It may seem crazy to make a hearty soup in August, but the occasional dreary, rainy days that pop up this month are a preview of the cooler autumn days ahead. A warm bowl of chicken enchilada soup, made in the slow cooker, is exactly what I crave on those days.
Chicken enchilada was the signature soup at one of my favorite lunch spots growing up; I still devour a bowl every time I return home. It is a thicker, richer cousin of chicken tortilla soup — like you are eating an actual enchilada with a bowl and a spoon. It is the best of both dishes' worlds!
This soup requires very little prep work for the amount of flavor it yields: I started with my favorite red enchilada sauce as the base; it's so easy but packs in tons of flavor, way more than your average canned stuff. I tossed the sauce into my slow cooker along with corn, beans, and chicken thighs, then left it overnight to work all of its magical slow cooker powers. By morning I had a luscious soup that needed little more than salt and pepper to give it a boost. (Of course, if you feel like gilding the lily, a splash of heavy cream and a handful of cheddar take this recipe over the top!)
But how I really knew this chicken enchilada soup was a keeper? My fiancé asked if we could keep a batch in the refrigerator at all times, so he could eat it everyday. In my house, that's the hands down sign of a real winner. You can bet this dish will be making an appearance from now until deep into winter.
Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup
For the enchilada sauce:
Neutral cooking oil, such as canola or safflower
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock, plus more for thinning if neede
For the soup:
1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (See Recipe Notes)
Heavy cream, to taste, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, optional
Grated cheddar cheese
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeño and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, then transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker.
Add the corn, beans, and chicken thighs to a 5-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Cover and set on low for 6 to 7 hours (or high for 4 hours).
Shred the cooked chicken using two forks. Stir in a splash of heavy cream if desired. Give the soup a taste and season the soup with additional salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, if needed.
Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, and cilantro for garnish.
- You can use bone-in or boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I like bone-in when I want a rich, complex soup, but boneless are easy because you don't have to deal with the bones.
- This recipe can easily be doubled and frozen for another time. Transfer the cooled soup to a freezer-safe plastic bag labeled with recipe name and date. Press out excess air before sealing. Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer. (Once frozen, the bags can be stacked neatly.) To thaw, transfer to refrigerator overnight or set bag in a stockpot of warm water. Reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat; season to taste.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)