Chicken soup is one of my favorite things to make in the slow cooker. As long as you use dark meat, the chicken never overcooks during the long cooking time, and making a big batch means that you can have it for dinner and stock the freezer at the same time. This Tex-Mex version has fire-roasted tomatoes, carrots, and black beans in a lightly spiced broth, and hits all the notes when you need a bright-yet-warming meal.
None of the ingredients in the soup base need to be precooked — just chop and throw them right into the slow cooker. It's worth seeking out fire-roasted canned tomatoes, since the fire-roasting adds a light charred flavor. If you can't find it, though, just use regular diced tomatoes instead.
Black beans and lime juice go into the hot soup at the last minute so that the beans don't overcook and the lime juice flavor stays bright, but my favorite part about the soup are the crispy tortilla chips that get sprinkled onto each bowl before serving. Toppings are the name of the game for tortilla soup, so don't be shy and have a good selection for everyone to choose from.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 4 to 6 (makes about 2 1/2 quarts)
For the soup:
1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice 1/2 medium lime
Crumbled tortilla chips
Optional toppings: Sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, Mexican hot sauce, lime wedges
For the soup: Place all the ingredients in the insert of a slow cooker in an even layer. Cover the slow cooker and cook until the chicken is tender and the soup is flavorful, 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high.
To finish: Transfer the chicken to a large plate. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, bones, and any cartilage. Shred the chicken and add the meat back into the soup. Add the black beans and lime juice and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve the soup with crumbled tortilla chips and other toppings.
Freezing instructions: This soup can be frozen for up to 2 months.
(Image credits: Maria Siriano)