Chicken Tortilla Soup (Inspired by Tommy Bahama’s)

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Add the chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes…

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Puree until smooth and creamy…

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And garnish however you like.

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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
Inspired by Tommy Bahama Tropical Café
Printable Recipe

Serves 6


For Soup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped (about 2½ cups)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
1 green bell pepper, deseeded 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 stock or broth (I like Swanson organic)
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if you don’t like heat)

Suggestions For Garnish
Crushed tortilla chips
Handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces*
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.

*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.

Leftover soup will thicken in refrigerator…just add a bit of water to thin it out if necessary.

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  • 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

  • I love St Armands Circle and my husband loves his Tommy shirts. This soup looks wonderful..perfectly soul warming

  • Kelly

    The soup was good! Very tasty…I loved it with the avocado — really balanced out the flavor. I brought some on for lunch today :)

  • Bonnie

    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.

  • Anne

    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…

  • This looks great! Can’t wait to try it!

  • Sherri

    I love this soup!

  • Helen Clark

    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!

  • Kim

    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!!!

  • Judee

    I love this soup and how easy it is to make!

  • 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!! :)

  • Meredith

    my family loves this recipe! delish!

  • Jennifer

    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!

  • Sherri

    I love the creaminess and richness of this soup. It is also very good with chicken and tortilla chips.

  • Hadley

    We love Tommy Bahamas in Long Boat Key. I was excited to try this soup and was very happy I did! Delicious.

  • Elizabeth


  • teresa

    One of my favorite soups. Can’t wait to try your version!

  • Mona

    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.

  • Paige

    Hands down, the absolute best tortilla soup recipe on the planet! E.V.E.R.

  • Jane

    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.

  • C.J.

    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.

  • Erin

    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!

  • Evelyn Egan

    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

  • Judee Diehl

    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

    Would not change a thing. Awesome soup

  • Myra

    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.

  • Tami

    Hi, this soup sounds fantastic! I can’t eat nightshades: red pepper, cayenne, chili. Any substitutes you can think of?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Jenn

      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).

  • Tami

    Thank you Jenn! I also can’t eat bell peppers any more:( any flavor suggestions? Will it be boring without it?

    • Jenn

      Tami, It will still be good. I would just substitute another vegetable, like a carrot.

  • Amy

    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!

  • Tami

    Thank you Jenn! Can’t wait to make it:)))

  • Maria

    This is a real winner!! I make it often. I garnish with shredded cheddar and chopped cilantro.

  • KC

    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.

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