The classic winter comfort soup becomes BFFs with the Instant Pot! Deeply savory, just like the stove top version, Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup is weeknight easy, but still weekend flavorful.
Chicken Tortilla Soup has always been a favorite. It was, in fact, many, many moons ago one, one of the very first soups where I learned just how awesome homemade soups can be.
And, my stove top version was one of the earliest soup recipes I ever posted on this blog when it just a wee sprout.
There are several secrets to the xxl tastiness of Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup.
The first is peppers. In the photo above, various peppers take up a full three-quarters of the soup’s overall vegetable load. Plus, there are tons more in the spice blend in the little bowl, in the enchilada sauce (which should be pepper-heavy, but often isn’t, depending on the brand), and the Rotel. Even though “peppers” is not in the title, I don’t think tortilla soup could ever truly be tortilla soup without heaps o’ peppers.
I use mostly fresh bells, but depending on my mood and what’s in the fridge, freezer, or garden, I might add poblanos, jalapenos, Hatch chiles, chipotles, or serranos. If you’re a hot chile pepper lover, feel free to go off-script and fire up the heat!
The second secret is masa harina (corn) flour. Many recipes use flour to thicken this dish, but completely overlook this simple ingredient for creating a more authentic Mexican flavoring. Masa harina adds both body and an unmistakeable corn meal flavoring that enhances the “tortilla” aspect of soup.
Finally, don’t skimp on the spices.
As a home cooking advocate, IRL (i.e., off-blog) I always encourage new home cooks to build their spice collections. I could ramble on for dayz about the edible beauty of spices, but I’ll restrain myself here and instead direct you to a post I wrote long ago about stocking your spice rack.
Spices cure a lot of ills (both body and culinary) and are the best shortcut to creating amazing soups and chilis without a lot of fuss. This Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup pares down the spices to fit the average kitchen, but when I make this soup for myself, I include basil, Mexican oregano, coriander, three different types of chili powders (chipotle, ancho, and New Mexico, in addition to an all-purpose, mild blend), plus sweet paprika (which, btw, is also pepper).
If you’re lucky enough to live near a Penzey’s, get thee to their brick-and-mortar and set aside some browsing time. All of their herbs, spices, and blends have what I’ll call sniffing jars, lol (for lack of what has to be a much better term), where you can inhale the intoxicating aromas of each product before making a purchase. I’m a total cooking nerd, and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend morning.
And you can’t forget the tortillas! Normal people might add just a crumble of strips, but my own soup bowl always looks like the one above. Too many tortillas are never enough.
As for the Instant Pot part of this recipe, like most pressure cooker soup recipes, there isn’t necessarily a time savings, but rather, it lets you be hands-off on the soup, so you can do other things without feeling that pull to keep an eye on what’s going on under the lid.
I usually use the time to make homemade bean burritos — highly recommended as a side to go with your Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup. 😀
Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
for the soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 sweet onion diced
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 poblano pepper diced
- 2 Hatch chiles diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaping tablespoon corn masa flour or all-purpose flour
- 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 10 ounces frozen corn, or canned corn
- 12-16 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
- 10 ounce can red enchilada sauce
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
- 3 cups chicken broth or stock
Cheese sauce, optional
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/2 lime
- for the optional cheese sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups grated cheese (I used both fontina and chipotle jack)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- chopped cilantro
- sour cream
- green onions
- tortilla strips
for the soup
- Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot. If your model lets you adjust the heat (try the Adjust button), turn heat to low. Add the olive oil, and heat until shimmering.
- Add the onions, celery, and the peppers/chiles. Stir well and let soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Turn off the unit.
- Sprinkle the spices and flour over the vegetables, and mix well.
- Layer the beans, corn, and chicken over the vegetables.
- Pour the enchilada sauce and tomato products over the top. Do not stir.
- Top with the chicken broth.
- Secure the lid on the pot and set the vent to Seal.
- Use Manual pressure set to 5 minutes.
make the cheese sauce (if using)
- In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a spatula to create a paste (roux). Let the paste cook until golden.
- Stir in about a third of the dairy. It will be lumpy at first, but will soon smooth out and begin to thicken.
- Stir in another third of the dairy, until smooth. Add the remaining dairy, and continue stirring until the sauce clings to the spatula.
- Tip in the cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Season with the Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
finish the soup:
- When the cooking has completed, allow to naturally release for 10 minutes. Cover the vent and valve with a damp towel, and quick release to vent the remaining steam.
- Carefully open the lid, being mindful of the drips.
- Add the shredded chicken and the lime juice, and stir the soup well. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- If using the cheese sauce: Pour a ladle of the soup into the cheese sauce and stir to mix well (this tempers the sauce). Then pour the cheese sauce into the soup, stirring thoroughly. Taste, and add salt if necessary.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with toppings.
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