Recipe: Turkey Tortilla Soup

updated Nov 20, 2019
   Fast & Easy Turkey Tortilla Soup
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Remember Thanksgiving? That little holiday just a couple months ago? I hope that you ended the holiday season with a treasure trove of turkey stock and leftovers in your freezer, because if you did, I have a recipe for you today that you can have ready in just a few minutes. No turkey treasure? That’s OK — chicken broth will do fine.

The broth has the warmth of pureed chilies and garlic, zipped up with plenty of fresh lime juice and flavorful garnishes. If you’re feeling a little lethargic, this is definitely a lazy day soup. Just pick up the ingredients along with your last minute weekend shopping and it can be thrown together in a snap.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Tester’s Notes

This is an oldie but a goodie recipe from Vanessa Barrington, one of our earliest writers and recipe developers here at The Kitchn. Vanessa writes warm, practical recipes, often influenced by her home in California. This recipe is a perfect example of her style: it’s quite literally a 15-minute meal, provided you have everything on hand. The soup has a Mexican flair, spiced up with smoky chilies, but the ease and relaxation feel all California to me.

This soup is of course the time to to pull out your frozen stash of liquid gold, otherwise known as turkey stock. (I feel strongly about turkey stock; I think it’s the primary reason turkeys were put upon this good earth.) I have many quarts of turkey stock in the freezer, made after my Thanksgiving meal. I also saved a few cups of chopped turkey breast, intending it for a soup like this or a casserole. The soup is the perfect use for admittedly tough and slightly freezer-burnt cooked turkey; the broth warms and moistens it, bringing it back to real deliciousness.

If you don’t have a freezer full of turkey stock, no problem. Use the best store-bought turkey or chicken stock you can get your hands on, or homemade chicken broth. Chopped cooked turkey breast works fine in the soup, or leftover bits of roast chicken.

In fact this soup is really a collection of leftovers: freezer treasures, half an avocado for garnish, the end of a bunch of cilantro, and the last crushed pieces of a bag of tortilla chips. But does it look like leftovers? No way, and it doesn’t taste like leftovers either.


Faith, January 2014

Precious Thanksgiving booty: Chopped turkey breast and 4 cups of turkey stock. Also (Image credit: Faith Durand)
(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Fast & Easy Turkey Tortilla Soup

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4 cups homemade turkey broth (or chicken broth)
  • 2

    large garlic cloves

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or homemade chili puree (see below)
  • 2

    small carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded turkey or chicken meat
  • 1

    lime, juiced

  • Salt and pepper to taste

To garnish:

  • Diced avocado
  • Crumbled tortilla chips
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Crumbled queso fresco


  1. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat the broth until simmering. While it is warming, blend the garlic with 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle chiles and their sauce in a food processor or mortar and pestle until they form a paste. See note below on spiciness, and check heat level with 1/2 tablespoon before adding it all.

  2. Whisk this paste into the broth, add the carrots and simmer until carrots are soft, but still retain a bit of crispness, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the turkey along with the lime juice and simmer until the meat is warmed through.

  3. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately with garnishes.

Recipe Notes

  • This is a spicy soup! If you are averse to spicy food, use half a tablespoon of the pureed chiles and taste the soup first before adding the rest.
  • The leftover chiles in adobo can be thrown into a plastic bag or freezer container and frozen.
  • Tomato Variation: If you have them in the cupboard, try adding a 15-ounce can diced tomatoes along with the turkey. This makes a fun variation on the basic recipe.

Homemade Chile Puree

For chili purée: Soak 2 to 3 dried Ancho or New Mexico chilies in boiling water until soft (about 10 minutes). Purée the chilies in a blender with just enough of their soaking water to make a smooth, not too thick, paste. Leftover chili purée will keep in the refrigerator for one week or the freezer for two months.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Updated from recipe originally published November 2006.