Emily Haines’ Tortilla Soup Recipe

Get a taste of the tortilla soup Emily mentioned in her dinner party soundtrack with this recipe!

(Photo Credit: Justin Broadbent)

“My tortilla soup recipe is hard to transcribe because I always improvise as I prepare it,” Emily says, “but here are the general guidelines. I’m keeping the measurements pretty general, too, as I have made this soup for dinner parties big and small. I leave the math to you. Also, my version is not heavy on tomatoes or tortillas.”

“The secret is to start by roasting a whole chicken that has been marinated in some serious spice with prominent chipotle flavors. Good old Cholula — like a whole bottle of it — has worked for me when I don’t have access to the more obscure options that are on offer at the Mexican grocers in Kensington Market,” she adds.


  • Whole chicken
  • 2 heads of Garlic
  • 1/4 pound of butter
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • Dried chipotle peppers
  • Hot sauce of your choice
  • Organic chicken stock
  • White onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Flour tortillas (fresh is best)
  • Olive oil
  • Corn on the cobb
  • Cotija cheese


To prepare the chicken for roasting, take a whole head of garlic, separate out the cloves and smash them individually. Take 1/4 pound of butter and cut it into 1/2 inch pieces. Make incisions every couple inches in the skin of the chicken, creating a little space between the flesh and the skin, and insert the garlic cloves and butter into those spots.

Rub the chicken with loads of sea salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika. Next, rub the bird with dried chipotle peppers and throw a few in the roasting pan too for good measure. Finally, slather generously with whatever hot sauce you’ve got, and put it in the oven to roast at 375ºF for 20 minutes per pound.

I don’t have the patience to make my own stock, so I buy organic chicken stock from The Healthy Butcher. So just get a big soup pot out and a small frying pan and get going with the rest of the prep.

Start mincing a couple white onions and another bunch of garlic. Slice/ chop everything as small as you can get it. You can also start preparing all the garnishes, which are a major feature of this dish. Finely chop some fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers.

Get yourself some small freshly made flour tortillas, put a little olive oil in the frying pan over medium heat, lightly fry them ( they don’t need to get too crispy, they will crisp up when they cool). Transfer them to a paper towel, blot the excess oil, and cut them into 1-inch strips. Set aside.

Bring some water to boiling in the big soup pot, take a few cobs of corn and boil them for a few minutes, not too long. Remove them from the water, let them cool, and then cut the cobs into 2-inch horizontal slices. Set aside.

By now your chicken has been roasting long enough for you to start getting ready to transfer it to the large soup pot. Heat some olive oil, along with the garlic and onions and loads of coarse sea salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the oven when it is done, and cut the chicken into rough, large, bite-size pieces, not perfect cubes, because that’s just no fun. Toss the chicken into the soup pot with the olive oil, onions, and garlic and sauté for a little while.

Add the chicken stock and let simmer for as long as possible, seasoning to taste. Arrange your garnishes– tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños, tortilla slices, slices of corn on the cob. When you are almost ready to serve, slice up a few avocados in long, thin vertical pieces.

Ladle the soup into bowls, add one piece of the corn to each portion, followed by the other garnishes. Finish by crumbling in a generous amount of Cotija cheese. So delicious you’ll be famous!