Chicken Enchilada Soup

This is a great recipe for cooking a week ahead, cooking for a sick friend, or cooking for a potluck. I came up with it a few years ago and have given it out again and again. I keep each batch of soup for myself, though. ;)

All of the Mexican ingredients are available absolutely everywhere, anymore. Major chains, organic groceries and specialty Latin shops all sell everything you need for this recipe. Don’t wimp out! No ketchup and Velveeta!! Don’t give in to any inherited women’s magazine cooking tendencies. Go for broke with the real ingredients and you’ll be glad you did.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

5 or 6-qt. crockpot. If you don’t have one that size, you can pick one up online (Rival model #3355 is my fave) or at a chain store like Target or Walmart stores.

large colander

large refrigerator storage container

  • 1 box low-sodium chicken broth (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand to all others)
  • 1 28-oz. can red enchilada sauce, or 28 oz of ranchera sauce from your favorite local Mexican restaurant (homemade is best – here’s a recipe)
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts and 2 chicken wings OR
  • 2 chicken legs w/thigh meat
  • 1/2 a large yellow or red onion, your choice, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh Anaheim chiles, chopped (go hotter if you like but stay green, like Poblano or Jalapeño; the heat fades after the first day or so and the green is essential)
  • 1 large but not HUGE can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 block queso quesadilla, or an equivalent amount of low-sodium Velveeta
  • 3 handsful of stale (or just too-small-to-dip, end-of-bag) bits of tortilla chips, shaken to reduce salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin, more to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander, more to taste
  • shredded extra-sharp cheddar for serving
  • sour cream for serving

Pour the chicken broth into the crockpot and switch it on to low. You will never need to go to high for this recipe.

Add 1 T. each of cumin and coriander.

Grind in some black pepper until it looks right; pepper is a by-eye thing.

Add the chicken and cook until the meat is falling off the bone (at least four hours, because it’s also about rendering fat, juice and flavor from the chicken itself); remove the chicken and run a fine strainer through the broth to pick up and discard cartilage or bits of skin. Refrigerate the chicken meat.

Add the diced tomatoes and enchilada sauce, onion, garlic and cilantro. Cook for 2 hours at minimum.

Add back the chicken meat, cut from the bone and shredded with a fork. Cook for a few hours, however long you need between tasks. At this point, you can let it cook overnight.

TASTE THE SOUP. Add coriander and cumin to taste. Add the diced Anaheim peppers and cook until the peppers are softened, at least 4 hours.

Add queso quesadilla, a small shaving or pinch of shreds at a time, diced as finely as possible. This part you have to watch and stir constantly – the cheese needs to become completely melted into the soup stock for its salt and the overall thickness and richness it will add to the soup. Continue to cook after cheese is completely integrated, about 1-2 hours.

Add tortilla chips and let soup cook further, until the chips disintegrate a bit. The chips will provide additional salt and will also thicken it to an almost stew-like consistency, which is the point of any Autumn or Winter soup.

TASTE THE SOUP. You shouldn’t need a bit of salt, but if you do, now’s the time to add it. Grind in more pepper as needed.

Serve with shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (for a taste contrast) and some nice, thick sour cream. Other great toppings: fresh, chopped scallions; fork-crumbled queso fresco; chopped onions of a color other than the one you used in the soup; crunchy tortilla chips.

Let me know how this works for you!

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