Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup has loads of hidden veggies, tender shredded chicken, and plenty of plant-based protein in the form of quinoa and beans — it’s a powerhouse of good-for-you ingredients! Cozy up with a big bowl with your favorite tortilla soup toppings and be prepared to be completely hooked on this soup!

Love chicken tortilla soup? Us too! That’s why we’ve created a few different versions — this 20-minute stovetop Chicken Tortilla Soup and this Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Overhead image of Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup has always been a favorite in my home — especially with homemade tortilla strips; who can resist that?! Since it’s a soup we enjoy so regularly, I thought I’d put a healthful spin on it by adding a few more veggies and a superfood — quinoa! The quinoa adds a nice thickness and texture to the soup while adding loads of health benefits and plant-based protein in every bowl — score! 

QUICK TIP

This isn’t the first time we’ve added quinoa into a soup or chili, check out some of our other favorites: Crockpot Chicken Quinoa SoupHealthy Minestrone Soup, Butternut Squash Chili, or Crockpot Quinoa Chili!

Process shots-- images of the onion, garlic, jalapeño, tomato paste, and seasonings being added and sautéed together

Why Sauté First?

Yes, this is a slow cooker meal which is supposed to be quick and easy, so why do we sauté ingredients first? Sautéing is integral for the flavor and texture of this soup. And I promise it doesn’t take too much extra time — especially if you have a slow cooker with a sautéing function — you won’t even need to dirty another pot!

By sautéing the aromatics, spices, tomato paste, and tomatoes we’re sweetening those ingredients and deepening the flavors of this Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup. We’re adding layers of flavor complexity that only comes from sautéing before slow cooking!

It’s also important to sauté these ingredients to ensure the onion will be fully tender when the soup is finished. Since this soup doesn’t cook for an especially long time, the onion will be under-cooked (potentially crunchy) if not sautéed first.

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup Ingredient Notes

A few ingredients worth calling out:

  • Chicken: While chicken breasts will work, I highly recommend chicken thighs. The thigh meat becomes exceptionally tender in the slow cooker and shreds quickly and easily. It’s also more forgiving if it is cooked longer, since chicken breasts tend to dry out if they’re cooked too long.
  • Red enchilada sauce: Enchilada sauce can vary greatly in heat from brand to brand. Personally, I love and recommend Old El Paso® mild red enchilada sauce (not sponsored). If you aren’t able to find this specific brand, I’d recommend tasting the enchilada sauce first and making sure it isn’t too spicy. If you need to control the heat, add only a portion of the enchilada sauce, replacing the remaining liquid with additional chicken stock.
  • Chicken stock: A high-quality, flavorful stock adds loads of flavor and allows us to cut down on spices or other additions. We highly recommend Swanson ® chicken stock — it’s our favorite in this recipe.

Process shots of Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup-- images of the diced tomatoes being cooked and added to the crockpot and all the other ingredients being poured into the slow cooker

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup Notes

  • Rinse the quinoa: Quinoa has a bitter saponin coating that needs to be rinsed off before use. Place it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well before adding to the slow cooker.
  • The longer this soup cooks, the more liquid the quinoa absorbs. For a heartier soup, that’s great, but if you want it to remain more broth-y, stop cooking as soon as the quinoa has “popped.” 
  • Each slow cooker is a little different so the cooking time varies. Look for chicken that shreds easily, fully cooked quinoa, and tender veggies.
  • Use a big enough cooker to fit everything: I recommend a 6-quart slow cooker to fit everything nicely. Crock-pot is actually the brand name of a specific line of slow cookers, but most people use it as a generic term for any slow cooker.
  • Cook on high. Unfortunately, this recipe doesn’t cook well on low. The quinoa needs higher heat to “pop” and cook through. 
  • Cut the chicken into thin/small chunks. Otherwise, it won’t be done at the same time as everything else. You don’t need to spend much time cutting the chicken; just quickly cut 2-inch (1-inch thick) pieces.

Process shots-- images of the dish being cooked in the crockpot

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup Toppings

Choose 2-3 of your favorites or whatever can be ready the quickest in your home! 

  • Start with tortilla strips (this is chicken tortilla soup after all!). To keep things quick and easy, grab some at the store, or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own! To keep this soup as healthy as possible, use baked or air-fried corn tortilla strips.
  • Cheese: we love adding a Mexican blend, sharp Cheddar, or Monterey-Colby Jack cheese.
  • Layer on the avocados. I like to chop an avocado and put it in the soup. The avocado adds a cooling and refreshing creaminess. Adding avocado instead of cheese is a great way to add creaminess while keeping this soup on the healthier side.
  • Drizzle on some fresh lime juice. The lime adds such a great brightness and freshness to the soup.
  • If you are a cilantro fan, load up your bowl with some finely chopped cilantro. If you aren’t a cilantro fan, just skip it!
  • Add a scoop of light sour cream. Sour cream adds creaminess to this healthy chicken tortilla soup and if you use fat-free or light sour cream you won’t be adding quite as many calories.

Process shots-- images of the chicken being removed from the slow cooker for shredding and then added back in

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup Spiciness

Using mild enchilada sauce (Old El Paso brand) and McCormick chili powder, we’d rate this soup as slightly spicy (mild plus a little). If adding toppings like cheese, sour cream, and avocado (or guac), these additions will mute the spiciness quite a bit. 

If you don’t plan on adding some of these toppings and are sensitive to spice, we’d recommend reducing or omitting the jalapeños, using diced tomatoes without green chiles, using mild enchilada sauce, and/or reducing the chili powder. You will be missing out on some flavor, but the soup will be overall milder.

Quick note: Be sure to use chili powder — not to be confused with chilli powder which is very hot. We’re using American chili powder (I use McCormick which is very mild).

VARIATIONS

Variations

  • Want more heat? Increase the amount of jalapeños, add in a can of fire-roasted diced green chilies, use a medium or hot enchilada sauce, and/or add some cayenne pepper (starting with 1/8 teaspoon).
  • Make a homemade enchilada sauce: If you prefer, make your own to replace the store-bought can!
  • Make vegetarian: Replace the chicken with a vegetable like cubed sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Change up the toppings: Changing the toppings can change the flavor of this soup quite a bit! Stirring in some cheese and/or sour cream makes it a creamier soup. 

Overhead image of the Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

STORAGE

Storage

  • Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup will continue to thicken as the quinoa expands. We still think it tastes great, but it does get thicker and thicker as it stands.
  • This soup is best eaten within 2-3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop and add a splash of chicken stock if needed. It does not freeze well; the soup continues to absorb liquid and quinoa gets bloated.

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Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

5 from 8 votes
This Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup has loads of "hidden" veggies, tender shredded chicken, and plenty of plant-based protein in the form of quinoa and beans -- it's a powerhouse of good-for-you ingredients! Cozy up with a big bowl with your favorite tortilla soup toppings and be prepared to be completely hooked on this soup!
Print Recipe

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup

5 from 8 votes
This Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup has loads of "hidden" veggies, tender shredded chicken, and plenty of plant-based protein in the form of quinoa and beans -- it's a powerhouse of good-for-you ingredients! Cozy up with a big bowl with your favorite tortilla soup toppings and be prepared to be completely hooked on this soup!
Course Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Healthy Chicken Tortilla Soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cooking Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Calories 329kcal
Cost $8.92

Equipment

  • 6-quart slow cooker and cooking spray

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup (125g) finely diced yellow onion
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon each minced garlic, finely minced jalapeño (jalapeño is optional if you like heat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder Note 1
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 can (10 oz.; 283g) diced tomatoes with green chilies (like Ro*Tel) Note 3
  • 1 lb (16 oz.) boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) Note 2
  • 1/2 cup (90g) quinoa, white or tri-colored, thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 can (15.25 oz.; 432g) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (10 oz. 283g) mild red enchilada sauce Note 4
  • 1-1/2 cups (200g) frozen corn (or 1 can drained)
  • 1 carton (32 oz; 907g) chicken stock (or broth) (~4 cups) Note 5
  • Optional finishing touches: 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Toppings: freshly grated sharp cheese, diced ripe avocado, extra squeeze of lime, fried or baked tortilla strips or chips, sour cream, additional cilantro, etc. Note 6

Instructions

  • PREP: Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Trim the chicken of fat and cut each piece into 2-inch chunks. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
  • SOUP FLAVOR BASE: If you have the option to sauté in your slow cooker base, use that; otherwise, use a pot. Add olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add in onion and sauté until turning golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the tomato paste and the seasonings: chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Season with salt & pepper (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, but add to personal preference). Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant. Pour the entire can (don't drain) of diced tomatoes and mix, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Use a spatula to scrape every bit of this mixture into the base of the slow cooker.
  • COOK: Add the remaining ingredients (except for the finishing touches and toppings) into the slow cooker. Stir well, submerge chicken below the liquid and cook on high for 2-1/2 up to 3-1/2 hours or until chicken easily shreds. (See Note 7.) Remove the chicken and transfer to a bowl. Shred the chicken with two forks and return to the slow cooker.
  • FINISHING: Add in the cilantro and lime juice, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt/pepper if desired. Serve into bowls. Add desired toppings and enjoy immediately!
  • STORAGE: This soup will continue to thicken as the quinoa expands. We still think it tastes great, but it does get thicker and thicker as it stands. This soup is best eaten within 2-3 days. Reheat over low heat on the stovetop and add a splash of chicken stock as needed. It does not freeze well; the soup continues to absorb liquid and quinoa gets overly bloated.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Chili Powder: Not to be confused with chilli powder which is very hot. We're using American chili powder (I use McCormick which is much milder).
Note 2: Chicken: While chicken breasts will work, we highly recommend chicken thighs. The thigh meat becomes exceptionally tender in the slow cooker and shreds quickly and easily. It’s also more forgiving if it is cooked longer, since chicken breasts tend to dry out if they’re cooked too long.
Note 3: Tomatoes: If you're concerned about heat, use regular diced tomatoes or regular fire-roasted tomatoes instead of tomatoes with green chiles added.
Note 4: Enchilada sauce: This can vary greatly in heat from brand to brand. Personally, I love and recommend Old El Paso® mild red enchilada sauce (not sponsored). If you aren’t able to find this specific brand, I’d recommend tasting the enchilada sauce first and making sure it isn’t too spicy.
Note 5: Chicken stock: A high-quality, flavorful stock adds loads of flavor and allows us to cut down on spices or other additions. We highly recommend Swanson® chicken stock — it’s our favorite in this soup.
Note 6: Toppings: While this soup is tasty right out of the slow cooker, the toppings truly seal the deal, delivering an unforgettable meal, so don't skimp on these!
Note 7: Cooking time: Unfortunately, this recipe doesn’t cook well on low. The quinoa needs higher heat to “pop” and cook through.  Each slow cooker is a little different so the cooking time varies. Look for chicken that shreds easily, quinoa that is fully cooked through, and tender veggies. The longer this soup cooks, the more liquid the quinoa absorbs. For a heartier soup, that’s great, but if you want it to remain more broth-y, stop cooking as soon as the quinoa has “popped.” 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 131mg | Potassium: 819mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 445IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 4mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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Simple (Dump it and forget it!) Slow Cooker Mexican Tortilla Chicken & Quinoa Soup
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18 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Every time I see one of your slow cooker recipes, I am inspired to pull mine out! This tortilla soup looks SO comforting! It’s been so gross and cold here in DC, so I could really use a big bowl full of this to warm me up 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This is the 3rd soup of yours I’ve made (sweet potato and quinoa, chicken parmesan, and now this one!), and 3 for 3 have been amazing. I love that I can now look to your blog to find a reliably delicious and easy-to-make crockpot soup!! I’m not a big fan of creamy/cream-based soups and that’s the majority of what I seem to find on food blogs, so thank you SO much for making broth-based soups/stews because those are my favorites. I also love the flavors you tend to use (e.g., italian, mexican) because are my favorites too! Keep it up, Chelsea!

    1. Oh no! I’m not sure why the picture isn’t showing up for you 🙁 Sorry Willa! I’ve asked a developer friend and I’ll let you know what I hear back!

  3. goodNESS! This is delish and so simple, my whole family loved this (including 3 and 5 year old boys!) I just threw the jalapeño in whole and removed it once it was finished cooking to avoid any spice bites for the kiddos. Thanks for a new favorite!

    1. YAY!! So great to hear!! I always get excited when the kiddos love it too 🙂 Thanks for the sweet comment and review Ashley!

  4. 5 stars
    Hi just came upon your website and I am hooked! Your double chocolate banana muffins were a huge hit with my 3 boys (husband and 6 & 8 year old!) They are not easy to please! Do you ever include nutritional information? Loving your website. I’m preheating my oven to make your zucchini bread now! Thanks so much!

    1. I haven’t tried it so I’m really not sure; if you did use ground turkey you’d need to cook it first before adding to the crockpot 🙂

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