Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

Recipes from The Kitchn

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It may seem crazy to make a hearty soup in August, but if you live anywhere near Atlanta you know we have been experiencing the dreariest, rainiest month that I can recall. A warm bowl of chicken enchilada soup was actually the perfect cure for my late summer, nasty weather blues. 

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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 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 all fall and winter long.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

Serves 6

For the soup:
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 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock, plus more for thinning if needed
1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained 
2-3 pounds chicken thighs, skins removed (See Recipe Notes)
Heavy cream, to taste (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, optional

For serving:
Grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips
Cilantro

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 the slow cooker. Cover and set on low for 6 to 7 hours (or high for 4 hours). Shred the cooked chicken using two forks (if using bone-in thighs, remove the chicken to shred; discard bones and return meat to the soup). Stir in a splash of heavy cream if desired. Season the soup with additional salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, to taste. 

Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, and cilantro for garnish.

Recipe Notes

  • You can use bone-in or boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I used bone-in for a rich, complex soup, but boneless are easy because you don't have to pull them out.
  • 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. 

(Images: Nealey Dozier)

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