Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.

But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.

The benefits of cooking this soup in the Instant Pot are speed and simplicity. After the initial saute, the soup cooks in only 4 minutes under pressure – before you get too excited, keep in mind it takes about ten minutes before that to build up to operating pressure, so it’s not a huge time savings from the stovetop method (the really mind-blowing time savers that pressure cookers offer involve tougher foods, like meaty roasts or dry beans). But it’s still 30% faster, and completely hands-off and self-contained, freeing up the cook to chop garnishes and fry up the crispy topping.

Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

And I apologize for getting this far without mentioning that however you cook it, the stuff is incredibly good. Major crowd-pleasing material. It’s just legit, simple, whole-food ingredients coming together to pack a huge flavor PUNCH.

I really like this soup as written, straight up, but it’s also a great baseline recipe for loading up with extra veggies. Top candidates include finely chopped zucchini, bell (or poblano!) peppers, and shredded greens. Add any extra veggies after the onions have had a chance to soften, and if you really stuff the pot full with goodies, just add a little extra broth/water to keep the right consistency.

Note that this recipe uses corn tortillas in two capacities. First, little bite-size squares are added to the base along with the vegetables, contributing to the soup’s body and acting as sort-of noodles. Then, the real star of the show: crispy pan-fried tortilla topping. Today I fancied it up with these pretty strips, but to make it even less effort, just leave the tortillas whole for easy flippin’, then break them apart over each bowl.

I’m not normally one to discourage shortcuts, but if you’re thinking about just crunching bagged tortilla chips on top… I’m going to ask you to reconsider. I mean, take a good look at this:

Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

It doesn’t matter if you simmer this or pressure-cook it… just make the soup. Garnish like you mean it. A little fried crunch atop a bowl of undeniable healthy goodness is sometimes just what it takes to elevate your life from good to awww yeah.

Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

For soup:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 6-inch corn tortillas, chopped into 1-inch squares
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 very large ripe tomato, chopped
1 15 oz. can black beans (or equivalent amount cooked beans)
1 cup frozen corn
3-4 cups chicken broth (or 3-4 cups water + 1 tbsp. 'Better Than Bouillon')
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
3 chicken breasts (roughly 12-16 oz.)
To serve:
corn tortillas, sliced into strips
canola (or other) oil for frying
fresh cilantro
grated cheese
fresh lime juice
Instant Pot Instructions:

Set Instant Pot to saute mode, medium (default) heat. Add the olive oil and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. At this point, add the garlic, cilantro, and tortilla squares. Stir to combine and cook for one minute longer before adding the tomato, black beans, corn, 3 cups broth, spices, and chicken breasts. Cancel saute mode, and cover Instant Pot with its lid, set to sealing position. Select Soup Mode and manually adjust the time to 4 minutes.

It will take about 10 minutes to reach pressure before the 4-minute countdown begins. This is a good time to prepare the toppings. Heat the frying oil over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet. The oil is hot enough when you can place a tortilla strip in and it immediately starts bubbling. Fry the tortilla strips on both sides until golden brown, then transfer to a paper towel to drain. Lightly salt the tortillas immediately after frying. Grate the cheese, wash and chop the cilantro, and slice lime wedges for serving.

After the timer goes off, manually release the pressure (be careful of the steam!). Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and use two forks to shred the meat apart. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with fresh cilantro, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, a squeeze of lime juice, and the crisp tortilla strips.

Stovetop Instructions:

Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. At this point, add the garlic, cilantro, and tortilla squares. Stir to combine and cook for one minute longer before adding the tomato, black beans, corn, 4 cups broth, spices, and chicken breasts. Increase heat to high to bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes.

This is a good time to prepare the toppings. Heat the frying oil over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet. The oil is hot enough when you can place a tortilla strip in and it immediately starts bubbling. Fry the tortilla strips on both sides until golden brown, then transfer to a paper towel to drain. Lightly salt the tortillas immediately after frying. Grate the cheese, wash and chop the cilantro, and slice lime wedges for serving.

When the chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them to a plate and use two forks to shred the meat apart. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with fresh cilantro, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, a squeeze of lime juice, and the crisp tortilla strips.

http://flavorrd.com/2014/03/chicken-tortilla-soup/

32 thoughts on “Instant Pot (or not!) Chicken Tortilla Soup

  1. yummy! i think this instant pot was easy to use and very convenient. It’s incredibly good! Tnx for showing this!

  2. This recipe is my go to. I make it about once a week and I never tire of it. I change it up sometimes with canned corn, canned tomatoes, diced potatoes, etc. and it lends well to adding whatever veggies you like. I serve it with avocado and sour cream, lime and hot sauce, sometimes shredded cabbage (and the crispy tortillas of course.) It’s in the pot right now and I just can’t wait till it’s done. <3

    1. I love that!! I’m especially intrigued by the shredded cabbage topping, I’m definitely trying that out in my next batch.

  3. I never leave a reply on recipes but this recipe is amazing. So easy and the taste is amazing. So flavorful. Restaurant quality. I love my Instapo, this will now become a staple in our home!!! Thank you!!!!

  4. The chicken breasts cook in 4 minutes?
    I’m new to the IP, but most recipes call for more time on chicken. Just want to be sure I’m reading this right! Thanks!

    1. It works for me! The chicken breasts cook quickly in the soup as long as they are thawed and small enough (according to the weight in this recipe, mine were only about 4-6 oz.). If yours are larger or frozen, add more time.

  5. We use fire roasted corn to change the flavor a little and LOVE leftover rotisserie chicken in it. I have a picky 8 and super picky 13 year old and they both request it. The first batch had 4 leftover servings … gone by noon the next day. Make this recipe!

  6. Made this recipe twice in two weeks, will definitely make it again. Love it, so hearty and filling.

  7. Made this tonight and will definitely make it again! We used a can of tomatoes and seasoned black beans. Also, since I am vegan, I used GardeIn “chicken”. Cooked it up in a pan and added it after soup was cooked…. This recipe is a definite keeper!!!!

    1. Thanks! Tough question to answer, because optimal cooking time really depends on the size/thickness of the chicken breasts you use. If yours seemed “just cooked,” and if next time your chicken breasts are about equal in size, try adding 2-minute increments until you get the desired result.

  8. I’m curious about the manual release of the pressure. I just want to make sure you mean to pop the valve open so it realeases quickly? I have only made 2 things in my pot, new as well but thought I read that soups should go through natural release so food doesn’t shoot up & get stuck in the valve?

    1. Right, I use a “quick release” here – I usually avoid quick release for starchy foods like rice or beans, because the starch can become foamy and that foam can clog the valve… but haven’t had any issues with this soup.

    1. I think flour tortillas can get gummy in soup… if I were making it corn-free, I would try leaving out the tortillas and mixing in some cooked brown rice at the end instead!

  9. This recipe was delicious even with all my mistakes; Forgot the bay leaf; used 1 small plum tomato and 1 cube chicken stock; no black beans and only 2 chicken breasts. And yet it was so tasty. I will try it again without the cooked tortillas; texture of the cooked tortillas in the liquid was just okay. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I’m new to the Imstant Pot and your instructions were excellent for me.

  10. On NO! I made it with FLOUR tortillas! No wonder it came out gummy. LOL

    1. I’ve been there!! Live and learn, I only had to make that mistake once 🙂 Glad you liked the soup!

  11. In trying this today but using the slow cooker mode on my instant pot… It’s going to be interesting.

      1. This was so delicious! My whole family loved it. I used a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of the tomato and it turned out wonderful. Thank you soooo much.

    1. It should be able to fit – just be mindful of the chicken portion so you don’t exceed the maximum-fill line on the IP inner liner. I would also avoid manually releasing the pressure when the pot is that full… stay safe and give it at least 10 minutes to pressure down naturally before carefully testing the valve.

    1. I prefer to cook my dried beans separately – I pressure-cook a big batch and freeze in tupperware containers, then thaw as needed to add (already cooked) to recipes like these.

  12. Even though I do not have any corn tortillas, very uncommon for me but hey, it happens, I am making the soup tonight. I am going to put crushed tortilla chips on top when I serve the soup. Won’t be as good but I bet we love it. I am in need of a quick meal and I have all the other ingredients so wish me luck.

    1. Haha, of course it will still be good! I just go nuts over the special garnish. Good job making it happen, I’m wishing you luck!

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