somewhat healthier version, I cut the fat in half and tweaked the recipe here and there to make it more home cook-friendly. It’s still delicious.

Tortilla soup 10

The whole thing comes together fairly quickly.

You start by cooking onions, garlic and green peppers in butter and olive oil until they’re soft and mellow.

Tortilla soup 11

Add chopped corn tortillas and spices, and cook a few minutes to bring out all the flavors…

Tortilla soup 12

Add the chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes…

Tortilla soup 13

Puree until smooth and creamy…

Tortilla soup 17

And garnish however you like.

Tortilla soup 1

At Tommy’s, they finish the soup with an artistic drizzle of lime-sour cream, which looks nice but isn’t really necessary. (I’m guessing most of us don’t keep squeeze bottles at home for this type of thing anyway.) Just keep it simple with chopped fresh cilantro and crushed tortilla chips. Or for a more substantial soup, add diced chicken and avocado. Enjoy!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Servings: 6


For Soup

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 6 small (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low sodium chicken (best quality such as Swanson)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Suggestions for Garnish

  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (see note)
  • 1-2 avocados, chopped


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and green pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and just starting to brown, about 15 minutes. (Turn heat to medium-low if mixture is browning too quickly.)
  2. Add cut corn tortillas, chili powder and cumin; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, a few minutes more. Add chicken stock, salt and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer with lid slightly ajar for about 20 minutes. Off heat, use hand-held blender to puree until completely smooth (you can also do this in a blender in batches; just be careful to open the steam hole and cover with kitchen towel to avoid splatters). Stir in chicken if using, then ladle soup into bowls and garnish as you like.
  3. Note: I usually use leftover or rotisserie chicken, but if you want to cook the chicken from scratch, buy two bone-in chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken breasts on foil-lined baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, then cook 35-40 minutes or until done. Let cool, then pull meat off the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Note: The leftover soup will thicken in the refrigerator; add a bit of water to thin it out if necessary.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Make this soup the day before you eat it…it develops and marries all the flavors…I added a few shakes of crystal hot sauce (crystal gives depth,but isnt all that hot).
    Also added a dollop of sour cream to the garnish, with four blend shredded mexican flavor cheese…and chopped rotisserie chicken as it was our main course…..fabulous!

    - Gayann on March 31, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Loved how easy it was to make on a workday! The corn tortillas added a nice flavor and a satisfyingly thick texture. I added just a dash of red pepper flakes. This is now a family favorite!

    - Michelle on March 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious, fun, festive, and a family favorite!

    The immersion blender makes these soups so easy to make. Transferring to a blender is a hassle and you can find an immersion blender that will get the job done for $30.

    - Christina on March 19, 2015 Reply
  • Hi Jenn. This soup sounds absolutely delicious and I would love to make it tomorrow night for dinner (with the garnishments and all)! I do not have an immersion blender and will need to put the soup in my kitchenaid blender. Does the entire pot of soup need to be blended? I’m guessing 2 cups at a time?

    Thanks for sharing :)

    - Aminah on March 9, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Aminah, This is one of my favorites — you will love it! Yes, the whole soup does need to be blended. You can do it a few cups at a time; just be sure the hole is open in the lid to allow the steam to escape and cover with a dish towel.

      - Jenn on March 9, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I was pleasantly surprised to find this was so easy to make and so very delicious! I will surely make this again.

    - Niki on March 8, 2015 Reply
  • My daughter has a peanut allergy and with the recent recall of cumin due to contamination with peanut proteins, I was wondering whether that spice could be omitted or substituted?

    - Julie on February 24, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Julie, I’m afraid the soup might be a little bland without the cumin, as it’s the main seasoning in the soup, but you could try substitute more chili powder and some ground coriander.

      - Jenn on February 25, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This soup is easy to make and extremely flavorful! The butter in it gives a very rich taste. The soup was good without anything in it but my husband loved it filled with chicken, cilantro and avocado.

    - Karen on February 20, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this soup for a friend who came out of the hospital and had strict dietary restrictions. He, and his family, loved it! I loved it too, I didn’t know I liked tortilla soup! Super easy and quick as well.

    - Jenn on January 22, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made a double recipe of this soup to serve to the crowd after a snowshoe race today. It was delicious and the optional toppings were fun, especially for a larger group with varying tastes. I made it exactly as written, and serve with avocado, cilantro, sour cream, and crushed tortilla chips (plain and spicy). I will definitely make it again, but will probably try reducing (or even leaving out) the butter; I think it would still be great with the lower fat content.

    - Sue on January 4, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Another hit! I made this last night, to rave reviews from my husband and three kids (ages 13, 10 and 8 — although it was a little spicy for the youngest). In our house, we rate new recipes as “keepers” or not, and this goes in the keeper pile. I served with homemade corn muffins, hot out of the oven.

    - Amy G. on December 13, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this soup with a few changes. Decreased the fat to 1TBSP oil, 1TBSP butter, omitted all the added salt and let guests add their own (plenty of salt in the broth), and used leftover turkey instead of chicken. As suggested, added avocado and cilantro and chips. It was really great. Made my own tortilla strips by cutting corn tortillas and baking at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.

    - Karen on December 3, 2014 Reply
    • What a great way to use leftover turkey. Thanks, Karen!

      - Jenn on December 3, 2014 Reply
  • I was recently in Maui and we ate at Tommy Bahama’s in Wailea. Had this soup and searched for the recipe the day after we got home it was that good. THANKS :) Gonna try to make it very soon

    - kristal on November 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is my husband’s favorite soup! I add just a little extra chili powder because he likes it spicy!

    - Jen on July 19, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Last year I had tortilla soup at Tommy Bahama’s in Scottsdale,AZ.
    It was so delicious, I had to find the recipe. The recipe Jenn has posted here is it! This soup is so easy to prepare, tasty, healthy and loved by my family.
    I cut up corn tortillas and bake the strips to use as a garnish. Chopped avocado in the soup is my favorite! It’s so easy to keep ingredients on hand.

    - karen on July 17, 2014 Reply
  • This is amazing! Family loved it and so did my coworkers when I took it the next day. i didn’t purée just simmered for hours. Still amazing! Thanks.

    - KC on February 8, 2014 Reply
  • This is a real winner!! I make it often. I garnish with shredded cheddar and chopped cilantro.

    - Maria on February 2, 2014 Reply
  • Thank you Jenn! Can’t wait to make it:)))

    - Tami on January 7, 2014 Reply
  • This soup is flawless and spectacular! If you like Chicken Tortilla Soup – this is the recipe you’ve been looking for! I squeeze a little lime on top and add a nice dollop of sour cream (in addition to the avocado and tortilla chips). Make this soup! You will not be disappointed!

    - Amy on January 7, 2014 Reply
  • Thank you Jenn! I also can’t eat bell peppers any more:( any flavor suggestions? Will it be boring without it?

    - Tami on January 7, 2014 Reply
    • Tami, It will still be good. I would just substitute another vegetable, like a carrot.

      - Jenn on January 7, 2014 Reply
  • Hi, this soup sounds fantastic! I can’t eat nightshades: red pepper, cayenne, chili. Any substitutes you can think of?
    Thank you in advance.

    - Tami on January 7, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Tami, You can just leave out the cayenne and chili powder. It won’t make a big difference. You might add a 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and some other form of heat. Not sure if you can have jalapeño peppers, but you could add one with the green peppers in the beginning if you’d like the soup to be spicy (add the seeds at your discretion – that’s where most of the heat is).

      - Jenn on January 7, 2014 Reply
  • May I suggest poaching the chicken breast in 4 cups of water, with a bay leaf and some whole pepper corns, instead of baking it. That’s what I did, and used the poaching water for 1/2 of the stock. Fantastic recipe thank you.

    - Myra on December 17, 2013 Reply
  • Would not change a thing. Awesome soup

    - Judee on November 8, 2013 Reply
  • I made this and was so proud , it looked so good before puréed I hated to do it but it was worth it! Yum!!

    - Judee Diehl on March 15, 2013 Reply
  • I had this soup at Tommy Bahama in Manhattan, NY on Sunday. When I got home I looked for the recipe and found yours. Delicious, just like Tommy Bahamas. Evelyn

    - Evelyn Egan on January 8, 2013 Reply
  • I’ve made this soup three times in the last month and it’s been so delicious every time!

    I have Celiac Disease, so I substitute 3 cubes of gluten-free chicken bouillon + 8 cups of water (instead of the boxed chicken stock) and use a dash of ground fresh chili paste instead of the chili powder. I’ve also started cutting back on the amount of butter – the last batch I made used only 2T and there was no discernible change in taste.

    A BIG winner in our house! Thanks, Jenn!

    - Erin on October 2, 2012 Reply
  • I loved the tortilla soup. I’ve never been to the Tommy Bahama restaurant so I couldn’t compare it to that, but it was better than the ones I tried in Arizona and New Mexico.

    - C.J. on May 23, 2012 Reply
  • This soup is delicious. We’ll be going to Lido Beach at the end of July and can’t wait to eat at Tommy Bahamas.

    - Jane on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • Hands down, the absolute best tortilla soup recipe on the planet! E.V.E.R.

    - Paige on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been making this soup for a year now and every time I make it, I think about eating at the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Naples, FL.
    This soup is so easy yet the flavor is huge. Whenever I have a baked chicken on hand, this is the first recipe I think about for the leftovers.

    - Mona on March 19, 2012 Reply
  • One of my favorite soups. Can’t wait to try your version!

    - teresa on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • Yum!!

    - Elizabeth on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • We love Tommy Bahamas in Long Boat Key. I was excited to try this soup and was very happy I did! Delicious.

    - Hadley on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I love the creaminess and richness of this soup. It is also very good with chicken and tortilla chips.

    - Sherri on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • This soup is so good & so easy.
    I get so many compliments every time I make it. The corn tortillas give the perfect amount of thickness. A Costco rotisserie chicken is perfect to add at the end. Yummy!

    - Jennifer on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • my family loves this recipe! delish!

    - Meredith on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • All I can say is YUM!! One of my favorite things in cold weather- soup and Mexican food and with this recipe I get both!! :)

    - Cinthy Tanko on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I love this soup and how easy it is to make!

    - Judee on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • This was SOOO good!!! My husband was raving about it the whole time he was eating, and he asked me to make it again when we have company tomorrow. I broiled some boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which only took about 15 minutes), shredded them, and added them in at the end. Thank you so much for another winning recipe, Jenn!!!

    - Kim on February 25, 2012 Reply
  • The stock of this soup looks delicomma and I plan to make it tonight. For my taste I think I’ll add roasted corn and black beans along with the chicken. I’ll let you know how the final product tastes!

    - Helen Clark on January 26, 2012 Reply
  • I love this soup!

    - Sherri on January 10, 2012 Reply
  • This looks great! Can’t wait to try it!

    - Gionna on December 30, 2011 Reply
  • We make a very similar soup.
    No added salt or butter, but we add skinless chicken to soup while it simmers with chopped cilantro stems and a can of enchilada sauce. Remove the chicken and puree soup. Shred chicken and add to soup, top with chopped cilantro leaves, tortilla chips, avacado, jalapenos…

    - Anne on February 2, 2011 Reply
  • We made this soup last night, preparing for the snow storm. It is FANTASTIC! We love the blend of flavors. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again, soon. Great for lunch the next day too.

    - Bonnie on January 27, 2011 Reply
  • The soup was good! Very tasty…I loved it with the avocado — really balanced out the flavor. I brought some on for lunch today :)

    - Kelly on January 25, 2011 Reply
  • I love St Armands Circle and my husband loves his Tommy shirts. This soup looks wonderful..perfectly soul warming

    - leslie on January 23, 2011 Reply
  • Tommy Bahamas is my Favorite restaurant in Long Boat Key as well! I am obsessed with their fish tacos, if you get a chance try them next time

    - kelly on January 21, 2011 Reply
  • Hello, love your blog and this is a great recipe!

    Have you ever blog hopped before? We’d love it if you contributed this awesome soup recipe, it’s a great way to get links back to your site. Really easy too.

    You can check out our blog hop here:


    - Sarah Hetland on January 21, 2011 Reply

Add a Review or Question

Hungry for More?

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter — where I share new recipes and seasonal menus for every occasion.

Your email address will never be used for any other purpose.
Curious? See a sample newsletter.